Sawyer Bolinger, Caroline March, and Harper Kahler with coaches Lance Bolinger and Steve Burns.

By: Lance Bolinger
When I tell people my daughter wrestles, I usually get a few different types of responses. My personal favorite is the scrunched up face like they smelled a bad odor. That expression comes from a place of they either don’t understand wrestling or they don’t believe girls should be involved in the world’s oldest sport as it has been traditionally male dominated. In reality, girls wrestling is the fastest growing sport in the State of Missouri and the United States. To put this in perspective, our youth girls state tournament has been doubling in size about every four years.

Even with the growth, there is still a stigma that girls competing in wrestling can’t be girly girls, but that idea is being shattered by these young talented athletes. Campaigns such as the Beauty & the Beast Movement really highlight how these girls can be competitors on the mat and be beautiful off it. Coach Bradley’s high school team has been great role models for these girls in this area, sending his athletes down to the youth practices to act as trailblazers for them to follow!

My daughter was so excited coming home from practice one day this season, telling me how Addie Pasley and Nova Porter helped her learn to defend the cradle. I would love to go on about the mental and physical benefits the sport of wrestling gives our young women (and men), but this article is intended to highlight your three local youth stars.

This past weekend our total numbers were not great from our club for the Girls State Championship. Our club started the year strong with 68 wrestlers in the Southern Boone Wrestling Club, but this long grueling season ended for the boys weeks ago and we only had three girls stick around to compete at the girls state tournament.

However, our three girls added to the record-setting 517 female wrestlers gathered in Springfield at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds for the 2024 Missouri USA Girls Championships this past Saturday.

At the beginning of the day, our three girls were warming up on a mat next to several large teams with over twenty plus wrestlers. These girls have grit though and were not intimidated as they knew we had work ahead of us. As the day went on and the matches picked up tears, blood, sweat, and determination flowed as these girls rose to the occasion. Our girls posted several impressive wins over talented wrestlers from every corner of the state.

The tournament concludes with a Championship Match known as the finals. The finals are a big deal to these girls as they participate in a formalized ceremony where they run alone out of a tunnel as their name and their team is proudly announced in front of over a thousand cheering fans.

Those large teams from earlier in the day had dwindled down to only a few of their top wrestlers remaining, but your three eagles were all still standing as they prepared to run from the tunnel to their championship matches.

Caroline March was the first to compete in the 8 and under 70 pound division, and she gave an amazing effort going all three periods falling just 1 point short of victory. Caroline finished 2nd in her bracket, and we are so proud of this talented young wrestler.

Caroline March took second place in the 8 and under 70 pound division

Sawyer Bolinger and Harper Kahler had to wrestle their matches at the same time, which is unfortunate as they are two of each other’s biggest supporters.

Sawyer wrestled in the 10 and under 85 pound division, and she had to battle back after falling behind early in her finals match. Sawyer is a determined wrestler, and she was able to regain the lead and get the pin early in the third period to claim her 2nd Missouri USA State Championship.

Sawyer Bolinger took first place in the 10 and under 85 pound division

Sawyer’s celebration consisted of a quick hug to dad/coach followed by a sprint to the other side of the 85,000 square foot arena to watch her best friend compete in the finals.

Harper Kahler was competing in the 10 and under 65 pound division, and she was locked in a tough match with an opponent she had faced multiple times throughout the year. Harper had gained an early lead in the match, and she never looked back as she won by points to claim her 4th Missouri USA State Championship.

Harper Kahler took first place in the 10 and under 65 pound division

The tournament as a whole was an awesome experience from the all female officiating crew to the elite costumes some of the teams and coaches had come up with for this event. These girls are both powerful and beautiful and the sport of wrestling is going to make them better prepared to face the challenges this world will throw at them!