Equality of the sexes in the wrestling ring


Saturday 31st March - Kendal Open Night at Grayrigg Village Hall U13 / U15 / U18 / Girls - 10, Open, 5st (mixed), Males - 7, 9, 11, 13, AW Pies and peas and a big raffle.

When the Wrestling Association was formed on 1906 women wore long skirts, with bustles, improbably big hats and whale-boned waists…. not the best athletic costume. The idea that women might compete at wrestling was never considered. My auntie Jean may have wrestled with her brothers at home on the farm at Longlea, but there was no thought of public action.

As a result, no mention of females appeared in the rule-book and when one or two women and girls started competing, there was nothing to stop them. With the success of Barbara Prudham from Carlisle in Junior wrestling and the presence of women wrestlers from Scotland, there was a feeling in some quarters that mixed wrestling was unacceptable, and that lads were too embarrassed to compete in case they lost to a girl. As a result, the wrestling rules were amended to stop mixed bouts, which brought us in line with other contact sports like Rugby and Judo.

Special classes were introduced at many of our events to cater for females in the Summer, with Grasmere Sports offering four categories and hundreds of pounds of prize money, and the Academy Shield competition added two female sections. However, on the mats in winter, boys wrestled with girls in training as before.

From this sense of normality and general acceptance of mixed wrestling at the junior stage, the CWWA rules were amended at the recent AGM to allow girls to compete with boys up to the age of eleven at affiliated events. This brings our sport in line with the likes of football where Junior school teams regularly have girls in the side, but that ceases when they move to Secondary school.

This change comes too late for the likes of Connie Hodgson, Megan Gibson and Abi Marston, but should help the girls who are a normal and accepted part of every academy now.

At Waberthwaite Open Night, two young girls battled hard in the lightest weights, but otherwise it was an all male affair with wrestlers from Kendal and Milnthorpe there in numbers. With twelve categories for the wrestlers, all were able to compete on equal terms, and the length of the evening was made manageable by restricting the number of sections for each wrestler.

The village hall was stuffed with young wrestlers, a tribute to organiser, Tom Porter and his coaches Ashley Killip and Craig Naylor. Waberthwaite wrestlers were among the prize-winners throughout, with excellent displays from Ben Fox, Dylan Connor, Adrian Philips, Andrew Woodend, Dan Hodgson, and Wayne Rothery.


Perhaps the best encounter of the night was between two Kendal wrestlers, James Hayhurst and Matthew Atkinson in the final of the Under 18 Years. It was a story of inside-clicks. Hayhurst struck first with a classic inside-click. For the second fall he tried the same again and Atkinson countered with the text-book twist. The decider had to be something special, and Atkinson provided it with the fall of the night, a swinging inside-click which felled Hayhurst in mid-air.

Written by © Roger Robson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (2012)

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