Gilleylen hopes to inspire more girls to wrestle

Girls’ participation in wrestling has grown over the past few years in DeKalb County and in Georgia.

Previously, girls would wrestle against boys in meets, but for the first time in state history the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) held its girls’ state wrestling championship Feb. 13-16 in Macon. Among the girl wrestlers to compete in championship matches were Stone Mountain sophomore Daisy Gilleylen and Stephenson’s Kiomy Morris.

Gilleylen (13-6) placed second in the 136-weight-class after falling to Camden County’s Alexa Downs in an 11-3 major decision. Morris (9-3) also won a silver medal after being pinned by North Forsyth’s Sophia Eglian in the 146-weight-class championship match.

Gilleylen said she was disappointed with the outcome of the match, but said it felt good to compete at the state championships.

“It felt really amazing because I’ve always dreamed about going to state,” she said.

Stone Mountain coach Jerome Tillery said Gilleylen really tries hard.

“She was the captain [of the team] because she never missed a practice,” Tillery said. “She really worked hard, and she really likes the sport.”

Gilleylen said she started wrestling as a young girl after watching her older brothers wrestle and wrestling with them.

“Once I first started [wrestling] it seemed really fun and I couldn’t stop after that,” she said.

Gilleylen wrestled her freshman year, mostly competing against boys. She said wrestling against boys made her tough.

“When I [started wrestling other girls] I saw that they’re also tough too,” she said. “But I have a little advantage because I’ve always wrestled against boys instead of girls.”

Tillery said there is no difference in coaching girls or boys.
“I’m so used to [girls] wrestling with the boys,” he said. “Even at the youth level girls wrestle boys.”

Tillery said girls’ wrestling has grown over the years and will continue to grow.

“Most of the time, parents don’t like their girls wrestling boys and [many] boys are hesitant to wrestle girls,” he said. “So, I think [girls wrestling] will grow a lot, to having an all-girls team. This year was the first year and I think they had over 300 to 400 girls at the state tournament.”

Tillery also said there are college scholarships available for female wrestlers.

“[Colleges] are really looking for girls,” he said. “Georgia is now known to produce good wrestlers, so I think there will be a lot of colleges looking at girls that come out of Georgia.”

Since her second-place finish at state, Gilleylen said other girls have come to her expressing interest in wrestling for Stone Mountain.

“There have been a lot of people who said I have influenced them to wrestle and I do want to build a girls team next year,” she said. “A couple of girls have talked to me lately [and said] they want to join the wrestling team because of me.”

She also said that she has received many praises from people all over DeKalb County. “It feels amazing because now I know that my name is known everywhere,” she said. “I get congratulated every single day, everybody is always calling me a champ, which also feels really amazing.

Gilleylen has already predicted that she will be a state champion next season.

“Next year, I am going to place first,” she said. “I’m the type of person to never give up, but also at the same time I see myself getting better next year because I’m going to work harder this summer.”

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