Sean Moistner makes no distinction between gender in his Alexander wrestling program.
Everyone has the same expectations when they earn a spot in the starting lineup.
And Kennedi Crittle-Wade is no exception.
The female senior wrestler has to earn her spot each week, and once in the line-up, she is expected to compete for a win.
Crittle-Wade, who wrestles in the 113-pound division, will be in the lineup Saturday as the Cougars try to defend their Area 5-AAAAAA title at South Paulding High.
A top four finish for a wrestler earns them a berth into the Sectionals tournament for a shot at going to state.
“She is not a girl, she is a wrestler in our program,” Moistner said. “Wrestling is wrestling and she gets out there and competes. She knows what the expectations are. The cool thing about our sport is that you step on the mat and you are expected to compete. Wrestling is about whoever earns it. Either you survive or you don’t.”
Going into Saturday’s area championship, Crittle-Wade has 25 wins. Her latest victory came on Tuesday with a pin against a Paulding County wrestler.
“It has been a tough season on the varsity level,” Crittle-Wade said. “They are trying to outmuscle you and put you in challenging positions. It is hard so you have to work for it. It is a matter of working hard in practice and being coachable.”
Two weeks ago, she went 1-2 at the Class AAAAAA team dual in Macon as the Cougars finished runner-up to Richmond Hills. Crittle-Wade won a match by pin and was defeated by a pin.
“I wasn’t really pleased at the outcome,” she said. “I tried to wrestle to the best of my ability and do what the coaches told me to do.”
The upcoming traditional championships have a team concept with an individual aspect.
She credits her success to teammates like Vinnie Ferrara and Nathaniel Green, who she is often paired with during workouts.
“Kennedi is very aggressive,” said Ferrara, a defending area champion and state placer last season. “I think her wrestling has gotten so much better. She is strong and will stay in your face. We never take it easy on her.”
And that is something that has helped her in her first year on the varsity level. Last season, she wrestled JV as switching from being a team manager.
“A lot of boys don’t appreciate it when I win,” Crittle-Wade said. “They try to out-bully you on the mat. When I win, it proves I’m the bully. I really feel like I’ve earned each win.”
Wrestling is not something new to the family. Crittle-Wade’s older sister, Kayla, wrestled for three years before graduating in 2016. She is now a sophomore at Emmanuel College on the women’s wrestling team.
Moistner said that Kennedi Crittle-Wade has made big strides in the last two seasons.
“Her wrestling has improved 10 folds since last year,” Moistner said. “She has improved with technique but more importantly she has improved emotionally and psychologically.”