Here’s to the ‘kid sisters’ who never got a chance to wrestle

Updated: November 29, 2023

Photo: A record 8,207 fans attended the first-ever Iowa women’s wrestling meet in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Nov.12. (John Johnson photo)

By Mike Finn

This column appeared in the latest issue of WIN Magazine. Click on the cover or call 888-305-0606 to subscribe.

An emotional Felicity Taylor worked to hold back her tears as she spoke about how great it was to be part of women’s wrestling history on Nov. 12, when the Iowa women’s wrestling team held its first-ever home event before a record 8,207 fans in Iowa City.

And considering what the 5-foot, 116-pound native of Spillville, Iowa, had gone through in her wrestling past to earn such a moment, it was not surprising to see her emotions. Sure, she won over 100 high school matches competing against boys, before earning All-American honors and a national title at McKendree in Illinois, before making history as part of the first-ever NCAA Div. I Power-5 team.

There had to be plenty of tough times considering she started wrestling when few other girls did and dealt with plenty of doubters … as well as boy wrestlers who forfeited to, rather than wrestle her.

After spending four years at
McKendree, where Felicity Taylor (top) earned three All-American honors and
a national title, the Iowa native is part of Iowa’s first-ever varsity team. (John Johnson photo)

The Trailblazer Duals provided Taylor an opportunity to focus on what’s right about the growth of women’s wrestling … while also looking back at those before her who might have had a tougher time in gaining acceptance from others.

“Our team motto is, ‘For Her,’,” Taylor said. ‘We are doing this for ‘her’, the people who paved the way for us and for the people who are to come after us. To see all these little girls wanting our autographs or just being here and supportive was amazing.”

Taylor is the oldest of three siblings. And as a former Level 8 competitive gymnast, she was strong enough to wrestle with her younger brother Zach until she took up wrestling.

I’ve been covering wrestling for 35 years and the noise emitted from these fans was no different than if the legendary Hawkeye men were wrestling.

Yes, there are many women who have helped the sport grow in record numbers the past decade. Currently, 44 states now sanction girls’ high school wrestling and there are over 100 college women’s programs. But, I couldn’t help but think of the women who never had a chance to wrestle a true match after going through the pain of being a brother’s wrestling dummy.

Despite becoming more of a training dummy for older brother Kevin Finn back in the 1970s, Annette Benson grew to become a big wrestling fan.

That was the case for my “kid sister” Annette, who is now 60 but was seven years younger than my brother and myself when we were trying out wrestling moves on her; probably without her permission.

I’m sure my older sisters also felt that three younger brothers were pests, but I don’t remember putting them in a “guillotine” like I did with Annette.

And my brother Kevin probably did more moves on her with what he learned … he was eventually a collegiate All-American.

“I didn’t feel like I was picked on,” she told me recently. “I felt like you guys were playing with me and giving me attention. It was like you knew I was alive.”

She also admitted she actually learned moves from us that she shared with her oldest son when he tried wrestling.

“I remember someone asking me if I was his coach because I was literally on the mat telling him what to do,” laughed Annette.

Of course, times have changed for the better as plenty of moms and dads now coach their daughters as parents in the past did with their sons.

And hopefully, there will be even more opportunities for girls to wrestle in college, especially as the NCAA inches closer to making women’s wrestling an officially-sanctioned sport.

It would have been nice if someone with the NCAA would have been in Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the Trailblazer Duals.

But for now, the message is simple to all those programs considering starting a women’s team.

“Why not?” questioned Taylor. “Take a chance. It’s worth it.”

One could easily see it in the eyes of the women who wrestled that day. You can also hear it from those in the past.

“I sure wish I could have wrestled,” said Annette. “I’m glad these women are.”

      (Mike Finn has served as editor of WIN Magazine since 2003. He can be reached at