By MIKE MOGUIN
GTR Sports Writer
When high school wrestling has a girls’ division in Oklahoma, Bixby’s Ainslie Lane will be regarded as a pioneer.
Girls wrestling is exploding at the state, national and international levels. It is now sanctioned in 10 states. Oklahoma is not among them, but there is progress. Females wrestling on varsity boys teams has increased in recent years and Lane, a five-time freestyle All-American who graduated in May, is among those who has grappled with guys.
Although lack of a girls program kept Lane from winning state titles, it did not stop her from receiving recognition and awards. As she continues her wrestling career on the women’s team at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina. She is hoping for more girls to achieve their dreams on the mat and more schools, including her alma mater, to launch a program.
Lane took up wrestling when she was 13. Beforehand, she had been involved in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a martial art she started at age 5.
“It is very similar,” Lane said. “You have to be able to take them down. The thing is, I needed to learn how to take people down better.”
In order to improve her takedown technique, her father decided that wrestling would be the best for her to take.
“He said that if I wanted to get better, I was going to have to do this (wrestling),” Lane said. “I didn’t really want to get involved because there wasn’t any other girls in it and it just seemed a lot more physical than what I needed. But, I tried and in the first practice, I absolutely loved it.”
From there, she took off.
Lane has wrestled guys in sanctioned tournaments and has won her fair share of matches.
“I’ve wrestled through normal high school seasons, just like guys do against guys,” she said. “I would have duals Tuesday and Thursday and then I would have my weekend tournament on Friday and Saturday. All those times it was just boys.
“It was pretty even by the time I finished my career. At the Jenks tournament, I was 2-2. So, I won as many matches as I lost,” Lane added.
While she had to wrestle with boys in high school, Lane did grapple with other girls in events sanctioned outside the OSSAA.
“The only time I wrestle boys is in Oklahoma. So when I compete on a national or international level, I’m competing against girls,” she said.
Lane believes going up against guys has helped her become a better wrestler, but at the same time, it hurt.
“It helped me because I feel like wrestling boys, they’re so physical, it made me tough and it made me have to persevere more. So, I had to be super-determined and disciplined. But, at the same time, there is a lot of moves that I could do against girls that I couldn’t do against guys because I wasn’t physically strong in those moves against male competitors.”
With Broken Arrow recently announcing the start of a girls program, along with the hiring of a coach, Lane believes a step has been taken to have girls wrestling sanctioned by the OSSAA and hopes for Bixby to follow suit.
“I can’t really speak for other schools in the area. I’m only familiar with Broken Arrow because I know the coach (Cassidy Jasperson, who was a standout at Oklahoma City University) and I know their female wrestler, Allison (Hines). But, at Bixby, we have all the ingredients that we need to have a phenomenal girls’ program and it is ready to take off. The only thing that is really holding all those programs back are administrative issues and other coaches not being open to having girls on their team.
Lane also praises Brock Moore, the Spartans’ varsity coach.
“He is so accommodating and very supportive about having girls. There had never been a girl wrestler at Bixby before me. I showed up to one of our Bixby youth practices at the end of the season and there were 13 girls in a practice and that was just three years after having one female athlete. All that needs to happen with all the schools is that someone needs to take a step. Once people see that girls can wrestle and see their coaches are being supportive of it, there is really nothing else stopping it other than administration. All the support is there.”
Lane is now spending the summer up north, training with the Badger RTC program at the University of Wisconsin, led by coaches Chris Bono, Matt McDonough, Jon Reader and Ben Askerin, all standout wrestlers in college.
“They coach me for all my tournaments right now,” she said. At the end of summer, Lane will then head to South Carolina to compete for Presbyterian College, whom she chose over OCU, McKendree, Augsburg, Wayland Baptist University and Life University. She plans to major in political science.