There are certain sports that fall victim to gender-based stereotypes, such as cheerleading being for girls and wrestling being a boy's sport. Central High School's MaryAnne Walker is challenging that head-on.
The sophomore recently became the second female wrestler in school history to qualify for the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association State Meet.
"I think it's really cool because they don't think most girls actually wrestle or anything," Walker said. "I just try to step out of my comfort zone a little bit."
Walker is one year removed from Alicean Stottlemeyer's run to the state tournament in 2018. As a senior, Stottlemeyer made history as the first female CHS wrestler to qualify for the state tournament, ultimately finishing in fourth.
After talking to Stottlemeyer and Assistant Coach Michael Sullivan last year, Walker made the switch from wrestling boys to the girls' division this season. Since changing divisions, Walker has had one objective carrying her to this point.
"I just really wanted to make states this year," Walker explained. "This was my main goal."
Walker's quest to make states began last year and continued through the summer, staying active by wrestling in the off-season.
A strong regular-season performance carried her to the region individual meet on Saturday, Jan. 26 at Nolensville High School. Walker took second place in her weight class after falling in the final, but it was enough to advance to the next round.
"I was really stressed about it because I really wanted to make state," Walker said. "I think it's really good for girls' [wrestling]."
With two female wrestlers in the state tournament in back-to-back years, the CHS coaching staff is excited about the sport's growth in this area.
"It's a testament to our program and everyone within it," Coach Roger Barlow said. "It's getting better and better by the year. We've got more girls showing interest."
With the number of Lady Raider wrestlers on the rise, Walker believes that any girl who is interested in wrestling shouldn't be afraid to give it a try.
"I was scared at first to do it and then my parents made me talk to the coaches," Walker said. "Try it for a week and if you don't like it and it's not your thing then just don't do it, but it's really fun."