Hamilton is known for a few different things: a tight-knit community, people who care for one another, work ethic, and of course, wrestling. Phil Koops has seen all of those things as a proud graduate of Hamilton High School. In fact, he has been coaching middle school wrestling for 15 years now, many of those coming at his alma mater.
Koops says over the years, he has seen a few female students show interest in wrestling and come out for meetings. However, when it became time to hit the mat and take part in practices with the boys, they had a hard time following through. That is, until last season when Lilly Jacobs and Abbi Verhoeven joined the team and were ready to put in the work.
"I spent a lot of time reaching out to parents and discussing with them some of the physical and social concerns with having their daughter participate,” Koops explained. “What made it easier was that Lilly and Abbi could wrestle each other in practice, they’re both athletic, they’re both tough.”
What Abbi and Lilly potentially didn’t realize was the example they were setting with their work ethic, dedication, and perseverance. This year, the number of girls on the middle school wrestling team has doubled with the addition of fellow seventh graders Roxy DeVries and Mykayla Provance.
In the first meet of the season at the Gobles Girls Wrestling Tournament, the Hawkeyes wrestled hard and showed their potential and toughness. DeVries wrestled three incredible matches and had a single-leg takedown that nearly resulted in a pin while Provance took second place in her bracket after just two practices under her belt.
"Coaching female wrestlers is a great experience,” said coach and middle school teacher, Ben Engelsman. “It’s great to see girls finally wrestling and it’s becoming easier to recruit fellow girls when they know they will have other females to practice and compete with.”