Girl on girl action ... on PBS
‘Girl Wrestler’ documentary takes Title IX to the mat

By Jamie Murnane
A&E Editor12/6/04



Tara Neal is a 13-year-old girl who does typical teenage girl things like gossip with her friends, shop and … wrestle? While some may think the mat is no place for a girl, Diane Zander’s documentary Girl Wrestler, which will premiere nationwide on PBS’s “Independent Lens” series Dec. 14, proves it is.

When Zander, a Texas native, saw a piece on “20/20” that profiled a girl’s wrestling team, she knew there was more to it.

“I saw something fascinating in that content, because I think the idea and the images in particular of a girl wrestling against a boy is such a metaphorical image,” Zander said. “It’s really iconic. Wrestling in itself is a real spectacle. It’s full body contact and it’s really body against body, person against person. And you’re always kind of wondering how they’re getting into these contortions—there’s just a matter of brute strength at work. So, I think when a boy wrestles a girl, it’s something even more fascinating to watch.”

Girl Wrestler follows Tara through her middle and high school wrestling career in Texas from 1999 to 2001, showing viewers her transformation from a young girl to a young woman—a young woman who wrestles boys, that is.

Girls can wrestle against boys in Texas only up until middle school, but once they hit high school and their participation falls under the athletic association’s rules, it has to be girl-girl wrestling, Zander said.

“The problem with that is there’s so few girls who wrestle,” she said. “So the burden falls to the girl to recruit other girls and very often, which was the case with Tara, she went into high school and joined wrestling and was the only girl on the team.”

Theoretically, Zander said Tara could have wrestled the boys because there were some in her weight class, but the state guidelines prohibited her from doing so. Eventually, after trying to get some girls interested and failing, Tara grew tired of sitting on the sidelines and quit the team.

“These are the things that I’m sure go unreported, but that violates the spirit of Title IX.”

Despite Tara quitting the team, Zander felt she was an ideal subject for her documentary.

“I was really interested in finding a story about a positive role model for girls,” she said. “Tara is someone who’s doing something that’s very nontraditional and there are a lot of girls in this country doing that—whether it’s in sports or something else—and I think that it’s important to document and proliferate images of girls who are strong and who are doing things that maybe we don’t always think about girls doing. Some people don’t think girls should wrestle at all, while some more nuanced think girls shouldn’t wrestle against boys.”

This is surely the reason Girl Wrestler, which premiered in Austin last year at South by Southwest, an annual music and film conference, was selected to air on “Independent Lens.”

“It was pure luck,” Zander said. “They seem to really understand the documentary, so ‘Independent Lens’ is a great home for it.”

Zander came to town in late November for the Chicago premiere of the documentary and even stopped by Columbia to give a guest lecture on her film.

“It’s not just a girl story. It’s not just a women’s film,” Zander said. “It provided a mode of talking about the dreaded ‘F’ word—feminism—but through sports and through something that was accessible to kind of a conventional male perspective. It becomes a little more accessible to a lot of different people.”

For more information on Girl Wrestler, visit Girl Wrestler will premiere on PBS on Dec. 14 at 9 p.m.


Martin girls may benefit from depth

By Heidi Pederson 12.3.04
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

The Martin girls wrestling team is on its way to starting its own

Last season only senior Jennifer Martin, a state medalist, was on the
roster. Now, under first-year coach Clay Gilliam, the Warriors have 18
on the roster.

Gilliam, a former boys assistant, said that some of the girls, who are
relatively inexperienced, could flourish this season.

Junior Kacey Wimpy, 8-1 at 138 pounds, tied for third place at the
Arlington Tournament and won her bracket at the Southern Assault. Junior
148-pounder Trisha Eastwood is improving fast and 95-pound freshman Lauren Holland
is extremely competitive.

"After the Arlington meet they saw the big picture," Gilliam said.
"They decided I knew what I was talking about. Before that they didn't
understand everything I had been preparing them for."

State meet moves

The UIL state wrestling championships will move from the Austin
Convention Center to the Delco Activity Center, UIL spokesman Mark Cousins said.
The meet had been at the Convention Center since the UIL sanctioned the
sport in the 1998-99 school year.

