Kamryn Leavitt just wants to wrestle.
Unfortunately for the former Alberta, Canada standout, there are no open doors for her at this time.
Leavitt, who made wrestling history for West Central High School in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, Canada, when she helped her school win the Rural Alberta Provincial Championship, the first of its kind in school history.
Leavitt, who didn’t start wrestling until her sophomore year of high school, quickly fell in love with a sport that she originally tried because she wanted to “push myself to the limits, test my boundaries.”
So when it came time to head off to college, Leavitt packed her bags, headed to Graceland University in Lamoni, and hung up her wrestling shoes. Not by choice, but because of a lack of opportunities for women wrestlers to advance to the college level and beyond.
So Leavitt is the team manager for the Yellow Jackets, and she clings to hope that one day another door will open to give her another chance at the sport she loves.
“I’m not active as a wrestler any more, other than working out with some of the guys on the team once in a while,” Leavitt said. “I am a manager for the Graceland team. I hung up my boots for now. It was hard for me to give up wrestling because it helped shape who I am and gave me a lot of the morals and values that I have. It helped me develop a lot of aspects of myself, things I wouldn’t get any other way except through wrestling. It really helped develop and shape my character.”
Leavitt was your typical high school girl. She liked to hang out with friends, talk about boys and play the “normal” sports that high school girls play — volleyball, basketball, cross country, track and soccer.
So a friend suggested she try wrestling. It was a match made in heaven.
“I really fell in love with it,” Leavitt said. “I was successful with it, which really boosted my confidence. I made a lot of new friends. I like the individuality you have on the mat. You have a closeness with your teammates and friends that you don’t get in any other sport. It builds character and familiarity with them. In hockey you don’t grow together as a team like you do in wrestling. Just a lot of things come together to make it an incredible experience.”
Leavitt said that in Canada, the girls practice with the boys, but when it comes to tournaments, the girls have their own division. She was able to learn the sport from her coach at West Central, as well as from practicing with the boys. But when it came to learning Greco-Roman, that was an entirely different aspect.
“I really enjoyed Greco-Roman, although I only did it for one year,” Leavitt said. “I never had any coaching with it until I went to a camp at Olds, about an hour and a half from my house. A teammate and I would drive up there before school three or four times a week. We would get up at 4 a.m. and practice at 6, then drive back home for school. I had quite a bit of success at it.”
Leavitt said in Canada the high schools compete in provincial tournaments. She competed at 61 kilograms for high school and 60 kg. for provincials. She won the Alberta Open to qualify for nationals. There, she ran into some tough competition, finishing fourth.
“The first girl I wrestled at nationals had been wrestling since she was in diapers,” Leavitt said.
Leavitt said she never practice Greco-Roman live. It was all going against dummies. She never got an explanation of the rules and points system until she got to the national tournament. She was in the national tournament the first year Greco-Roman was offered for females and was one of the first girls in Canada to participate in Greco-Roman.
So she figured she might as well go for broke.
“I got the double-underhooks in and used a leg sweep and pinned the girl in 30 seconds,” Leavitt said. “I did the same move to win my second match. I lost my third match because I took a sloppy shot and she scored off of it.
“I’m glad I got to live that moment. I got fourth place, which was better than I would have gotten if I never competed. It was a great experience.”
Leavitt said the experience at nationals transformed her as an individual and helped shape her into the person she is today.
“I felt like a total badass,” Leavitt said. “I had the one girl in a dead-man position and my coach was yelling at me to throw her, so I launched her. My coach was so happy that I did. That was one of the best matches I ever had. I’m glad I got to fulfill that goal.”
Leavitt said she still is active. She is a freshman goalkeeper for the Graceland University women’s soccer team, but her dream is to one day return to the wrestling mat and compete. It is a painful experience having the door slammed shut, but Leavitt remains hopeful that door one day will open again.
“I help the Graceland guys on the mat sometimes. I get pretty emotional when I am out there,” Leavitt said. “One time I was practicing with Shea (Swafford) and I just started to cry. He thought maybe I was hurt, but it was just that I realized how much I really miss it. I don’t know where I would be without wrestling.
“(Graceland wrestling coach) Zack Mullins said somewhere down the road he was to introduce female wrestling here. But right now we don’t have a separate locker room for the females, and that is what is holding things back right now. Hopefully sometime that will happen.
“If I had the opportunity to wrestle again I would. If I could strap on those boots and continue training, I would do it right now. Wrestling helped me develop into the person I am today. It’s a wonderful lifestyle for me.”