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The Journal Gazette

Friday, January 12, 2018 1:00 am

Wrestling is family affair for Archer

Senior is 1st female to compete at state

Josh Patterson | For The Journal Gazette

If you go

What: 2018 Indiana High School Girls Wrestling State Finals

Where: Lawrence North High School, Indianapolis

When: Weigh-ins 6-6:15 p.m., wrestling starts at 6:30 p.m.

Cost: $10 for adults, children 12 and under free

Area participants: 120 pounds – Mallory Engle (Columbia City); 126 – Taylor Wells (Southern Wells); 132 – Alexis Grider (South Side), Amber Hoy (Heritage); 220 – Alexandria Martz (Woodlan)

With five brothers all competing in the sport, Alexis Grider found herself well-versed in wrestling from an early age. Be it rolling around on the living room floor with nearly any of her eight siblings, or participating in youth tournaments, the now senior at South Side took her lumps with the rest of the Grider clan.

Admittedly, the chance to compete for the Archers' boys team never came to mind, as her father, EJ, didn't want her wrestling against boys. Not that she wasn't successful during her youth career, as she placed third in a national tournament when she was 10 years old. The elder Grider just didn't want anyone to take liberties with his daughter.

But times have changed, and an opportunity has presented itself. While not directly affiliated with the IHSAA, the state wrestling coaches association (IHSWCA) sanctioned a state tournament starting last year, open to any girl competing on a wrestling team recognized by the IHSAA.

“I've always been interested in wrestling, but there hasn't been an opportunity for girls,” Grider said. “After we found out, I wanted to try it out and see what I could do.”

And she fared well for her first year, winning the Maconaquah Regional last Friday at 132 pounds. That title earned her a top seed for the Indiana High School Girls Wrestling State Finals, set for today at Lawrence North.

Her regional performance included a first-period pin of Calumet's Caitlin Clark, who won the girls state title at 120 pounds last year.

“(Alexis is) very quick and very strong,” her father said. “She does know the moves, and we're going to try to show her a few moves that will work for her.”

It's a pair of familiar faces during training to help Alexis – her older brother Tim is an assistant at South Side, while her younger brother Keaton, a freshman wrestler for the Archers, works out as her practice partner.

Training with her brother brings several advantages. First off, Alexis knows Keaton won't take it easy on her just because she's a girl. Keaton also weighs about 145 pounds, so Alexis' form must be perfect to complete moves correctly in workouts.

“He just pushes me a lot harder than I think a normal partner would,” Alexis said. “It's a lot different wrestling with a guy, just the muscle type. In some moves, I have difficulty moving him around, but at the regional tournament I was surprised what the difference was. The weight distribution was also different, so that was interesting.”

Whether or not Alexis gets her arm raised in victory at the state finals, her wrestling training has improved her strength. After an all-state performance thanks to her seventh-place effort at state in the long jump last spring, she hopes that added strength manifests in a higher podium finish.

“Wrestling has made me more aware of what I'm doing with my body,” Alexis said. “It's strengthened my neck so I'm able to get more correct form in the long jump in the air.”