Wabash's Kiersten O'Neill triumphs in girls wrestling

January 11, 2021


Every time Kiersten O’Neill attacks the mat, she is out to prove why she is one of the best girls wrestlers in the United States.


Such will be the case on January 16, when she competes in Indiana High School Girls Wrestling state championships at Hamilton Heights High School for a third straight year.

“I put a lot of time in throughout the offseason,” Kiersten, a junior at Wabash High School, tells ParkviewSportsMedicine.com. “I really tapped into my potential when I started winning high school competitions; and that’s when I thought I really had something special going on.”

The hard work has been fruitful for Kiersten, who started wrestling competitively in 7th grade. Since then, he won the 160-lb. state championship as a freshman and finished as state runner-up a year ago. In the summer of 2019, she placed 6th at the USA Wrestling 16U Nationals, earning All-America honors.

“This sport has done so much for me personally,” Wabash wrestling coach Jake O’Neill, Kiersten’s dad, reflected. “And to see my daughter get the same experiences out of it that I did, it makes my heart swell. I can’t even describe it makes me feel.”

Minus a short break during soccer season, Kiersten can be found training year-round, wrestling boys at practice, perfecting her stance and improving her hand-fighting. Additionally, Kiersten serves as inspiration for two more girls who joined the Apache wrestling team and elementary school-aged girls who take part in the Apache Wrestling Club.

At the high school level, participation in girls wrestling has exploded over the last several years. Between 2013 to 2019, wrestling saw more than a 142 percent increase nationwide in participation from girls, according to USA Wrestling statistics. In Indiana, girls wrestling has grown to have its own state tournament each year dating back to 2017.

“When I started, the reaction was, ‘Oh, wow, you wrestle?'" Kiersten says. “I’ll go to tournaments nowadays, I see all these women’s out there wrestling, and it’s so crazy to watch it grow and grow with me.”

Kiersten's prowess has rubbed off on the entire Wabash wrestling team. As a co-ed team, the Apaches have won back-to-back Three Rivers Conference championships, back-to-back sectional championships and three Wabash County championships in the last four seasons.

“Having a state champion here at Wabash High School, it means everything to our sport and our program,” Jake O’Neill, who also serves as Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association president, says. "These girls get just as much credit as the boys, and people are starting to see that. There's some power behind that."

Kiersten helps her wrestling exploits can lead to scholarship offers to colleges in the future. In the meantime, she’s looking to stand atop the state finals podium once again.

Wabash is one of 26 high schools that partner with Parkview Sports Medicine for athletic training, nutrition, sports performance and athletic rehab for Apache student-athletes. Learn more at www.parkviewsportsmedicine.com.

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