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Females wrestle way into refereeing circle

3/7/2014

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

A mother and daughter had so much fun working together in Hays last weekend, they decided to return for more of the same Saturday.

Lisa Woody from Ludell and her daughter, Rachael Woody, Lawrence, have refereed wrestling matches together for three years.

And they both worked last year's Kids Federation State Championships, along with Rachael's older sister, Sara Woody, Atwood.

But last weekend's Class 3-2-1A State High School Wrestling Championships at Fort Hays State University's Gross Memorial Coliseum was the first state high school experience on the mat for Rachael.

Referees for state tournaments are voted on by coaches, and Rachael said she was excited when she got a call from a state official the Monday of regional weekend, informing her she had been chosen to join the 3-2-1A state staff.

So she met her mom in Hays for two full days of working on the mat.

"I had a blast," Rachael said. "It was so much fun working with all the guys and with Mom. We're like one big family."

Wrestling has been a family affair for the Woodys for a long time.

Lisa picked up refereeing about 30 years ago when her two oldest children, both boys, started wrestling. And her husband, Steve Woody, was head wrestling coach at Atwood High School.

The Woody brothers' younger sisters followed suit and competed in wrestling until they were 10 years old. So it was a natural for Lisa's daughters to follow Mom into refereeing on the mat as well.

At the conclusion of last week's state meet, Lisa and Rachael shared tales of suffering bumps and bruises while refereeing.

Rachael once got taken out by two heavyweight wrestlers from an adjoining mat and has rolled her ankle more than once. Her mom's worst injury was tearing her rotator cuff once and required surgery.

That has not slowed them down, though. They also referee several other sports as well.

But refereeing the predominantly male sport of wrestling adds a new challenge they both enjoy.

"Thirty years ago, it was not for the faint of heart," Lisa said, referring to some comments she heard from coaches, giving their opinion on a female ref.

"Your selective hearing gets real good," Rachael added, "especially on the mat."

Now, Lisa and Rachael ref nearly every weekend, sometimes together and other times with others in their own part of the state.

"I love it. As long as I'm able to, I'll keep doing this," said Lisa, who is in her late 50s.

"So, probably 30 more years," Rachael said.