Don’t look now, but interest in girls’ wrestling is growing. Consider that from 2022 – the first year the IHSA organized a state series for girls – to 2023, numbers of girls wrestling nearly doubled, from 1,249 to 2,215 of those girls who registered, practiced and competed in at least one competition during the year.
In response, Saint Viator Athletic Director Jason Kuffel ’99 has created a girls’ wrestling team and hired its first coach, Adriana Demos.
“We have had a number of new female athletes and wrestlers interested in joining our new girls’ program, which is extremely exciting for them and our entire school community,” Kuffel says.
Demos grew up in Gurnee and attended Warren Township High School, where as a senior she placed third in the first IHSA girls’ wrestling state series. She also was a cheerleading champion and was crowned Miss Teen Illinois her senior year, in 2022, and ultimately crowned Miss Teen International later that year.
Demos says she is super excited to be the new girls’ head wrestling coach and she has a clear vision for the program.
“My goal is to create an environment where we are the Saint Viator wrestling program as a whole, but that there is a girls’ team and a boys’ team,” Coach Demos says, “meaning that the girls who come out will only practice and compete against girls, no boys.
“Wrestling truly has shaped me into the person I am and has given me life skills on and off the mat,” she adds. “I encourage all girls to come out and be a part of this program, because there are big things in store for Saint Viator Girls wrestling.”
Demos was recruited by Head Wrestling Coach Mike Schneider and his assistant, Coach Mark Miedona, who both point to the growing interest.
“Girl's wrestling has really taken off and not just at the high school level,” Coach Miedona says. “Many colleges now offer girl's wrestling as a varsity sport with full athletic scholarships. I personally believe that seeing UFC matches on TV and that every event features at least one female competition has opened the eyes of the public.
“I have been involved with high school and collegiate wrestling for 30 years,” he adds. “It has been uplifting and refreshing to see the effort that these young ladies put into learning the sport, competing and doing what it takes to be the best.”
Coach Schneider says that with more states sanctioning girls’ individual wrestling, USA wrestling has had their best Olympics ever in the sport.
“In the 2020 Olympics, the Women’s Olympic team had the highest concentration of medalists to athletes,” Coach Schneider says. “This past Olympics, Team USA won nine medals total, more than any other nation, and more than the program has ever won in a non-boycotted games. The women had a lot to do with that.
“I sum it all up to good promotion on a national and state level,” he adds, “and the breaking of the cultural glass ceiling to where girls feel confident and comfortable to compete in their own class.”