ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – The girls on the Mehlville High School Wrestling Team count themselves lucky. They are fortunate because their male teammates support them, and blessed because their coach is leading the charge in St. Louis to grow the sport of women’s wrestling.
Josh Bauer, in his sixth year as the Panther’s head wrestling coach, no longer has to give a sales pitch to female students – his boys and girls are doing it for him.
“I know that a couple of the girls were talked to by boys, about coming out for the team,” Bauer says. “Which if you would have asked me if that would ever happen, I wouldn’t have believed you. But they do.”
The 2016-17 season began with nine girls on the roster, and seven finishing the entire season. The most successful of the girls was junior Carley Valleroy. Before the season she was wrestled as a member of Team Missouri at the USA Wrestling Cadet and Junior Freestyle Nationals, then was named an USAW All-American for the second year in a row.But she was destined for wrestling with or without the assistance of Mehlville’s inclusive coaches. She has been wrestling since elementary school, and is following the footsteps of her older sister who was also a four-year starter for Bauer.
And the team may only get better after she graduates in 2018. Because behind her is a crop of dedicated freshman.
Maura Benson is like Valleroy, and come from a family of wrestlers – her father was a state caliber wrestlers for Oakville High School.
“It made him really happy,” Benson says. “I was like ‘You know what I want to try new things.’ And I really like it.”
Samantha Apple was one of the last girls who “took the challenge” Bauer set for them. She is in his home room class.
If Hope Haller wasn’t wrestling, she’d be trying to knock someone’s lights out. The only reason she is wrestling is becuase her mom didn’t want her to get hurt by boxing. Haller says she recently became hooked on the physical sport, but has now found a new family with the wrestling girls.
“There’re all just so close, and we all bonded together and we just can be close together, and it’s just great,” Haller says.
As the winter sport ended, the club season begins for Bauer. He started just the second all-girls wrestling club team in the state of Missouri. Team Valkyrie practices multiple days a week in the Mehlville Wrestling facilities and has attracted area girls from Park Hill to Troy.
“I saw their passion and I saw everything, but they had zero opportunities whatsoever to grow in the sport,” Bauer says.
This spring and summer he’ll take wrestlers to eight different national and regional competitions, and has already taken them on trips to college wrestling tournaments in the area.