Watching wrestling is nothing new for Lacee Dragon. She’s been going to wrestling matches— boys wrestling matches that is—all her life to watch her brother, Colin, perform. Amelia Wickline, on the other hand, has never seen a wrestling match and knows virtually nothing about the sport.
Dragon and Wickline, however, are getting a taste this summer of what one of the most physically and mentally demanding sports to be found is all about.
The two, under the direction of Coach Tony Dragon, and 11 other girls are part of what this winter will be the first all-girls wrestling team at Richmond Hill High School.
With summer vacation and other activities not all girls are at the two-hour, three times a week practice sessions. At a practice this week, for example, Lacee Dragon and Wickline were joined by Amanda Santiago, Coralyas Lopez, Kaitlynn Platt and Danica Houston.
“I don’t know, I’m sorry but I honestly don’t know,” Wickline said when asked what drew her to try wrestling. “I do marching band and that’s not a sport.
“I like the strength aspect of it,” Wickline said of wrestling. “It’s an individual sport and however well I do is up to me. It’s the time and preparation I put into it. I don’t know a lot about it. I haven’t been to any matches “ Lacee Dragon, the coach’s daughter, has, of course, been to matches. Her brother, Colin, was the state runner-up in Class 6A as a 106-pound freshman, and this year took second in the Class 7A state tournament at 120 pounds while compiling a 50-5 record.
Colin Dragon signed this spring to continue his wrestling career at the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y.
“I’ve been to a lot of matches because of my brother but this is my first-time wrestling,” Lacee said. “Colin’s always giving me advice about it.
“Wrestling is a cool sport. I like physical sports. I think it gives you a good skill set. Like Amelia said it’s an individual sport and it’s up to you and how much effort you put into it.”
Girls wrestling is nothing new in Georgia high school sports with girls being allowed by the GHSA to compete against boys during the regular season before conducting a girls traditional state tournament.
This coming school year, however, the GHSA has ruled that girl wrestlers can only compete against girls. That rule change, Dragon said, led to the decision to start a girls team.
Boys coach Bill Evans was already on board with the idea and athletic director Stacy Bennett didn’t hesitate in giving Dragon the green light to get the program up and running.
Dragon has been down this road before. He started the flag football program three years ago and the Wildcats quickly became a competitive force at the state level. He also coaches the boys and girls tennis teams.
Of the girls currently practicing the only one with wrestling experience is rising junior Izzy West who competed on the boys team last year. She compiled a 13-2 record and finished third at 110 pounds in the girls all-classes state tournament.
“It’s actually going better than I thought,” Dragon said. “They’re learning from scratch and they’re getting the concept.”
The school’s first ever girl wrestler was Destinee Rivera who graduated in 2018. Rivera went on to wrestle at Life University where she graduated last year.
“Bill had asked me about a year ago if I was interested in coaching girls,” Dragon said. “At the time I was too busy, especially with Colin’s senior year coming up.
“I didn’t think about it until I went to a late season tournament and they were running a girls bracket. I thought, ‘Hey, this is getting big.’ Everybody has some girls wrestling. I’m not sure who will push for a full team like us but you go to Atlanta and you see a lot of full girls teams.”