Marissa Burt

Marissa Burt

There aren’t many pioneers left in the sports world these days. But Tekamah-Herman has one.

With the Nebraska School Activities Association slated to vote in April on sanctioning girls wrestling as a high school sport, T-H senior Marissa Burt was entered into the state’s first girls state tournament held Feb. 1 at York. The tournament was sponsored by the Nebraska Scholastic Wrestling Coaches Association and saw 112 girls from 39 schools across the state take part.

Burt earned a silver medal at 113 lbs. But its still a bit of a disappointment for her.

“I was hoping for gold,” she said. “I just didn’t do what I needed to do to win.”

Burt advanced to the championship bracket after posting a pair of pin victories in her two pool matches. She pinned Minden’s Sonny Sowles in 58 seconds before pinning Heaven Rush of Nebraska City in 1:12. She pinned West Point-Beemer’s Brisa Figueroa in 4:08 in their semifinal bout, but Callie Witt of North Bend Central earned the title by fall at 3:21.

Burt credits her parents for supporting her through her long journey.

“I couldn’t have done this without them,” she said. “The have taken me all over the county to wrestle.”

She said when she was young her parents left it up to her to decide if she wanted to give wrestling a try. She struck with it through elementary and junior high, but then came the big decision—going out for the high school team as a freshman.

“My dad didn’t want me to,” Burt said. “He said no, I said no back and went out.”

All the while, girls wrestling has been gaining steam, pushed along by respected members of the boys wresting community like Norm Manstedt at High Plains High School and former Tekamah-Herman wrestler Ray Maxwell who coaches at West Point-Beemer. His Cadet squad emerged as the team champions at York.

Maxwell included Burt on a Nebraska team that took third last summer at the national Disney Duals in Florida. Burt went 6-3 and was named an all-American.

Over 160 Nebraska girls, like Burt, are wrestling as part of the boys team at their schools. All are eligible to make the state tournament when district tournaments start later this week.

But the Feb. 1 meet gave the girls a tournament of their own, something that has been a long time coming.

After falling two votes short a year ago, the NSAA could vote in April to sanction girls wrestling.

In her view, Burt doesn’t think there should immediately be a bright line between boys and girls competition, should the matter pass later this spring.

“My thing is, I think you have to give it a chance to grow,” she said. “A lot of schools only have one or two girls.”

It is growing.

With women’s wrestling in college picking up and women’s wrestling already an Olympic sport, high school girls have role models to look up to.

Burt admits she’s had hers.

Among them is Lisa (Maslowsky) Hunter, a former Tiger wrestler who has the distinction of being the first girl to win a match at the boys state tournament. That happened in 2005.

“She had her son at club wrestling the other night,” Burt said. “We got to talking about the state tournament. That was really nice.”

She also knows she’ll be somebody’s someday. Burt is expected to become the first T-H girl to wrestle in college, verbally committing to wrestle at Jamestown College in North Dakota. The Jimmie women were slated to compete last weekend in the Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association’s national tournament. WCWA individual champions automatically qualify for the 2020 United States Olympic team trials on April 4-5.

But Burt has some business to attend to here. She’ll be wrestling this weekend at the district tournament, angling for a spot in the NSAA’s only sanctioned state tourney. Despite her history in big meets, Burt admitted to being a little nervous.

“This is my last chance,” she said. “I’ve lost out in the heartbreak round the last two years.”

Win or lose, bigger things are on the horizon for the sport in general and Burt in particular.

“There’s more girls coming out all the time,” she said. “I’m not the only one any more.”