LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A two-time heavy weight Kentucky state wrestling champ is worried she won't get the chance to defend her title this year.
The Kentucky Wrestling Coaches Association (KYWCA) announced it’s cutting Gabby Wilson’s weight class, 285.
The Fern Creek High School junior said the possibility of not competing for a state championship once again, is heartbreaking.
Wilson won her first championship in March 2021, and her second title in 2022.
“I want to be able to come into this wrestling room and finish what I started because that's the kind of girl my mom raised me to be,” Wilson said.
Wilson said her passion for the sport blossomed out of love for her brother, who was ready to quit after an injury.
“It broke my heart because I knew how much he enjoyed wrestling and how good he was at it, and so I thought, you know what, if I can do it, he can,” she recalled.
The naturally competitive twins pushed each other and propelled Wilson to win not one, but two state championships.
It was once a dream and turned into a reality that could be realized twice more, but new rules stand in the way.
The KYWCA posted on Facebook Wednesday that there will no longer be a 285 girl's weight class. It's a move toward the Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) sanctioning wrestling programs throughout the state, which would bring them in line with other schools across the country.
The KHSAA has not yet sanctioned the sport.
Under the post, the KYWCA wrote, “this decision was made a year ago and voted on by the coaches. Coaches were aware of this, and I specifically know coaches had this conversation with wrestlers and told them it was coming, and to continue they would have to be at 235.”
The comment goes on to say, “the season is not officially here and there is a chance it may be sanctioned, albeit a smaller chance as the season grows near. If we are sanctioned, it will be this way. These are the weight classes for the entire country now.”
Wilson said it's heartbreaking to think of all the things she's done to work toward where she is, "and just think that is all a waste."
Wilson's mom, Jai, said they were told this move would happen if the sport was sanctioned, but since that hasn't happened and with only two weeks before the season starts, they thought they had at least one more year.
"I was mad. I was very angry,” Jai said. “In order for doors to be open to big build girls, athletic girls who can do the work, there needs to be bigger weight classes for them to compete.”
Ozell, Jai’s husband, said it seems there "are certain demographics of society that are easy to be picked on."
They said it’s sexist to limit women athletes' potential because they don't fit a certain mold.
Fern Creek Athletic Director Troy Johnson said the state wrestling association still has time to change the rules while the sport remains unsanctioned but said it's also time for the KHSAA to examine the weight limits placed on women.
“Kids are bigger, kids are stronger,” Johnson said.
Under the Facebook post, The KYWCA said coaches can vote to change it, but the organization doesn’t want to run the risk of changing it and then getting sanctioned.
The KYWCA also expressed frustration at supposedly lack of involvement in the decision making process:
One huge thing from the point of the kywca is that we continually ask for suggestions, feedback, coaches to vote, and participate, but many do not. Then once something is set, everyone then complains. We all want what’s best for wrestling as a WHOLE, not just a single wrestler, a team, girls, boys, or even the state. We are trying to make the best decisions to build all wrestling. This decision was to fall into the weight classes set by KHSAA and do everything we can to run it as they would to work towards sanctioning. Sanctioning was never a guarantee, and we did not make the decision as if it was.
If the rules are to stand when the season starts on Oct. 15, Wilson would have to drop 50 pounds to make the 235-weight class.
Her mom said they're raising awareness with the hashtag ‘LetThemWrestle’ not just for Wilson, but for women competing in college and in the Olympics where the highest weight classes are 191 and 167, respectively.
The Kentucky Wrestling Coaches Association did not respond to requests for comment as of this writing.