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Local woman enjoys a unique vocation for WV women

By Shirley Shuman

Drina Kearns has, in her own words, “never been one to back down or shy away [from anything].” That attitude has led to her current vocation as the only female wrestling official in West Virginia. The recent graduate of the University of Akron explained how she became interested in wrestling and how she arrived at her current position.

It all began with her decision to try out for the BCMS wrestling team when she was in the eighth grade. “It kind of started as a joke,” she said. “A friend was asking others to [go out for wrestling], and I said I would.” She noted that she went to a few practices, “and it stuck.” Kearns added, “At first my mom thought I’d quit. She didn’t even want to buy me shoes until after the first week, but I grew to love it as a sport.”

After the year wrestling for the middle school team, Kearns took her enjoyment of the sport to the high school where she wrestled for three years. Now she’s back on the mat but in an entirely different position. The route to officiating took some time, but she is thoroughly enjoying it.

Preparing for officiating  her favorite sport, Kearns began attending practices in Oak Hill in October and continued in November until wrestling season began. The young official explained that new officials have to attend the meetings and must attend rules clinics. “There we went over rules and discussed situations which we may face while we’re on the mat,” Kearns noted.  She also uses a case book provided by the National Federation of High School Sports. The case book, she explained, is situational.

Kearns’ first experience in an actual match came in Braxton County Nov. 19 as she officiated at a Pee-Wee tournament. That experience, she said, “was a bit rough” and explained some of what she faced. “Some coaches didn’t like it that I am a woman,” she noted. “I could have recited all the rules, but they still would have complained that I am a woman.” Here Kearns explained that she no longer faces complaints about her gender. Up to this point, she is accepted.

Something which surprised—and pleased, her is the number of girls who are wrestling, especially in Pee-Wee. “They are part of the program with the boys,” she said, “and then there is a girls’ division by itself. If that’s what it takes to get more girls into it, I’m all for it,” Kearns declared. She also mentioned that there was a state high school girls’ wrestling tournament recently. “One of the tournament directors asked for me to officiate, but I couldn’t because I’m not ready for high school competition yet,” she said.

Kearns does officiate middle school wrestling, and she noted that it differs greatly from Pee-Wee wrestling. “Middle school wrestling moves very fast, and middle school wrestlers have expectations,” she noted. Another of her observations in the differences between the two is that parents are “much more involved” in Pee-Wee matches.

Since Nov. 19, Kearns has officiated in six tournaments, and she recently learned that she’s booked every weekend in January. “I’m excited about that,” she said.

Asked what she likes best about officiating this sport, she said, “I’ve really enjoyed seeing good sportsmanship in the younger kids. Many of them hug their opponents after the match.”  A downside of officiating has nothing to do with the actual matches. Discussing what she likes least, Kearns responded, “Sometimes a tournament will make for a really long day. It can be mentally stressful, and we often work late, then get up early and go again,” she said. “It’s exhausting but it’s always worth it.”