Cousins said the Delco Center, an Austin school district facility, will
seat approximately 3,000 people when six mats are placed on the floor. The
Convention Center held slightly more than 1,000.

Rolling in Oklahoma

Trinity's Adam Purcell and Weatherford's Devan Lewis earned medals at
the prestigious Oklahoma Open tournament last weekend in Norman.

Purcell finished second in the high school 103-pound division, losing
to Iowa's Nate Moore in the final. Lewis placed third in the 152-pound
bracket. Colleyville Heritage senior Corey Howard was fourth in the 125-pound

Colleges to compete

Cumberland College, the top-ranked women's college team in North
America, will face off against Missouri Valley College at Frisco High School on
Dec. 18. Cumberland's roster includes L.D. Bell graduate Suekoilya Shelly,
Fossil Ridge graduate Emmy Thompson and South Grand Prairie graduate Deseree


Female wrestler wins boys weight class in tournament


A female wrestler, Vallejo High's Monica Gonzalez, won the freshman boys 173-pound division of the Dave Lidell Invitational over the weekend.
Other Vallejo winners in their weight class included Charles Rodriguez (160-pound sophomore boys), James Esoimeme (165 sophomore boys), Bentel Bolden, (185 junior-senior bracket), Matt Bonczyk, (200 junior-senior bracket), Maria Angara, (103 girls), Liz Bustamante, (118 girls) and Lauren Knight 3 pins (143 girls).

Twenty-one out of Vallejo's 28 wrestlers placed in the tournament


Under Review; Nancy Ramsey Edited by Stephen Cannella

Sports Illustrated 12-06-2004

A PBS film looks at a girl wrestler

When Tara Neal was 13, she wanted to wrestle. She donned her singlet,
stepped onto the mat, and faced her opponent-who was almost always a

Ms. Neal, of Cedar Park, Texas, often won. But some male opponents and
their parents didn't think girls and boys should wrestle each other.

A new documentary by University of Texas lecturer Diane Zander
chronicles Ms. Neal's life during a season of wrestling and the challenges she
faced both inside and outside the gym.
Tara Neal gets prematch help from her father, James.

"Girl Wrestler" a 60-minute documentary, is scheduled to air on Public
Broadcasting Service stations on Dec. 14. Viewers should check their
local listings.

In the film, Ms. Neal deals with the divorce of her parents, pressure
from her father to succeed, and the imperative of cutting weight. She also
learns about objections some wrestlers have to Title IX of the Education
Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded
educational programs.

When Ms. Neal makes it to a national tournament in Fresno, Calif., she
hears opposition to Title IX.

In 2002, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige formed a commission to
study how Title IX was working, but he ultimately chose to make no
significant changes in the way the law is enforced.

Though Ms. Neal wrestled well during her early teen years, the Texas
University Interscholastic League prohibits girls from wrestling boys
at the high school level. When she got to Cedar Park High School, Ms. Neal
joined the wrestling team, but with no other girls to wrestle, she sat on the

Ultimately, she quit wrestling.

But in the film she expresses hopes for the future of the sport.
"Eventually, there's going to be more girls, and everybody's going to
be OK with it," she says. "It's just going to be a normal thing."


Copyright Editorial Projects in Education, Inc. Nov 17, 2004

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Published: January 15, 1997 1997 1997 1997
Female Wrestlers Spur Officials To Go to the Mat
When Courtney Barnett tried out for her high school's wrestling team in
Arlington, Texas, she wasn't trying to make a political statement.

"I like the sport and didn't think it was a big deal," said the
112-pound junior, a first-team varsity wrestler at Martin High School. "Now
everything's gone crazy."

By ''gone crazy,'' the 17-year-old was referring to a decision by the
independent governing body for high school wrestling in the state to
refuse to recognize matches involving female wrestlers.

"Boys ought to wrestle boys," said David Hadden, the assistant director
of the Texas Interscholastic Wrestling Association. "And girls ought to
wrestle girls."

To emphasize that point, members of the north-central chapter of the
Texas Wrestling Officials Association, which supplies wrestling referees to
high schools, refused in September to officiate at boy vs. girl wrestling
matches. And rather than be legally forced to do so, the chapter
decided last month to dissolve itself.

