OTTUMWA— For the second consecutive year, Morgan Lawson is part of the Ottumwa High School wrestling squad. What makes this unique is that she is the only girl on the team.
Lawson is not the only girl competing in the state. There are approximately 80 girls in Iowa who participate in wrestling.
A runner, she also played basketball her freshman year but is drawn to more individual sports. She was invited to consider wrestling and thought she would try it. “I experienced a practice and really enjoyed it,” she said. “It is way different than any sport I’ve played in the past.
With support from her parents, she joined the team last year. Prior to the beginning of the season, some of the wrestlers worked with her to teach her some of the basics. “I didn’t know what a single leg sweep or a half nelson were,” she said. “I knew it wouldn’t be easy.” She wrestled a close match at the end of the season but finished with a 0-22 record. “The coach pulled me aside and told me how good of a job I was doing and that he was seeing improvement. He told me not to give up.”
Lawson was determined to improve. She continued to do weight lifting and attended several wrestling camps over the summer. She also had a mentor in fellow wrestler Johnny Morales, who worked with her on situations, techniques, moves, and escapes.
“This season is going really well,” Larson said. “I feel more comfortable in situations.” The sport is not only physical but mental. “You have to have a good mindset and stay positive,” she said. “Before matches, I think over situations in my head. I think of my first five take downs.”
As the only girl on the team, “I try to fit in,” she said. And the team has been very supportive. “When I ask for help, they are really helpful.” She admits it’s a bit nerve-wracking with separate weigh ins, locker rooms, and she is one of only a few who wear a skull cap to keep her hair out of the way.
“Overall I fit in,” she said. “I do everything they do unless coach tells me differently.” She plans to continue wrestling next year and in college if the opportunity presents itself.
Her favorite part was winning her first match during a Saturday tournament at Des Moines East in December. She won three matches that day and almost won the tournament in her weight class.
She hasn’t convinced any friends to follow in her footsteps but appreciates their support when they cheer her on during home meets. Her advice to other girls, “don’t be afraid to go out. The coaches are helpful.”