Washington High School senior Courtney Walker made history recently when she became the first young woman to sign a letter of intent to attend Tiffin University and be a member of the still-being-established women’s wrestling team.
Walker, a native of Greenfield, has lived in Washington C.H. and attended Washington High School since the 10th grade.
If just being involved in the sport of wrestling isn’t enough of a challenge, Walker has Type I diabetes, which requires daily attention in the form of checking her blood sugar and taking insulin four times a day.
Walker has not let her medical condition keep her from the sport she truly loves.
Walker said she was around 5-years-old when she started wrestling.
“In Greenfield — which is where I used to live before I transferred here my sophomore year — when I was like 5, I was diagnosed with diabetes,” Walker said. “My coach down there, which is my cousin, Shane Paul, he’s still the coach at McClain, he was always a grappling or MMA (mixed martial arts) coach. I just found something with that that helped me get through my struggles with diabetes. It helped me express how I felt and take my mind off of it. Shane helped with the start of wrestling for me. He had a huge part in that.”
Walker is also a member of Team Ohio, an all-female wrestling team that travels to meets throughout the country.
“I was going into the eighth grade when I met George and Tracie Shore,” Walker said. “I’m very thankful for them because they’ve shown me so much with the girls. Before that, I just wrestled boys and traveled (to meets) wrestling boys.
“(The boys’) season is usually over in February or March,” Walker said. “That’s when we start our girls season with State in March, from then on, until boys’ season starts again.
“I’ll just be wrestling women from now on,” Walker said. “(Women’s wrestling in college) continues to grow every year; more women come out and it’s great to see. A lot of girls don’t want to wrestle because it’s just guys.
“That’s what George and Tracie do,” Walker said. “They recruit these girls and show them all of these women wrestling, that way they can come out and do what they want to do.
“The more tournaments that I went to, you would just see all these colleges scouting, giving information, trying to grow the sport,” Walker said.
“I had been looking out of state, because there was no women’s wrestling in college in Ohio,” Walker said. “Then, Tiffin announced (last September) that they were (going to be) the first college in Ohio to have women’s wrestling. I know Joey Simcoe, the men’s coach at Tiffin.
“I got a hold of him as soon as I heard that they were having women’s wrestling,” Walker said. “I was the first recruit for them and the first one to visit there and sign with them. I wanted to stay in Ohio.
“Without my dad and coach Reid and George and Tracie, I would never have been where I am now,” Walker said.
Tiffin University will compete in the Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association, according to a report on the school’s athletics web site. The WCWA serves as the governing body for women’s college wrestling as it grows as an emerging NCAA sport. There are 30 college teams that are current members. The league follows International Freestyle Rules.
“We are excited to add women’s wrestling as our 26th varsity sport,” Lonny Allen, Tiffin’s Athletic Director was quoted as saying in the article. “Women’s wrestling is rapidly growing across the nation on the youth and high school levels, and there are still limited opportunities for competing at the college level. We believe we are well situated to take advantage of that growth. We believe this addition provides these student-athletes with the chance to continue their athletic pursuits while obtaining a top notch education at Tiffin University.”
“It’s been an awesome ride with Courtney,” Washington head wrestling coach Louis Reid said. “I’ve been able to coach her for three years. She’s worked extremely hard. She’s a very technical wrestler and you can just see the love that she has for the sport.
“It’s been a dream for her to wrestle in college for a woman’s team,” Reid said. “One of the biggest things that has been a struggle for her, is wrestling against guys during the high school season. She got a little bit stronger this year. She’s battled through some injuries over the years and this year she was able to compete all season long for us. She was second at the league meet and fifth at the Sectionals. She did a really good job for us. She brought leadership to us. She wasn’t very vocal, but, when she did have something to say, people listened and they would follow along and do it.
“She’s a smart kid and academics are very important to her,” Reid said. “It was definitely a challenge for Courtney, being a Type I diabetic. Each day we had to modify practice and we would even modify matches. She had to constantly monitor her sugar to know whether she was going to be able to practice or even compete at times. She had things more under control this year with her diabetes I.
“She’s very resilient,” Reid said. “She’s responsible for checking her sugar, she’s responsible for making weight. She has to watch her diet. At any point, she could have given up. Wrestling is a difficult sport for someone with diabetes. The fact that she’s wrestled all these years and been able to balance both her diabetes and wrestling, says a lot about her. She doesn’t want to give up. She always wants to give her best effort and that’s what we always got from her and that has always impressed me.”
What about the academic aspect of attending Tiffin?
“I had talked with them about wanting to be in education,” Walker said. “I want to major in teaching mathematics and minor in coaching. It’s always been my life-long dream to wrestle in college and be a teacher and some day be a coach and give back to the sport.”
As far as favorite subjects in high school are concerned, Walker says she “really enjoys math. It’s always been one (subject) I’ve loved.
“I kind of like most of the subjects here, really,” Walker said. “The teachers here really enjoy (teaching) and give to the kids and help the kids. It’s really a great community. Moving here was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I’ve always loved Court House, so, anything I can do to give back to the community, I’d love to do.
“I’m really looking forward to being a part of the first-year team there,” Walker said. “To watch it grow and be a part of that building process. I’m looking forward to it really being a great experience and being part of that family.”
What about being a girl on a team in a sport that is traditionally male-oriented?
“When I first came up here, I didn’t really know how they would accept me,” Walker said. “Or if they would accept me. That was one of the big reasons I left Greenfield, because I felt like I wasn’t very respected and taken very seriously. It made me feel not very good.
“When I came up here, I was kind of isolated, like, I don’t really know how they’re going to treat me,” Walker said. “Everybody on the team, the coaches, they welcomed me with open arms, the whole community. Ever since I’ve been up here, they’ve been nothing but a great family for me and nothing but supportive. They’ve always had my back. I’m very, very grateful for them. I wouldn’t have wanted any other team to be with.
“I used to wrestle against Zane (Nelson) and Chris (Conger) in tournaments when I was younger,” Walker said. “When I came up here, they were very welcoming. They are probably the two teammates I’ve known the longest.
“I’d like to thank coach Paul,” Walker said. “He and my dad have always been there. Nobody has been by my side more than my dad. I definitely wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am now without my dad. I’m very thankful for him.
“Even before I came up here, coach (Louis) Reid was supportive of me,” Walker said. “I’m so grateful to have a coach like coach Reid. He’s there, wrestling-wise, school-wise, life-wise; he’s always there for advice or just to talk to. Coach (Marlin) Ellis and coach (Roger) Wilson they’ve always been supportive.”
Having Type I diabetes, Walker must take four shots a day.
“I test regularly and monitor my sugar,” Walker said. “It’s definitely been a challenge with wrestling, but, it’s made me who I am with wrestling and helped me. There are days when I’m definitely down about it, but, you can make yourself miserable about it, or embrace it. And life’s just better when you embrace it and not be miserable. If you want to let it bring you down, it’s going to bring you down. It’s taken my uncle and my grandmother. So it’s given me even more reason to look up to them and let them look over me and see that I’m not going to let it beat me.”