"We will simply not officiate these matches," said John Rizzuti, the
former president of the group. "We believe it's completely wrong."

A lawsuit accusing the two organizations and three school districts of
discrimination, filed last month in federal district court in Dallas,
seeks to challenge that belief. Ms. Barnett and her mother, Rai Barnett,
filed the suit along with Melony Monahan, a 16-year-old junior who is a captain
of the varsity wrestling team at Arlington's Sam Houston High School, and her
mother, Karen Herring. They are seeking $10,000 in damages.

The suit claims that the Irving, Richardson, and Highland Park
districts discriminated against female wrestlers.

Anthony Hume, the Dallas lawyer representing the plaintiffs, sought
late last month to get a restraining order and injunction to force the
interscholastic-wrestling association and the districts to allow girls
to wrestle boys, but the motion was denied.

Fear of Liability
Mr. Hume describes the situation as a cut-and-dried case of
discrimination against women. "Sexism is like that old song," Mr. Hume said,
paraphrasing the 1940s singer Gracie Fields' old line. "It's dead, but somehow it
won't lie down."

In their defense, both wrestling organizations argue that the fear of
legal liability, not sex discrimination, drove them to exclude girls from the

"People have been portraying us as good old boys, but most of us have
daughters who we encourage to play sports," Mr. Rizzuti said. "We don't
have sufficient liability coverage because we're not governed by the state."

Texas high school wrestling is governed and officiated by volunteers,
rather than the University Interscholastic League, which runs other high
school sports programs in the state.

Mr. Hadden of the wrestling association said this leaves officials open
to lawsuits for injury and, in matches where girls are involved, sexual

"What if something improper happens on the mat or something is
misconstrued?" asked Mr. Hadden, who said he has never seen a girl vs.
boy match.

But Fritz McGinness, an associate director of the National Federation
of State High School Associations in Kansas City, Mo., called the
sexual-harassment fear "hogwash."

"It's an obvious defense mechanism they're using," he said. "I can't
think of any such claim being made, ever."

According to the national federation, about 1,164 girls wrestle at the
high school level in the United States. All 21 states that have girls
wrestling at the high school level have mixed teams that allow girls to wrestle

Ms. Barnett of Martin High, who also competes in judo and is ranked
nationally by the International Judo Foundation, says she just wants to
get all this over with and get back to wrestling.

"I've played sports all my life and never faced anything like this,"
she said. "All I want is the same opportunity as [boys] have. I don't want
to be treated like a boy, just equally."

— Kerry A. White


Women as Swimmers: Protested in Chandpur!

By M A S Molla
Dec 7, 2004, 10:05

Recently a women swimming competition was postponed in Chandpur because of serious protest from a very influential portion of the people of Chandpur. The DC of Chandpur himself had to issue an order to postpone the swimming competition.

Earlier an event of women boxing (or wresting) was postponed somewhere in Bangladesh due to public protest. Wrestling is rather wild practice and I don't support this as a game item even for the males. If female competitors practice such a wild game, the men spectators around certainly have their thirsty eyes on them and sometimes indecent comments may come from some people, especially the adolescents. So contributing towards postponing wrestling was well taken.

But what about swimming? Bangladesh is a land of rivers and water transports are still very useful mode of public transport in the country. If a public water vehicle sinks, children and women are the worst victims of that.

To save our women's life, swimming of women should be encouraged every way. Growing large hair on the head should gradually be discouraged and also the habit of wearing sari, especially while traveling. These measures are necessary to avoid drowning of women in water. The swimming competition encourages girls and women to practice this essential life skill. I understand that the women wearing shorts during the swimming competition has also some alluring effect on the male spectators. But here the viewers can see that only at the starting and ending points-not all along as in the case of wrestling!

Therefore, I think the people of Chandpur and also of other areas of the country can allow the swimming competition for greater interest of the women life and also for the promotion of healthy practice in games and sports. The practicing women can also wear somewhat longer dress at least covering the main parts of the body for decency.



