Story by Rebecca Maynard
Photo by Tricia Nalls
Clarke County High School senior Kaylee Anderson made the whole community proud on January 29 when she earned the Most Outstanding Wrestler award at the Virginia Girls’ Championship state wrestling tournament.
“I’ve never gotten one of those types of awards before, so it was pretty cool, and shocking,” Anderson said.
Anderson won the girls’ invitational in the 146 pound weight class. She won her first two matches on Saturday with first period pins. Leading by just one point while competing in neutral, Anderson scored a takedown with 18 seconds left and added two near fall points to win 6-1 over J.R. Tucker’s Victoria Harris.
Saturday’s tournament featured 11 weight classes and 13 divisions with girls from 58 high schools in Virginia. (The 100 and 127 classes had two divisions.) Anderson was the only girl from the five local high schools who competed.
The daughter of Tricia and Anthony Nalls, Anderson has been wrestling since 6th grade. “My cousin [Lexi Nalls] was on Team Virginia, and I’d heard about her doing big things in wrestling,” Anderson said. “At the time I was playing softball, but I was horrible at it and needed a new sport! I thought maybe I could try what she was doing.”
Anderson went to a wrestling practice at the middle school and the rest is history. She explained that currently, there is no sanctioned girls-only division in the Virginia High School League (VHSL). Girls wrestle male athletes during high school meets.
“Girls’ wrestling is growing really fast and we’re trying to get it sanctioned,” she said. “There are not many girls’ tournaments in this area, and I’m on Team Virginia, so I know when the tournaments are, but it’s harder for other girls who don’t have those people to talk to and figure out where the girls’ tournaments are.”
“Coach [Jon] VanSice has helped me a whole lot, getting me into tournaments, and his son Kyle VanSice has helped me a whole lot too, sticking up for me, and helping me with my confidence,” she said.
Outside of wrestling, Anderson said a memorable teacher for her is Mary Roberts. “She helped me whole lot, especially when we went virtual, with remembering to stay on task and get everything done and turned in,” she said.
Anderson plans to attend Shenandoah University in Winchester, where she hopes to study exercise science and/or nutrition, with the goal of becoming a personal trainer. She is close with Tim McGuire, Shenandoah’s wrestling coach, who helped train her for World Team Trials in Texas and flew out on his own dime to help coach her. She has been talking with him about trying to start a women’s wrestling team at Shenandoah.
“He said, ‘We’ll try to help you,’ so that’s my plan,” she said. “We’re going to have to start off as a club first, and build the program, but I’ll still be able to wrestle in women’s college tournaments and he’s going to recruit me to the men’s team.”
While she looks forward to a new chapter at Shenandoah, she currently has the goal to once again make it to boys’ state this year, after becoming the first girl from Clarke County to do so.
“I was really proud of myself when I made it to boys’ state as a freshman,” Anderson said. “It showed me that I was capable of doing anything.”