Many have said and or believed that wrestling is purely a boys sport. However, for McKayla Campbell, a soon to be Wauseon junior, that notion does not apply.
Ever since she was five years old she has held a place in her heart for the sport. Her interest began while watching her brother, Gage, compete.
And although it took some time to convince her dad, Vance, that she was ‘tough enough,’ eventually she did just that.
“My dad gave me a speech about having to be tough because it’s a boys sport,” said Campbell. “I had asked him the year before (if I could wrestle) and he told me that it was a guy’s sport and I couldn’t do it.”
However, Campbell went to her father the next year with a proposition. In an effort to convince him of her strength, she stated that she could take down her brother. She did so eight out of 10 times and the rest is history.
“McKayla has always been hardworking, but it was compelling watching how quickly she learned technique,” said Campbell’s mother, Christi. “It has been exciting to watch her grow so much over the years, and (to) be so dedicated.”
“McKayla has expressed for many years that she wanted to make this a part of her career, but we could only dream that she would make it this far in a sport that has been mostly male dominated for so long.”
Currently, outside of wrestling for the varsity squad at Wauseon, Campbell competes in several all-girl wrestling tournaments in which she has had success.
Her first one was roughly four years ago, a tournament in Battle Creek, Mich., that she won. While more recently she took home a championship at the Body Bar Women’s National Championships in Irving, Texas on May 16, qualifying her for the United States Cadet Women’s National Team.
“I like knew that I could be one of the top wrestlers but I didn’t know if I was going to win it or not,” explained Campbell of the Body Bar tournament.
But she breezed through the competition, winning by technical fall in all of her matches except the final where she won by pin.
With qualifying for the United States team, Campbell has earned the right to represent her country in an international tournament in Sarejevo, Bosnia from Aug. 27-29.
“I think it would be an outstanding experience for her,” said Wauseon wrestling coach Mike Ritter on Campbell competing overseas. “This trip to Bosnia would definitely give her that first taste of international experience.”
Furthermore, Campbell credits much of her recent success to the wrestling program in which she spends her winters competing against the boys.
“I think it has helped extremely well with my success because there are a lot of good wrestlers in Wauseon,” she said. “They have a good program that works us hard and gets us ready for big tournaments.”
“As she’s worked her way through youth wrestling, junior high and now at the high school level, she’s mainly competed against boys, and she’s had great success along the way,” added Ritter. “I think that has been huge in terms of the success she’s having now on the national girls level.”
Ritter has also had a positive impact on Campbell’s career.
“He tries to get me good work. He tries to push us to our limit and then (to) go past the limit,” said Campbell.
While at Wauseon, Campbell, as a result of her gender, has had to deal with her matches being viewed upon differently by some of the boys she competes against.
“It is kind of a lose-lose for them,” she said of wrestling the boys. “They don’t want to lose to a girl but at the same time, if they beat a girl it is just oh I beat a girl.”
However, she has excelled against the competition by going 16-6 this past season.
“I think a lot of times the boys she wrestles underestimate her until the match starts and they find out just how good she is,” said Ritter. “She’s learned the value of using leverage, angles, quickness and skill to be successful. No matter if you’re a boy or a girl, those skills are very important to be successful in wrestling. I don’t think boys give her enough credit in the strength department either.”
It is her hope that her skills will continue to develop and one day, she can reach her goal of qualifying for the Olympics.
“I always thought it would be really cool going to the Olympics for wrestling. To be the first girl to wrestle at Wauseon and then being the first athlete of Wauseon to (compete) on an olympic level,” she said.
Ritter is optimistic that she can achieve this goal.
“She’s been out to the Olympic Training Center several times, and at this pace, I would fully expect to see her one day representing the U.S. in the Olympics,” he said.
But not looking too far in advance, Campbell’s time and energy in the near future will be spent on tournaments leading up to going overseas and the Bosnia trip itself. She will also be a part of two wrestling camps, the second to take place in Colorado that will run from Aug. 9 up until she leaves for Bosnia.
Her and her family’s time will also be spent on raising the necessary funds for the trip. In total, the trip costs $3,500, and so far, they have raised approximately $1,235.
To help McKayla on her journey, visit www.gofundme.com/mckaylacampbell to donate.