• Four female wrestlers - Petersburg's Alenna Nilsen, Skagway's Crystal Ketterman, Hydaburg's Marita Tolson and Mount Edgecumbe's Jasmin Simeon - all finished third in their respective weight classes to earn state tourney berths. Ketterman and Tolson will be their teams' sole state representative.


Brother, sister win matches in J-Hawk loss

Heather Morley may be first girl to wrestle on Urbandale varsity

December 7, 2004

Heather Morley apparently made history for Urbandale's wrestling program Thursday night.

Morley, a freshman at 103 pounds, scored a 6-0 victory over Jacob Johnson in Urbandale's 40-39 nonconference loss to Fort Dodge. Urbandale Athletic Director Bill Watson said he was unaware of any girls wrestling on varsity prior to Thursday's season-opening bout for the J-Hawks.

The victories came family style, as Morley's brother, Zack, collected one of Urbandale's six pins in winning his match at 112 pounds.

Urbandale jumped to an early 33-0 lead, but got caught at the finish line by Riley Lindner's 12-2 major decision in the final match at 160 pounds. That capped a run of four pins and a major decision that allowed the Dodgers to overcome a 39-12 Urbandale lead.

After the meet, Urbandale coach Wes Boehm said he considers Heather Morley one of the 13 wrestlers he sent to the mat Thursday.

"To me, she's a J-Hawk wrestler," Boehm said. "As soon as everybody gets it out of their minds that she's a girl and not a J-Hawk wrestler, the world will be a lot better place. If she's going to step into a man's sport, she's going to have to become one of us, and we try to treat her that way."

Morley did not want to comment Thursday. How is she handling the give-no-quarter atmosphere?

"She does one heck of a job of accepting it that way," Boehm said.

Boehm had trouble accepting the outcome in four of the five weights where the J-Hawks were pinned. Nat Wunsch at 125 was caught in a super-tight cradle by Dodger Cody McClintock, but Boehm said the other falls were preventable.

"We've been working a lot of technique," Boehm said. "We haven't really worked on getting off your back and fighting. I really thought my team would show a lot more heart than what they did at fighting through."

Boehm said outside of Wunsch, "there wasn't another kid that got pinned that to me, with a lot of heart, could not get off the back."

Boehm said the coaches would take steps in practice to improve the team's ability to fight out of danger.


Pang makes wrestling team, history

/ 12/8/04

Female wrestler will compete against men in 125-lb. class for first time in Princeton history

Emily Lammers
Princetonian Staff Writer

Audrey Pang is boldly going where no Princeton woman has gone before. This season she will be the first female in school history to have a permanent spot on the dual-meet lineup of a men's wrestling squad, and one of the few women in NCAA history to have this opportunity.

For the past three years Pang has competed on the Princeton wrestling team, but her competition has largely been independent, consisting of tournaments on a women's national freestyle wrestling circuit. However, this year the team is devoid of a 125-pound wrestler, and thus Pang has been given the unique opportunity to compete with the men.

She has competed in numerous national tournaments and garnered an impressive fourth-place finish at U.S. Nationals her freshman year. This past year she competed in the United States and Canadian Olympic trials.

Furthermore, Pang has faced some extremely talented opponents such as the two-time world champion from Japan. She has also wrestled numerous Olympic athletes at various national meets.

The transition to wrestling college men will still be difficult. While Pang has practiced with men in high school and at Princeton, actually competing against them could pose some new challenges. The female circuit on which she frequently competes features freestyle wrestling, which is a slightly different style than the folk (or collegiate) style used in men's college competition. Men's wrestling also allows different moves and has a different scoring system.

Furthermore, Pang typically wrestles at 112 lbs. against women, but 125 lbs. is the lowest weight division for collegiate men. Thus, she will likely be taking on competitors much larger than she.

Pang is more than ready for the challenge, however, as she has been hooked on wrestling since her high school history teacher convinced her to try out for the team he was starting up. A natural athlete, she had competed in swimming and field hockey for years, but wrestling was one of the first things she chose to do on her own — as opposed to on the suggestion of her parents.

"I found the one-on-one aspect of the sport exhilarating," she said. "Wrestling had that extra edge of competition that was different from anything I had tried before."

