Lamphere sophomore Karina Witmer wrestles at regionals on Feb. 18 at Birmingham Groves High School.

Lamphere sophomore Karina Witmer wrestles at regionals on Feb. 18 at Birmingham Groves High School.

Photo provided by Lamphere Wrestling

Lamphere duo makes school history at girls wrestling state finals

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Madison-Park News | Published March 15, 2024

 Lamphere freshman Allie Matheney wrestles at regionals on Feb. 18 at Birmingham Groves High School.

Lamphere freshman Allie Matheney wrestles at regionals on Feb. 18 at Birmingham Groves High School.

Photo provided by Lamphere Wrestling


MADISON HEIGHTS — Don’t let the smell of perfume or the bright smiles fool you when you step into the gymnasium. These girls can wrestle.

Whether it’s facing the boys in a co-ed match or going head-to-head with another girl, there’s nothing lady-like about the fierceness and competitiveness girls across the state of Michigan have displayed with their wrestling ability at the high school level.

Since the Michigan High School Athletic Association added a girls only wrestling division for the 2021-2022 season, numbers have grown exponentially for numerous high schools across the state.

Girls have been wrestling for decades at the high school level, in small numbers, but this was the first opportunity where girls were prioritized in the sport of wrestling.

In its first year, nearly 400 girls wrestled in the regional meet, which was split into just two regions prior to the state meet.

Now holding four regions consisting of nearly 800 wrestlers, and over 1,000 that competed this year in meets across the state, there’s hopes of potentially holding district meets — like the boys side does — next year because of the increasing numbers.

“It’s (numbers) almost tripled since last year,” Birmingham Groves wrestling coach Joseph Jones said. “It’s growing really, really fast.”

Jones and Groves hosted the first tri-county all-girls wrestling meet as schools from Wayne, Macomb and Oakland County went head-to-head. Local all-girls tournaments are becoming more and more popular in the surrounding counties whereas past years saw teams traveling two or three hours in order to compete.

The majority are learning the sport in high school. Some have seen siblings compete, but the one thing they all share is the love and passion for it.

As all-girls tournaments become more common, longtime coaches such as Warren Mott’s Paul Salyers, an assistant coach on the boys side and Mott’s girls head coach this past year, are still getting used to the environment.

“You go into a wrestling gym where a boys tournament is being held, and oh, my God does it stink,” Salyers said. “There’s BO (body odor) everywhere. You go into a girls tournament and it’s a cacophony of perfume. It’s hilarious to me. The girls will get down after beating the crap out of another girl, and with boys they’ll get done and they’re strutting around like they’re the king, but the girls will get done, get their hand raised, and go over and hug the girl they just beat up on and go, ‘Honey, this is what you need to do next time because I was able to do this because you were doing this wrong.’ It’s just funny. You don’t see that with the boys.”

As more girls continue to join, local teams are wishing upon a star that the popularity of wrestling and the success of their current girl wrestlers are signs of more wrestlers to come.


Madison Heights Lamphere
How about two underclassmen being the pioneers for Lamphere girls wrestling?

Sophomore Karina Witmer and freshman Allie Matheney, who are the only two girls on the roster, became the first female wrestlers in school history to qualify for the state finals on March 2 at Ford Field as Witmer was a regional champion and Matheney took fourth.

Both girls have extensive experience in the sport of wrestling with Allie Matheney following in the footsteps of her older brother Austin, who was a state qualifier for Lamphere wrestling in 2020, and Witmer wrestling for nearly five years already under the Warren Lincoln Wrestling Club and Warren Woods Middle School in sixth grade.

“When he (Austin) was wrestling with me, she (Allie) was in the room practicing,” Lamphere wrestling coach Shane Dutton said. “She’s been on the mat since she was probably 6 years old. She grew up wrestling.”

For Witmer, this season was based on regaining the confidence in her ability she once had before tearing her ACL and meniscus. Witmer took off her freshman year due to the injury and her and her family’s concerns of possibly reaggravating it, but a regional title and state finals qualification have her confidence at an all-time high.

“It was really just memorable,” Witmer said. “It felt awesome being back after a two-year knee injury. It just felt amazing to come back and achieve all of this.”

Both on the Lamphere swim and dive team, Witmer said Matheney talked her into joining the wrestling team this year.

Together, they were able to compile an impressive season as the lone representatives of girls wrestling at Lamphere, and Matheney said it built a bond for her and Witmer in the process.

“I think it brought me and Karina closer together since we were in a room of 40 boys and there’s only two of us, we’re able to support each other and be closer with each other,” Matheney said.

Being around the sport for quite some time, both girls have seen the ebbs and flows of female representation in wrestling, and now they’re forging their own path at Lamphere.

Matheney said between regionals and the all-girl tournaments this season, the influx of female wrestlers has skyrocketed compared to when she watched her brother, who’s five years older than her, wrestle.

“It has changed a lot,” Matheney said. “Back when I first started, it was rare to see one girl at a tournament. Now that I’ve grown into the sport, it’s multiple girls and girl teams. It’s changed rapidly over the years.”

As numbers continue to grow, Dutton is hoping the success of Witmer and Matheney translates into more participation on the girls side.

“What’s happening in Michigan is really cool just to see the girls wrestling really exploding,” Dutton said.