Pair of girl wrestlers inspire others in Washington state

For the most part, they're just like other high school wrestlers. The pair have fought their way to success at the 103- and 112-pound classes, working hard at daily practices and overcoming significant injuries. In fact, the biggest difference between these two reigning Washington state wrestling champions and their counterparts doesn't come into play until they go take a shower after meets.

That's because Bremerton (Wash.) High's Lauren Richardson and Kingston (Wash.) High's Kiana Witt are girls who are competing on boys wrestling teams, taking no prisoners in their personal quests to rack up another girls wrestling state title in 2010-11.

As covered extensively in both the Kitsap Sun and more recently in the North Kitsap Herald, Witt and Richardson have sparked a surge of attention in wrestling among high school girls in their area of Washington. This year, Witt has been joined by two other girls wrestlers on the Kingston High School team, with Richardson joined by six other girls on the Bremerton team.

Those numbers make for a surprising number of all-female bouts in Washington, though the girls involved say they prefer wrestling against boys, because those matches tend to be tougher and make them better prepared. The coaches who lead the girls in practice every day say they've noticed a big difference.

"Those girls are a lot tougher than they were a few years ago," Kingston coach Bobby Reece, who has coached Witt since age 8, told the Herald.

While familial connections still spur some wrestlers to join -- Kingston's Ivy Rodolf was first brought to a practice by her brother Freddy, who wrestles in the 215-pound division -- others have been inspired by Witt and Richardson's success, after the two girls became the first to win a girls wrestling title in Kitsap. Washington is one of only three states to have officially sanctioned all-girls wrestling championships, providing a year's-end goal for wrestlers who train and compete all season against both girls and boys.

Both Witt and Richardson are currently seniors, though only one -- at most -- will have a shot at earning another state title this spring. After earning the 103-pound class title in 2009, Richardson moved up to 112 pounds this year, meaning the two Kitsap champions could face off for a state title at the 2011 Mat Classic, the Washington girls wrestling state championship.

If that happens, the meeting will be a highly anticipated and followed bout well beyond Kitsap, and beyond just fellow girl wrestlers.

"I've seen boys leave wide-eyed after a match," Scott Krone, assigning secretary for the Peninsula Wrestling Officials Association, told the Herald.

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