With wrestling having "gotten into her blood," she contacted head wrestling coach Mike New when she decided to come to Princeton. She and another freshman who has since quit became the first female wrestlers on the Princeton squad. A few other women have been in and out of the program since then, but Pang is the only one who has stuck with it all four years.

Pang admits that it is not easy being the only woman on the wrestling squad, especially in terms of training and physical strength. The lack of established women's wrestling programs in the area also presents a challenge. In Pang's home country of Canada many colleges have women's rosters.

But Pang has nothing but praise for New, the team and Princeton students in general for being accommodating and encouraging.

This positive environment has contributed to the great success that Pang has had in the last four years. "Audrey is an outstanding competitor in every sense. Her hard work and persistence have gotten her to where she is today," New said.

Every time Pang steps on the mat her goal is to win, and she could not be more optimistic this year with the added challenge of wrestling men.

"This year is really exciting, and wrestling guys is going to be a great opportunity," Pang said. "It will be a little bit different, but that's why it will be good."

Likewise, New has a positive outlook on Pang's season.

"We're excited. She's going to do a great job for us," he said. "Audrey exemplifies what Princeton athletics is all about."


Women's wrestling is here to stay

By Mike Bellmore-Sports Editor 12/7/04

Sheri Hilliard is the only girl thus far to make it entirely through the Devils Lake High School wrestling program, and might be the only girl in North Dakota thus far to accomplish that feat.

Hilliard's efforts paid off handsomely for her because she's now wrestling for Cumberland College in the southern portion of the United States.

This year, Devils Lake coach Dennis Flynn has three girls in his program, which is another rarity as the sport of girls' wrestling continues to develop around the United States.

With girls' wrestling now considered an Olympic sport, it is entirely possible some schools will be looking to add it to the list of extracurricular activities they offer.

Hilliard's cousin, Katie, who is just a seventh grader, is one of the girls in the program now, and she's at 135 pounds. The others are freshman Kayla Betz and sophomore Kahla Dyer at 119 and 135 pounds, respectively.

The younger Hilliard probably won't get a shot at moving up much this year because the weight class she's in is pretty stacked, and she's still a young newcomer.

All three girls have the right to challenge, but Flynn doesn't look for them to startle anyone with moves up to the varsity, and they'll have to bide their time.

(For a complete Sports story see the December 7, 2004 Devils Lake Journal) 12/07/04


Peel to host OFSAA wrestling

The best high school wrestlers in the province are getting ready to converge on Brampton.

For only the second time the city is hosting the Ontario Federation of Schools Athletic Association (OFSAA) tournament March 2, 3, 4 at the Brampton Centre for Sports and Entertainment. Organizers are looking to former high school wrestlers from Brampton, and local businesses to get involved to help make the event a success.

This tournament is one of the premier events on the high school sports calendar and will bring many economic benefits to the city. The event was previously held in Brampton in 1998 at the Brampton Fairgrounds.

The sport and the tournament have really grown since then, especially with the addition of girls wrestling as an official high school sport, meaning there will be 750 wrestlers competing.

With coaches and family along there will be many people visiting from out of town, using local restaurants and staying in hotels.

Besides the boost to the local economy wrestling fans will be able to go and watch the tournament for free. The calibre of competition is always high and Brampton schools have traditionally done well at the event.

The defending champions E.C. Drury from Milton are going for an unprecedented sixth consecutive provincial crown. One of the coaches is former North Park wrestler James Crowe who has joined the coaching staff of Larry Jaroslawski and Simon Vanellis.

Tournament organizers have donated their time to help make the event a success with a committee of staff from local high schools involved.

Convenor Cheyenne Ashukian from Turner Fenton said people in the community can help as well. A crew of about 60 students will serve as scorekeepers and timekeepers. The tournament is looking for donations of food for those students.

Anyone who makes a cash donation to OFSAA will receive a tax receipt.

Besides donations businesses can help by taking out sponsorship in the OFSAA program with cost of $300 for a full page and $150 for a half page.

In order to help out, contact Ashukian at Turner Fenton at 905-453-9220, ext. 363.