JAY - When you first meet Lilly Gough, a vivacious, smiling girl with long blond hair, it belies the fact that she is the first girl in Oklahoma to become State Wrestling Champion in the 136 lbs. weight class.
At the encouragement of her brother, she first tried wrestling in her sophomore year and is now in her second year wrestling as a Jay High School Bulldog.
Last year there was only two girls on the wrestling team, this year there are seven girls, joining a national wave of girl wrestlers. 2020 was the first year that the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA) offered a Girls Wrestling Championship. Oklahoma is one of 18 states offering girls wrestling in high school.
"During the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, girls wrestling in Oklahoma is being piloted as we take the steps necessary for it to become a sanctioned sport." (OSSAA)
Oklahoma has 313 women wrestlers registered for the 2020 season, so far. Nationally, over 22,000 women participated in the 2018-19 wrestling season. Wrestling for girls is the fastest growing sport in college and because of that, colleges are quickly recruiting and offering scholarships to girls as they build their teams.
Gough, a junior, has already been contacted by a couple of colleges and hopes to earn a scholarship by the time she graduates. She has been invited to OCU to check out the campus and to participate in a wrestling practice. Though she has not decided yet, Gough toys with the idea of becoming a coach...who knows maybe back in Jay?
"I think they go at me harder because I'm a girl and they don't want to be beat by a girl, so they wrestle tougher," said Gough about wrestling boys. "I ended up getting a broken rib at the Border Wars last year while wrestling a guy."
This year she primarily wrestles girls now that area high schools have developed their all girl teams. In her training regimen, she lifts weights in the morning before class, then she has practice from 2:45 to 5 p.m. There is a lot of hard work coming up as she prepares for the spring and summer season, plus a match in Colorado Springs, CO in a couple of weeks.
As she prepares for the spring and summer, it will be to switch to freestyle and Greco (Olympic) wrestling, used during spring and summer, from folkstyle used during the school year. Learning freestyle and Greco will benefit her as she will wrestle those styles in college.
Keep an eye on Gough over the next year as she blazes new trails, is an example and mentor to the young girls coming up behind her in Jay.