[UPDATED]Who runs the mat? GIRLS


Photo Courtesy of Jace Clapsadle

SDHS Freshman, Anya Knappenberger, is wrestling her opponent, giving her team another victory.

Tara Smith, Sports Editor

Every year the Decatur family grows, welcoming freshman and new students. New Seahawk, sophomore Anya Knappenberger, makes herself at home while bringing her talents to the table. Anya has displaying a passion for the male-dominated sport, wrestling.  

Knappenberger has a background in martial arts of over eight years and started her career in wrestling just three years ago. Her father saw potential and encouraged her to start wrestling. “My dad suggested that I do something different. Since I had some background [in the sport] he thought wrestling would be good for me,” Anya stated. Wrestling is something that just comes naturally for the young athlete, who trains at Chesapeake Martial Arts and at in addition to SDHS. In order to be the best athlete, Knappenberger lives by a strict regimen, which she describes by saying, “Usually [my daily routine] involves a wrestling practice and meal preps. For meal preps I figure out where I want my weight to be and then I set my calories for the day.” Anya stated. Within just three years, she has accomplished placing sixth in the 2017 Women’s Freestyle Nationals, won the Women’s Triple Crown State Championship in 2017, and in 2018 she went back to the Women’s Freestyle Nationals and placed fifth. The young star has accomplished so much in such little time. 

When asked by The Hawk, Decatur’s wrestling coach Todd Martinek explained, “I’m very excited to have her. She’s a hard worker, very skilled, and will be a big part of the team.”  

Senior Daletez Smith, who has been on the SDHS wrestling team for two seasons, also voiced his opinion on the new female athlete, stating, “Having female wrestlers isn’t new to me. Honestly, I think it’s cool to see them break the gender barriers and watch them perform on the mat. It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or girl when it comes to wrestling. We all train the same and strive for the same goals.”  

At only age 15, Knappenberger has committed herself to the sport and hopes to pursue it professionally. “After high school, I hope to wrestle in college. After that, I want to have the ability to be wrestling around the world at the senior level,” she stated. 

Junior Zoey Gillis is another female wrestler on the team and started because she wants to prove to people that not all girls are the same and enjoy hobbies that isn’t ‘stereotypical’ for girls. “I’m happy that another girl wants to wrestle. By having each other, we’ll stick up for each other and hopefully get the respect we deserve,” Gillis told The Hawk 

Anya is a committed athlete who proves to herself and others that everyone has the choice to break the barriers. “You have to look beyond wrestling boys, you can overcome anything today since there are a lot of opportunities for women.”  


[Update: As of Feb. 2, 2019 Sophomore, Anya Knappenberger became Stephen Decatur High School’s first Girls State Wrestling Champion. She defeated the competition winning all her matches by a combination of pinning her opponents and technical fallsA technical fall is when a wrestler is leading by 12 points or more and then wins the match. Knappenberger was not defeated by any of her opponents throughout the entire tournament.]