Emily Watters is on pace to earn 20 varsity letters before graduation, which would set a record for any Wellington High School student regardless of gender.
The sophomore is in the midst of her second season on the wresting team but has still managed to make time for both both fall and winter cheerleading.
“I wasn’t really interested in wrestling to begin with,” she said. “My dad is one of the assistant coaches. He came home after practice one day last year and asked if I wanted to join because they didn’t have someone for the 106-pound class. I took him up on it, went to practice the next day, and went from there.”
So far, Watters has three letters for cheerleading, two for cross country, and one for wrestling.
Emily’s father, Bill Watters, coaches her on both the wrestling and cross country teams.
“I’m very proud of her,” he said. “My wife teaches dance and Emily’s competed nationally in that since she was three. She started doing other sports in junior high and it’s continued to build for her.”
Emily practices many different styles of dance, including tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical, and acrobatic.
She said valuable life lessons have come along with her experience on both the mats and dance floor.
“It’s definitely taught me many life lessons, like to not underestimate myself,” she said. “I never would have pictured myself as a wrestler. Wrestling has taught me to not give up on myself because I don’t win a lot of matches because of being inexperienced. It’s about believing in myself and pushing myself further than I think I can go.”
For other young women who may shrink from a predominantly male sport like wrestling, Emily said to let go of insecurities and inhibitions.
“Don’t think about what other people will say,” she said. “Younger girls especially can be very self-conscious of what people think of them, especially boys. It’s a great thing for girls to do because it’s not just for boys, and to prove that, it has to start somewhere.”
She plans to major in medical psychology at college while continuing with athletics.
WHS wrestling coach John Sedlick has been a mentor on the mats to both Emily and her father.
“Her dad wasn’t too sure about his daughter wrestling at first,” he said. “Finally, he broke down and said yes.”
“Coach Sedlick has taken extra time to help me learn every move and to get them perfected,” Emily said. “He’s taken time out of his day to help me, which is very nice.”
Her older sister, Hannah, was a bit upset because she was not allowed to wrestle during her days at WHS.
“I think that was because my dad wasn’t an assistant coach then and wouldn’t have been at practices,” Emily said. “She would have been really good and an amazing wrestler. Right now, she cheers and runs track at Capital University.”
Sedlick said the success of female wrestlers like Emily and the growing popularity of women’s mixed martial arts could draw more girls to the mats.
Data shows the number of female high school wrestlers nationwide has more than doubled from 6,134 in 2009 to 13,496 in 2016.
“This is the third girl I’ve coached,” said Sedlick. “The worry used to be that you wanted to avoid uncomfortable situations between guys and girls, but it doesn’t happen. When you’re wrestling, you’re wrestling. The gender doesn’t matter. You’re trying to hit moves and win. The girl-guy thing is just not really an issue anymore.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise Wellington sophomore Emily Watters is in her second year on the Dukes wrestling team and on pace to earn 20 varsity letters before graduation.