Eudora sisters discover fun on wrestling mats
Two years ago, Jessica and Shelby Bowman went to watch a wrestling practice of Lawrence's Prairie Fire Wrestling Club.
They've been wrestling ever since.
"The first time I watched a practice, I thought it looked fun and asked to join," Shelby, 11, said.
Her 13-year-old sister Jessica was equally sold.
"When I saw the other kids having fun wrestling, I decided that I wanted to join," Jessica said.
The sisters from Eudora have embraced a sport that has long been thought to be the exclusive male domain. And the girls' mother, Brenda Bowman, knew the options were limited.
"There aren't that many groups that are serious about girls wrestling," she said.
Fortunately for the Bowmans, one of those few options was six miles to the west.
The Prairie Fire Wrestling Club is one of a few groups in the Midwest that has warmed to the idea of girls wrestling. The group offers wrestling for girls and boys ages 4 to 16 and travels throughout the state and other areas to compete with similar groups. With opportunities for girls to wrestle being few and far between, the Bowmans have taken full advantage.
"They really have a good time doing it," Bowman said. "They jumped right in."
After joining the club, the girls quickly found out they liked winning.
"I was so excited," Shelby said of winning her first trophy. "I couldn't wait to show my parents the trophy," she said.
"I was happy that I beat someone," Jessica added.
Since then, the Bowman girls have wasted no time continuing to win in their sport of choice.
In the last two years, the girls have racked up some pretty impressive accomplishments.
In 2004, the sisters made an impact at the Body Bar Women's National Championships.
Shelby won the national title in her age group's free-style event, while Jessica earned a second-place finish.
In February at the United States Girls' Wrestling Association's Kansas State Championships, the Bowman girls each earned the spot of reserve champion in their respective age groups.
At the Midwest Girls Regional Wrestling Championships, Shelby placed first in the free-style event, while Jessica placed third. The girls each claimed the championship in the folk-style event.
Aside from the trophies and the thrill of winning, the wrestling experience has allowed the girls to develop some other aspects of themselves.
Jeff Morris, co-director of the Prairie Fire club, has noticed.
"The girls have a real good sense of responsibility when they lose," he said. "They don't blame anyone for the loss, but try and figure out what they did wrong and try and fix it."
Morris said the girls had also learned what it took to win.
"Both girls have a real strong work ethic," she said. "Shelby is very determined to go out and do her best, and Jessica is one of the hardest working girls out there."
The girls have now set their sights on repeat performances at the upcoming Body Bar nationals in San Diego this April.
To get there, however, the adults have to step in and take care of some real-world matters.
"The club depends on sponsorship," Brenda Bowman said. "So we're raising money for the trip. Any donations will help, so the girls can get back out there and defend their finishes from last year."
And getting to San Diego has other opportunities for the girls.
"California has the biggest groups for women's wrestling," Bowman said. "It will give us a chance to scout out some of the things that might be available for the girls in the future."
What about the future?
The girls have enjoyed their Prairie Fire experience, and at their young ages they have the foresight to look ahead.
"I want to wrestle through high school and through college if I can," Shelby said.
As for Jessica, her ambitions go all the way to the world stage.
"I want to wrestle in the Olympics some day," she said.
Although the future for girls wrestling is uncertain, groups such as the Prairie Fire Club have given the Bowman girls a chance to do something they love.
For Information on donations to the Prairie Fire Wrestling club call
Debra Housworth at 832-1288 or visit the Web site at www.prairiefirewrestling.com.