Top female wrestler giving clinic in Naperville
A top-ranked female wrestler is coming to Naperville as two coaches try to introduce more girls to the sport.
Forrest Molinari is ranked No. 1 on Team USA for her 65-kilogram (143-pound) weight class, and she'll be appearing at a camp from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 29, in the wrestling balcony at Naperville North High School.The camp, sponsored by the Hammer Wrestling School, is free to girls so they can meet a 23-year-old California native who can show them what is possible in the sport, coach Karl Bratland said.
"Why wouldn't you come to see one of the best girls in the nation, even just to see her," Bratland said, describing his pitch to siblings of male wrestlers involved in his club and female athletes across the region -- especially those involved in martial arts or boxing. "It doesn't cost anything."
Bratland and Naperville North coach Tom Champion say they're trying to generate interest in a girls wrestling team locally as the sport begins to grow across the state. Having Molinari visit for a question-and-answer session and a technique clinic -- fresh off securing a spot on the senior U.S. women's freestyle team earlier this month at a competition in New Jersey -- is one move that could help.
"It's good to see a role model who looks like you," Champion said.
Girls wrestling is classified as an emerging sport by the Illinois High School Association. In the Northwest and West suburbs, 13 high schools have teams, as do 16 schools in Chicago and 36 in other suburbs or across the state.
But Bratland said states like California, where Molinari went to high school, have a longer history of girls participating in the sport.
"Especially around here, girls just don't know that they can wrestle, I guess," he said.
He and Champion are trying to change that, saying introducing girls to wrestling will help the sport grow and provide a balance in participation numbers with the boys.
A stigma from both boys and girls could prevent some from expressing or acting on interest, Bratland said. Girls may think the sport is too rough or not meant for them. Boys could have several reasons for being hesitant to wrestling girls.
"They don't want to lose to them," Bratland said. "It's kind of a physical sport and it's combat and you're touching, and they're not comfortable with that, either."
Bratland said eight girls so far are signed up for Molinari's clinic, along with two boys. The opportunity became possible through social media.
Molinari and other female wrestlers have "established a platform with social media and their voices," Bratland said. And in one tweet, Bratland recalls Molinari using a hashtag similar to "#hammerdown."
Because "Hammer" is in the name of the offseason training club he runs, Bratland said he tweeted back and the two began an online conversation. Soon, Bratland said, he asked Molinari -- who now lives in Iowa City and trains with Hawkeye Wrestling Club -- to come by for a camp, and she agreed. She even helped design T-shirts for the event.
Girls and boys can register for the camp at hammerwrestling.org, no matter where they live or their wrestling club affiliation. Admission for boys is $25.