‘It’s time’: Central Cass hosts South Border in historic all-girls wrestling dual

Central Cass hosted the first-ever all-girls wrestling dual in North Dakota on Tuesday.

Central Cass sophomore Catie Sinner, left, wrestles against South Border during the first-ever all-girls wrestling dual in North Dakota on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at Central Cass High School. Photo special to The Forum

CENTRAL CASS, N.D. — Travis Lemar had two children who wanted to wrestle, but for some time, only one was able. Lemar had never turned a girl away from the Central Cass wrestling program, other than his own daughter.

“It was something only boys do,” said Lemar, the Squirrels head wrestling coach and Central Cass activities director.

His daughter, Grace, wanted to wrestle. Her brother was a wrestler and her dad a wrestling coach. She tried to convince Lemar to let her join when she was younger, but he insisted it was a “boys sport.”


She was repeatedly told no, until one day she wasn’t.

“She kept asking me and asking me, and I realized the message I was sending to her was ‘You can't do it because it's a guy's thing,’” Lemar said. “And I’m like, as a dad, that’s the worst message I think I could ever send my daughter. So we sat down and I said, ‘I fully support you wrestling. Don’t ever let anybody else tell you again you can’t do something.’”

Central Cass’ Grace Lemar competes in the first-ever all-girls wrestling dual Tuesday, Jan. 19, at Central Cass High School. Lemar won both of her matches by fall. Photo special to The Forum

A lot has changed in the Lemar household and in the Central Cass wrestling program since. There are now three Lemars listed on Central Cass’ roster, one of whom competed in a historic dual this week.

Central Cass held the first-ever, all-girls wrestling dual in the state on Tuesday against South Border, and one wrestler from Larimore. Lemar said they wrestled about 16 different matches.

“It was neat. It was good for them,” said South Border co-head coach Josh Hoffman. “They work hard. They don’t deserve to just sit in the practice room and watch everybody else get to compete.”

Girls wrestling has existed in North Dakota for some time on an individual basis as part of varsity lineups, but there had never been an all-girls dual until Tuesday.


Central Cass hosted the first-ever all-girls wrestling dual in North Dakota against South Border on Tuesday, Jan. 19. Photo special to The Forum

“For girls who are younger and have had a dream of wrestling, who have maybe been scared to do it, I think this could be a really good example to say that it’s OK,” said Shelby Sherman, Central Cass sophomore wrestler. “There’s nothing wrong with it — that a girl is wrestling.”

The Mustangs traveled two and a half hours to compete in the dual meet, something they don’t usually do for a weekday dual, Hoffman said.

“Coach Lemar and I talked and we just thought, it’s time,” said Hoffman, who has two daughters on the team.

The weights lined up fairly close, but not perfectly. It wasn’t the most ideal, but the girls didn’t care. They just wanted to go out, wrestle and do what they’ve been doing in the practice room.

“I was very nervous for how well we were going to do, or if we were going to mess things up,” said South Border junior Christy Shockley. “All in all, it was very nerve-wracking. The boys team came out to support us, which I’m very glad they did. It was just an awesome feeling to be a part of that.”


Central Cass and South Border had one girl each on its rosters last season. Now, there are eight on each team.

“It’s something that 10-15 years ago, I would’ve never dreamed this was gonna take place here,” Lemar said. “But now it’s something that I can’t believe we didn’t do sooner.”

Central Cass’ Norah Scherweit competes against South Border in a historic all-girls wrestling dual Tuesday, Jan. 19, at Central Cass High School. Photo special to The Forum

Central Cass came away with a 30-12 win over South Border. The Squirrels got a boost from the cheering and chanting supporters in the stands.

“That made us feel even better about how we wrestled,” said Catie Sinner, a sophomore wrestler at Central Cass. “It was so cool to see all the teachers, other coaches and families come out just to watch us, even if they didn't have a child wrestling.”

Lemar’s daughter, Grace, a seventh-grader, won both of her matches by fall. Lemar said she was the driving force behind the team.

“I knew the (North Dakota High School Activities Association) was close to sanctioning it, and we just started talking to some other girls, trying to build some interest to get ready for next year,” Travis Lemar said.


Central Cass wrestler Emmy Faleide competes against South Border during a historic all-girls wrestling dual on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at Central Cass High School. Photo special to The Forum

Girls wrestling becoming an NDHSAA-sanctioned sport has been brought up at the board level, but formal approval of it being a sponsored activity has yet to occur. Lemar thinks the minute the NDHSAA sanctions the sport, numbers at Central Cass will double, at least.

“Right away, it’s hard for people, because change is strange,” Hoffman said. “And girls, in the minds of a lot of people, aren’t supposed to be doing this type of sport — physical contact — against each other like that.”

South Border's Shockley said she has quite a few friends who believe it’s "just a guy sport," but she doesn’t care.

“A father and his young daughter actually came up to us and thanked us for being able to pave a path for the future, because his little girl wants to be a wrestler,” Shockley said. “It felt amazing to be told that. In the future, I hope more girls come out and it becomes more of a girls sport, and not just for the guys.”

Carissa Wigginton is a high school sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. A Fargo native, she graduated from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Wigginton joined The Forum’s sports department in August 2019.
What To Read Next
Get Local