WETUMPKA, Ala. (WSFA) - Jade Eldridge has been wrestling since 2010, after her dad encouraged her to give the sport a try. In her short career, Jade quickly became one of the best wrestlers in her home state of New York.
“I have wrestled some very high ranked people, and either beaten them, or lost by a couple points,” said Jade, who joined the Wetumpka wrestling team this summer.
While living in the Empire State, she took home two state titles, and was ranked the number one girls wrestler in the 138 pound weight class; but now that she’s in Alabama, a new challenge lies ahead: competing with the boys.
At first, being the only girl on an all-boys team wasn’t easy for Jade.
“It was weird. It was definitely a little crazy in the beginning," she said. "It’s different because you’re a girl, and they don’t have singlets for girls usually, but other than that, I like my team. I’m glad they’re like a family.”
Naturally, wrestling against boys brings a unique set of challenges, and here in the Cotton State, girls have been taking the mats against the guys for years.
But, hopefully that will change in the future. A push to add the sport to the high school athletics slate has been in the works, and Byrd is hopeful that having wrestlers like Jade in the spotlight will encourage more young ladies to hit the mats.
“I think Jade’s gonna play a very important part in getting girls wrestling sanctioned," said Byrd. "She looks really good. She fits in with the boys, and she’s just as good as them. I think she can be a very important part of our team, be competing for a starting spot on the team and help us get to the goals we’re trying to reach this season.”
“It’s fun, because when you’re the only girl, people pay more attention to it, and they’re like 'Oh, maybe I can try that someday,” added Jade. “You can at least try it out. You never know you like it unless you try it. I would highly encourage it. It doesn’t matter who you are; it just matters that you tried.”
Jade hopes to make it to state this year and add another title to her collection.
Former wrestler Samantha Cox also competed with the boys. She was a part of the Indians wrestling team from 2016 to 2018.