Originally published Feb. 28, 2013.
During the Cougar Wrestling Invitational on Feb. 23 at Crestview Middle School, in Huntington, Crestview students Megan Adkins and Veronica Russell were seated in a row of chairs alongside a wrestling mat with Crestview's wrestling team.
They weren't spectators.
And they weren't managers.
Outfitted in the same blue "Crestview Wrestling" uniforms as the boys sitting around them, they were team members, and they were each waiting for their next match.
Adkins, a seventh-grader, and Russell, a sixth-grader, had their reasons for getting into wrestling, a sport populated heavily by boys.
"I wanted to beat up boys," says Adkins, only half-joking.
Joining the wrestling team for Russell continues a trend. On her baseball team, notes her father, Roscoe Russell, she was the only girl.
"I've wanted to do this since I was really little, actually," she says.
"A lot of people wanted me to do wrestling," Adkins adds. "So, I did it, and then my parents encouraged me, so I just stuck through it instead of stopping after losing."
Parental support has been a big part of each girl's season, the first for either in any kind of organized wrestling.
"It's been really interesting," says Kody Adkins, Adkins' mother. "She's won and lost a few matches but she's like, ‘Whatever, I'm going to do it the next time.'
"I'm really happy with her. She's doing a good job."
Roscoe Russell, a former high school wrestler, is pleased with the chance his daughter has taken.
"I've been really proud of her for what she's done," he says.
What the girls have done doesn't happen every year, says Larry Eckert, an assistant coach on Crestview's team.
"I've been here for seven years and on our team we've had girls for three years that I know of," he says.
Adkins says the boys on the team didn't quite know what to make of her and Russell when they showed up on the team's first day of practice.
"I think they were kind of confused when we first showed up," she says. "They probably thought we were managers. But then once we started wrestling with them they were like, ‘Oh, she's like another teammate.' So, they didn't care."
Despite the initial confusion, Russell believes that she and Adkins have fit right in.
"They've accepted us pretty well, I think, because they keep talking to us, giving us tips and stuff," she says.
Eckert concurs with the girls' assessments.
"(The boys) knew from day one, girls have been part of it," he says. "They were there the first day of practice and they've been there every day. The boys have accepted them. They work with them in practice.
"Not one person said, ‘No, I'm not going to wrestle a girl.' So, it's been a really good year so far with that."
Good things have come from being on the wrestling team for both Adkins and Russell.
"It gives you good self-confidence," Adkins says, "because girls are scared to wrestle boys, but it's not really a big difference, because they're the same."
"It's fun," Russell says, a fan of how it alleviates stress from school.
When asked about how they've wrestled, Russell is initially critical, but Adkins cuts in.
"We've been doing actually pretty good," she says. "I mean, sometimes I have to tell her, ‘double deep' and then she'll tell me to do something.
"We encourage each other, to help out."
"We're pretty good about that," Russell agrees.
The biggest thing to come out of the season for either girl is a new friendship.
"I don't even think they really knew each other until this year, and it came to wrestling, because they're two different grade levels," says Eckert. "They ended up migrating toward each other on the team and that's who they practice with every day for most of the time, not all the time, but most of the time.
"They've turned it into a good friendship. They help each other out. It's been really a blessing, I think."
Kody Adkins says her daughter is already talking about next season.
"She wants to do it again next year. So, I'm like, ‘Hey, go ahead. Do it. I'm there for you.'"
Both girls have left an impression on Eckert.
"It's been fun having them there," he says. "They're two of our hardest workers."