BOB MADISON Spirit Staff
When her senior year at Washington High had wrestler Crystal DeVaughn finding matches at both the varsity and junior varsity levels there wasn’t a hint she could be taking her love of the sport on to the college level.
But a rapid-fire chain of events this summer has given the 2012 graduate an opportunity to wrestle on a women’s team at far-off Northwest Kansas Technical College in Goodland.
According to her mother, Juanita Reaver, Crystal was talking with a Martinsburg High coach, Terri Griffin, at a tournament and the conversation suddenly turned in the direction of a possible partial scholarship to wrestle on the Mavericks’ first-ever women’s wrestling team.
Crystal’s mother said, “She loves wrestling. She has done track, competitive cheerleading, Irish step-dancing, and kickboxing, but wrestling won her heart.”
Northwest Kansas Tech women’s wrestling coach Troy Elmore visited the Eastern Panhandle to help Griffin with a camp she was involved with . . . and Crystal was attending the camp. Elmore gave Crystal wrestling advice and pointers while watching her matches at the camp.
Elmore was recruiting for the school’s still-forming women’s team that will have its first matches this season. He also phoned people he knew in South Carolina and was able to secure a place on a team from that state that would be competing in a national tournament — the ASICS/Vaughan Junior & Cadet Championships — in Fargo, North Dakota.
Elmore found sponsors that paid Crystal’s way to North Dakota for the tournament that just took place the week of July 16-20.
“She’s been interested in aggressive sports,” said Reaver. “Kickboxing was one of her favorites.”
While at Washington, Crystal wrestled mostly in the 152-pound weight class, but wrestled at 139 and 148 in her freestyle matches in the national event in Fargo.
“She has been asked by Coach Elmore to maintain that weight,” said Crystal’s mother.
At Washington, Crystal wrestled only against boys. But in Kansas she will be on the women’s team and wrestling against only other women. In high school, Crystal was involved in folkstyle or collegiate wrestling where the goal is to pin your opponent. At Northwest Kansas Tech she will be involved in freestyle wrestling where the scoring is accomplished much differently.
Freestyle scoring is not the same as in folkstyle. Neither is the strategy or the match procedures. There is little emphasis on control and wrestlers are brought to their feet about every 15 seconds if there has been no scoring.
“Being able to wrestle in the tournament at Fargo was a really good experience,” said Crystal when she had returned from the national event. Her record after six matches of freestyle wrestling for the first time was 2-4. When possible forfeits occurred in her weight class of 139 she moved up to 148 just to get more experience at her previously untried sport.
“After trying it in Fargo, freestyle is my favorite when compared to folkstyle wrestling,” she said.
She will be leaving for college on August 4 and says, “I’ll be busy the entire time I’m there. Between school and wrestling there won’t be much free time”, says Crystal. “The wrestling season begins in late October or early November and lasts through early March.
“Coach Elmore did everything he could to help get me up there.”
Northwest Kansas Tech was opened in 1964 and in the fall of 2010 the school initiated golf, rodeo, men’s wrestling, and women’s soccer as its first sports. The fall of this year the Mavericks will have their first men’s basketball team as well as the first women’s wrestling team.
The college is a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) and competes in the West Central Region which encompasses Kansas and Wyoming.
The school’s beginnings showed it with one building and seven courses of study. And now the school has 20 buildings and 14 programs of study. Crystal will be pusuing a degree in cosmotology.
In January, Crystal was at times wrestling with the jayvee team. In July, she competed in a well-known national event and has a partial scholarship at a school with a brand new women’s wrestling team.
The Mavericks men’s wrestling coach, Paul Gomez, watched Crystal in Fargo. “She did well for somebody who had never wrestled freestyle in competition,” said Gomez.
“I never got to go to college, so to be able to attend college and do what you love is amazing to me,” mentioned Crystal’s mother, Juanita.
A women wrestler competing at the junior college level is a novelty for Jefferson County.
A women wrestler competing at the junior college level from anywhere is a novelty in this part of the country.
“I would like to thank the Washington High wrestling team and coaches Codie Gustines and Chantz Griffith. Terri Griffin told Coach Elmore about me or this would not have happened”, Crystal said of the help she has received.
“My mom has been really supportive and I thank God this chance came along.
“They tell me it’s crazy how supportive the community of Goodland is about women’s wrestling.”
Northwest Kansas Technical College will have a West Virginian on its women’s wrestling team. She will be involved in the sport of freestyle wrestling for the first time. And Washington High School and Jefferson County will be waiting to see how the first chapters in Crystal’s new book will play out in Goodland, Kansas.