Mental toughness helps female wrestler compete

By Nayeli Lara, Online Production Editor

An unlikely sport in eighth grade put freshman Asia Smith in the right place, inspiring her to wrestle.

“I was actually a cheerleader the year before and when I was a cheerleader I saw them, thought it was super cool, and said ‘Oh yeah, I’m going to join wrestling,’” Smith said.

Although she began the sport late in the season of eighth grade, Smith is not completely unfamiliar with the sport. Her father and brother both have experience wrestling.

Smith is the only female wrestler on the team this year. She wrestles for JV at the 120 weight class. Females wrestlers are not common; however, Smith is not a typical female wrestler.

“This is my first experience here at West Chicago [coaching a girl]. Every now and then, maybe every five years or so, a girl will come out. Usually, unlike Asia, who has experience because of her father, a lot of the freshman come in and they don’t know what to expect. So it’s pretty rare,” JV coach Steven Brown said.

Smith’s experience has helped her and scored her some wins over the season. Experience has only been able to take her so far though.  

“Skill level wise, she’s great, her only drawback is that unfortunately males typically are stronger than females. At her weight class she struggles, not by skill but just by strength. She gets out muscled, but she doesn’t get out wrestled,” Brown said.

Because of her weight class and the lack of female wrestlers, Smith has mostly faced males. While wrestling stronger opponents is more challenging, Smith is not intimidated by wrestling males.

“If it’s a guy that’s super huge, big, and buff, then it might be a little scary. But if it’s a regular guy, no,” Smith said.

The challenge of facing opponents that may be stronger is daunting at times, but Smith does not let that thought deter her. Instead of focusing on trying to overpower her opponents, Smith works to improve her skills.

“I have mental toughness. I try to never get pinned, I try to be really good on defense. So I’m not really big on physical strength as my opponents, but I work to get better,” Smith said.

The determination to win fuels Smith to work hard during and outside of the season. Smith ran cross-country during the fall season to keep in shape and often runs after practice as well. The extra work Smith has put in has helped establish her place as a leader.

“I think she’s great. She’s one of our freshman leaders. She’s the first one on the mat to practice, she’s the first one ready to go, she leads us in drill at our tournaments and dual meets. She’s definitely a team leader,” Brown said.

As the only girl, Smith has had no trouble fitting in like any other wrestler.

“I have a lot of favorite memories, and all of them aren’t from actual matches, they’re from team bonding or just hanging out with the team in general,” Smith said. “It’s like having a bunch of older brothers and younger brothers.”

Being a female in a male dominated sport has had little effect on Smith’s mentality.

“You can come in any weight, shape, or form, or height, it doesn’t matter. You just wrestle, that’s it,” Smith said.