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brooke richards wrestling

Rewriting the Rules

Volume 37, Issue 2





The phrase “like a girl” gets tossed around and too often has a negative connotation. But Brooke Richards, a senior at Tiffin University, rewrites the rules as a female athlete.

“I grew up in a very small town in North Carolina, and being a female wrestler wasn’t something anyone had done before,” said Brooke. She was the only female on an all-boys wrestling team in both middle school and high school. “Being the only girl on the team had its challenges.”

When competing with other schools, Brooke would typically wrestle boys unless the team had a girl in her weight class. “It was rare to wrestle another female. During my high school wrestling career, I wrestled maybe 10 matches against another girl.” Brooke also struggled initially to fit in with her teammates. “My teammates were rough, and it was hard to relate to everything the guys talked about. But my teammates were always supportive of me. We were on the same team, and we treated each other like family.”

Brooke had great support from her teammates and family, but it was difficult for the community to understand. “Most of my issues came from outside people who didn’t know me or see the work I put into the sport. Women’s wrestling wasn’t big in North Carolina when I grew up. It is a growing sport, but it still isn’t big.”

Women’s wrestling is rapidly growing across the nation on the youth and high school level, and there are limited opportunities to compete at the college level. In 2018, TU became the first college or university in the state of Ohio to have an all-women’s wrestling program. “I fell in love with the people, coaches and atmosphere at TU. I knew it was the place to make me a better wrestler and person. I was excited to continue my athletic pursuit while obtaining an education.”

Brooke said practices can be hard, as well as mentally and physically draining. “The biggest thing is to have the mentality to push through.” One of her favorite parts about wrestling is the matches. “Matches are fun – it is your time to show all the hard work you have put in training. It’s when you get to let it all fly.”

Pioneers like Brooke shine a new light for female wrestlers who believe there are no opportunities for them in the future. “I feel like women need to challenge conventional wisdom because we wouldn’t be where we are today. I think we are breaking the stereotype and showing everyone that girls can wrestle too. Without risks, we wouldn’t be able to push forward into a new generation that we are starting to see.”

Brooke will graduate in the fall of 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in education. She aspires to help students find their purpose. “Growing up, I never really knew what my purpose was until I had a teacher help me. I hope to one day do this for someone else.” After graduation, Brooke plans to stay in Ohio and teach middle school math. Her dream job is to be the head women’s wrestling coach for a college program.

“I’m thankful for Tiffin University,” she said. “TU has challenged me to be a better student, wrestler and person.”