‘The first day I fell in love,’: LPS rolls out girls wrestling teams

It's a new era for LPS athletics as the district opens the winter sports season with their first ever sanctioned girls wrestling season.
Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 10:31 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 2, 2022 at 10:06 AM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - For the first time, Lincoln Public Schools will go to the mat with girls wrestling teams, instead of the district’s girl wrestlers competing against boys.

In 2021, Nebraska sanctioned girls wrestling to be its own sport, but LPS couldn’t pin down money in the budget to add those teams until this school year.

At Lincoln East, the girls and boys teams practice at the same time, on the same floor, but they don’t wrestle each other. Now that they have a girls team, boys wrestle boys and girls wrestle girls at practice. And the girls team only competes against other girls teams.

“I really want to grow a team and have it like a family like the boys team,” said Mileena Notaro, a member of the girls team.

Notaro is a sophomore who has been wrestling on club teams since middle school. Last year she had to be on the boys team because the district didn’t offer her another option.

“So I wrestled boys at competition, practice, everything,” Notaro said.

Earlier this year the district approved a budget with the money to add the sport to all seven high schools.

“I’ve been able to help girls learn how to wrestle, make them fall in love with the sport like I did, and just teach them and be able to compete with girls this year,” Notaro said.

At first, it looked like the East girls team was going to be pretty small, just Notaro and two other girls who wrestled last year. They had a goal, to get enough girls to fill over a dozen weight classes. Coach Allyn Gonsor said recruiting was a group effort.

“We had a photoshoot with our current wrestlers and we littered the hallways with really sweet girl wrestling posters,” Gonsor said. “We had multiple pre-season meetings, some of our veterans hosted a girls-only get together to try to invite as many girls as possible into girls wrestling.”

Notaro is the first wrestler in her family. She’s been able to bond with her peers in the sport.

“The first day, I fell in love,” Notaro said. “Ever since then it’s just felt like a family to me.”

The sport is also gaining popularity across the state. Last year, a little over 700 girls participated on their own teams and this year that’s jumped up to 1,200.