OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Omaha Central has solidified itself as one of the top wrestling programs in the Omaha metro, with dozens of state champions from the last few years, dating back to the 1930s.
Now the program is expanding, as girls will have their own team.
“I was a little surprised that it has taken this long for wrestling, not just to get to Nebraska but to get to the entire United States. I mean we’ve had Title IX since 1972, surely we could have had a wrestling program before then,” said Jimmie Foster, Head Coach of the Central Wrestling program.
Earlier this year, the Nebraska School Activity Association, which oversees high school sports in the state, officially sanctioned girls wrestling as a sport.
That's right. In the past girls would have to take on boys if they wanted to wrestle in high school.
“I’ve had girls in the past that say ‘I want to wrestle, but I don’t want to wrestle that guy,'” said Foster.
“I knew my parents probably wouldn’t let me wrestle if I was against boys so when Mr. Foster told me there was going to be a girls team, I got on it right away,” said Sylvia Barners, a junior who started wrestling at Central High.
Sylvia Barnes said she wanted to compete after watching her brothers wrestle at Central.
“I want to get into a sport that I can be proud of myself with and it’s more of like a new start since I haven’t wrestled before,” said Barnes.
Jimmie Foster has been the coach of the program since 1997. He says happy girls have one less barrier holding them back and now more student-athletes can learn the valuable lessons wrestling teaches.
“You can train all week long, do everything you’re supposed to, work as hard as you possibly can and still lose that wrestling match. When you come back to practice on Monday, how ready are you for that?” said Foster.
As for Barnes, she’s now recruiting girls for Coach Foster's program and had some success.
“I have gotten mostly a positive response and gotten people to join,” said Barnes.
She's hoping to learn the sport and try to make it to the CHI Health Center for State Wrestling next year.
“Gets some wins in, experience, so next year when I’m a senior I can be a lot more prepared to maybe put going to state as my goal.”