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The School Newspaper of Lawrence High School.

The Budget

The School Newspaper of Lawrence High School.

The Budget

Stephens leads girls wrestling team with confidence

In team’s second full season, girls wrestling leader sees promise for the growing team
Goldy+Stephens+in+the+wrestling+gym+at+LHS.+
Maison Flory
Goldy Stephens in the wrestling gym at LHS.

Wrestler Goldy Stephens knows success is all about confidence.

As coaches tell the sophomore: “Wake up in the morning and be like, ‘I’m the s**t.’ ”

Stephens, in her second year wrestling, has earned that swagger with a 26-8 record. Her time wrestling also marks the first time the girls team completed full seasons, making her an important part of the program’s origins.

Stephen’s journey began in middle school, when she started out on the football team. As football season went on, coaches encouraged Stephens to try wrestling — which turned out to be an adjustment for her.

After football and 12 years playing soccer, wrestling was a challenge. Stephens had to adjust to the independent nature of the sport.

“It’s strategic, but you don’t have teammates on the mat,” Stephens said. “It was really confusing.”

Being the only girl on the football team seasoned Stephens to handle the stress. So when time came to suiting up for the mats, Stephens used the new challenge to help build her confidence.

“I had to start setting my own goals and focus on myself instead of finding my teammates and coaches,” Stephens said. “That really developed me as an athlete or just me as a person… [It] definitely developed my confidence.”

Stephens harnessed that confidence to help lead the new girls wrestling program. The girls’ team, which had existed in limited numbers for a couple years, fully launched when USD 497 hired head coach Carl Springer in 2022.

“We showed up to practice, it was probably like eight of us,” Stephens said. “He was like, ‘You know what, like, even though there’s just eight of us, like we’re going to make this the best eight,’ ” Stephens remembered.

Springer pointed out that Stephens herself was foundational to the success of the program.

“She is an amazing kid and wrestler, along with being a two-time captain and leader for our team,” Springer said.

Building a new program can leave challenges, especially surrounding the dynamic of the team. But for Stephens, the vulnerability of the sport encourages tighter bonds among teammates.

“This is the closest I’ve ever been to my teammates, because obviously you’re very physically close, but also you just see each other in the most embarrassing and goofiest positions,” Stephens joked. “[It’s] very vulnerable. We’re all really there for each other because we’ve seen each other at our worst, like losing matches, getting injured… We all really do want the best for each other and want to see each other succeed.”

It’s no surprise that athletes experience high levels of stress, but the independent nature of wrestling leaves many being increasingly self-critical.

“There’s a lot of pressure, but I think most of it just comes from people judging themselves,” Stephens said. “We try to deal with that as a team, like we always try to be at all of our teammates’ matches, always cheering, but the pressure gets to be a lot.”

However, Stephens believes that there’s much more to the sport than pressure.

“I love just seeing my teammates, like beginners, get their first win… Watching their confidence grow throughout the season is so good,” Stephens said. “I just want to see more girls gain their confidence… There’s like negatives of the sport like every other sport, but I just want people to see the positives and get into wrestling. It’s definitely improved my life a lot and I want it to improve other people’s.”

Stephens’ ultimate goal for the team is to grow. But she believes there are lots of preconceived notions about wrestling that make it intimidating to join.

“I think what scares a lot of people off about the sport is seeing yourself in a singlet, watching your recordings, having to weigh yourself all the time, having to think about what you’re eating,” Stephens said. “I’d say that’s probably the number one reason people don’t join the team.”

However, she believes that the coaches make sure to prioritize their athletes’ wellbeing over wins and are aware of the possible problems around a sport that is often associated with a push to cut weight. Stephens said girls wrestlers aren’t pressured to cut weight.

“They always want us to preserve our mental health and our physical health above winning a competition,” she said. “I think we’re doing a good job so far, keeping the environment positive.”

Looking forward, Stephens is unsure if she plans to do wrestling in college. As of now, she wants to prioritize pursuing a science-based education, but isn’t against the idea.

For now, she’s enjoying building a new program at LHS.

“I love just seeing my teammates here, like beginners, get their first win,” Stephens said. “And just watching their confidence grow throughout the season is so good. And I just want to see more girls gain their confidence.”

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About the Contributors
Natasha Torkzaban, The Budget Co-Editor in Chief
In my third year on journalism staff, first year on the Budget, I have taken on the role of Co-Editor in Chief of the print publication. I’m very excited to lead our award-winning publication this year alongside my incredible Co-Editors in Chief. When I’m not writing late-night stories, standing awkwardly to get the best shot, or spending way too much time trying design, I’m at color guard practice, working for the Lawrence Times, or spending copious amounts of money on coffee.
Maison Flory, Red and Black Photo Editor
I'm a third-year photographer on the journalism staff. When I am not taking pictures, I am showing my animals in 4-H and play club and school soccer.

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