Morgan McCallister is exactly where she wants to be.
The Bolivar High School freshman is one of just a handful of girls on the school’s wrestling team.
“It feels really good,” she said. “We’re putting out there that we’re the first girls to wrestle on the team.”
R-1 activities director Todd Schrader said the district approved expanding Bolivar High School’s wrestling program to officially include girls after seeing interest from students.
The Bolivar Middle School wrestling team includes girls both this year and in previous years, Schrader said.
The Missouri State High School Athletics Association first included a separate bracket for girls in state and district tournaments last year, Schrader said.
“Last year, we left the door open, if we had girls come out (in high school),” he said. “We just didn’t have the numbers. This year, we had more girls that wrestled at the middle school level, and we had several come up to high school. We told the kids that we would offer it if we had the interest. We had the interest.”
McCallister said she started wrestling last year as an eighth grader at Bolivar. She said she knew early on the sport was for her.
“In middle school, it was hard for me, but I knew that I wanted to,” she said. “I kept on it.”
McCallister’s first high school meet was Thursday, Dec. 5, at the Bolivar duals. The freshman finished the meet 0-2. Fellow wrestler Heather Lippincott finished 1-1 at the meet.
Still, McCallister said she’s proud of the progress she made and is looking forward to the next four years. She credited Liberator Coach Jeff Davis with helping her improve.
“The girls are harder than middle schoolers, but I feel like I’m doing good,” she said. “I’m getting better at some moves.”
Schrader, a former wrestling coach, said the introduction of girls wrestling is valuable for students at the high school.
“It’s a good opportunity for our girls to have another activity or sport they can participate in,” he said. “It’s a really popular sport that’s taken off in Missouri. Last year was kind of the first big year for it with the MSHSAA state tournament.”
Schrader said the goal now is to see the program continue to expand. Last season’s Liberator wrestling team ended the year with 22 wrestlers, Davis previous told the BH-FP. This year’s team numbers in the 40s, he said.
“We’re hoping that we’ll start off with a few girls this year, and coach Davis wants to see the program grow,” Schrader said. “Hopefully in a few years, we’ll have our own varsity girls team, just like we have our boys team now.”
McCallister said she and the other girls on the team are working to recruit to make that happen.
“Yes, we definitely want more,” she said.