WEST TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Signing day is a big day for any high school athlete looking to compete at the college level, but it was an especially momentous occasion Wednesday as Annalyse Dooley took pen to paper.
One of only a handful of female wrestlers in Vigo County, the West Vigo senior became the first in the county to sign a National Letter of Intent to wrestle in college. She also officially became an inaugural member of the Indiana Tech women’s wrestling team.
“Annalyse is a natural athlete,” West Vigo wrestling head coach Scott Rohrbach said. “She could probably pick up a tennis racket and be a very good tennis player. She is going to succeed in whatever sport she picked, thank goodness she picked wrestling.”
Once admittedly hesitant about girls wrestling, Rohrbach was actually the driving force behind Dooley joining the elementary program when she was in second grade.
“My brother was wrestling, and I wanted to try it and my dad told me ‘no,’ and ‘that wasn’t for girls,'” Dooley recalled. “So then I got to be the manager, and Scott talked my dad into letting me wrestle the next year.”
According to Rohrbach, Dooley is “one of the most decorated wrestlers in Vigo County history, qualifying for state finals three years in a row. In fact, Dooley and fellow female wrestler Torie Buchanan will compete Friday for state.
“We are probably one of the only high school programs in the state, that when we wrestled in the team state duals last week with our varsity team, we had two girls in the lineup,” Rorhbach said. “And they are varsity girls not because we couldn’t find anybody else to fill the position, but because they are the best we have.”
Dooley said the boys never took it easy on her on the mat.
“I think they don’t want to lose to a girl,” she said.
Her coaches noted that it was not uncommon for Dooley to leave practice with a bloody nose or black eye.
“They’ve never been treated like girls in that room. Never,” assistant coach Brian Otte said of Dooley and Buchanan. “They are probably pushed harder than the boys.”
But, being pushed harder didn’t phase Dooley.
“It’s taught me that when you lose, you have to pick yourself back up, and you’ve got to do better,” she said. “Because, I mean I’ve lost to people and gone back and beat them before. It’s just the way you carry yourself.”
Now, Dooley will get to take what she’s learned as she starts a new chapter at Indiana Tech.
“It feels good. I mean I never really pictured it to be like this,” she said of signing to an all-girls team. “I’ve never wrestled for an all-girls team, so it’ll be fun.”
As female wrestling continues to grow in popularity across the nation, Dooley will be helping to pave the way for future athletes in Indiana.
“Women’s wrestling’s really exploded throughout all the states in the U.S.,” Paul Rademacher, head women’s wrestling coach at Indiana Tech said. There [are] about 20 states that have sanctioned women’s wrestling at the high school level.”
Indiana is still in the process of sanctioning the sport, Rademacher noted.
“But, in the process of that, the colleges have also jumped on board, and there’s almost 70 colleges now that have women’s wrestling that offer opportunities of continuing at the next level,” he said.
As Rademacher builds his first team, he said he is looking for athletes who are competitive on the mat and who truly enjoy the sport.
“With Annalyse, that’s what we saw was an athlete that took care of her academics, was very competitive on the mat and just enjoys wrestling,” he said.
Dooley will not only be paving the way for women’s wrestling at the college level, but at the local level as well.
Eight girls recently signed up for the elementary wrestling program at West Vigo–including Dooley’s sister, Madi.
“I know my little sister looks up to me a lot. So it makes me feel good that I can accomplish something that I hope she wants to accomplish when she’s older.”
Something Dooley and her coaches hope to see next is an all-women’s wrestling team in Vigo County.
“It’s going to do nothing but help the sport,” Otte said.