Sex revolution in the tradition-steeped world of wrestling

A QUIET revolution in Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling has been stirring in a steep-sided valley embedded in the Pennine’s of South Cumbria.

The Hodgson family of Dentdale are stalwarts of Kendal Academy and Trevor Hodgson, dad, was winning the 14st championship nearly twenty years ago and last year was Grasmere Heavyweight Champion, but the new ingredient, the catalyst for change, has come from his sister and his three daughters.

Until recently girls and women could compete with the boys and men in Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling. (probably because of an oversight, for when the rules were redrawn in 1906 no-one could imagine that women would do anything so unladylike!) When the rule was changed to bring the situation into line with other contact sports there was a brief media flurry, then it looked as if there would be no opportunities for girls to wrestle, but two years ago Grasmere Sports decided to put on four categories of female wrestling with more than £500 in prize-money. Very occasionally other events would have a girls’ competition. And in the winter girls took part in Academy wrestling and training.

This year two Icelandic girls travelled to compete at Grasmere, and their presence led to other events on that Bank Holiday week-end staging women’s wrestling to accommodate them.

Ironically, the chief beneficiary was Tracy Hodgson who had no fewer than six wins over the week-end, and that began a trend, for virtually every subsequent event has had a Ladies Open Wrestling class.

Many a long mile from Dentdale the wrestling at Langholm Show continued that trend, for the Hodgson girls were there in force. The three sisters were first, second and third.

In the Men’s All Weights Trevor Hodgson was up against the confident skills of two Carlisle wrestlers, John Harrington and Richard Fox. He survived against Harrington in the semi-final, just, when his opponent overloaded himself in trying to outside hipe and fell flat on his back. Richard Fox made no mistake, though, in the final, buttocking for the first fall and then winning the second with his trade-mark right leg back-heel which locks into place and refuses to budge.

All but one of the competitions were won by regular wrestlers. Jack Brown of Haydon Bridge wrestled well against some good local talent in the Under 12 Years. Watchai Noimai of Anthorn won the under 15 Years after a long tussle with Michael Harrington, and John Harrington won this week’s episode of the long-running series of close fought bouts with Richard Fox.

The exception came in the Under 18 Years when Alistair Cabers, a local lad who only competes in his own patch , showed good basic skills to control the exuberance of Watchai Noimai.

Graham Benson had a field day at Eskdale Show. In the absence of any senior wrestlers he went right through the day unbeaten in all the classes he entered. Tucker Mason, the organiser, was upset about the poor entry, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a message from Essex on my answering machine from some-one who had enjoyed the wrestling so much at Eskdale that he was asking to buy a copy of my book “ A Documentary History of C & W Wrestling” to further his interest.


Langholm Show: Under 12 Years 1, J Brown; 2, C Sands; 3, L Hawes.

Under 15 Years 1, W Noimai; 2, M Harrington; 3, H Jeffrey.

Under 18 Years 1, A Cabers; 2, W Noimai; 3, J Hodgson.

Ladies Open 1, T Hodgson; 2, H Hodgson; 3, C Hodgson.

121/2st 1, John Harrington; 2, J Perkin; 3, R Fox.

All Weights 1, R Fox; 2, T Hodgson; 3, John Harrington.

Eskdale Show: Under 13 Years 1, D Ewart; 2, M Dickinson.

Under 15 Years 1, G Benson; 2, S Wilkinson; 3, J Ewart.

Under 18 Years 1, G Benson; 2, S Wilkinson; 3, J Ewart.

101/2st 1, S Wilkinson; 2, B Case; 3, C Naylor.

12st 1, G Benson; 2, J Ewart; 3, S Wilkinson.

All Weights 1, G Benson; 2, J Ewart; 3, S Wilkinson.

Written by © Roger Robson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (Sept 30th 2005)

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