Amanda Mitchell’s Lifelong Involvement With Wrestling Leads To WVU Staff Position
Michigan native Amanda Mitchell doesn’t get much reaction to her presence in the typically male-dominated sport of wrestling, at least from inside the tight-knit community. She’s been around the sport her entire life, and has been accepted by those in the wrestling community.
“I’m the typical kid who went to practices all the time with my father,” said Mitchell, who will begin her duties as a graduate assistant in West Virginia’s rebuilding wrestling program on June 1. “I grew up in a wrestling family. My Dad was the coach and program coordinator of wrestling clubs in Ovid-Elsie, and I spent all my time there at those practices. My first steps came on a wrestling mat.”
That interest sparked Mitchell’s participation in the sport, where she competed in youth leagues growing up. A brother also wrestled through high school, and her interest in the physically and mentally demanding practices and matches didn’t wane when she went to college. Upon arrival at Central Michigan University, she contacted head coach Tom Borrelli to see how she could be a part of the program.
“The coaches were very receptive,” she said of the reaction to her outreach. “They had female managers in the past, but I kind of progressed beyond that. I did stats and video and charted matches, and moved into doing a lot of administrative work too. They put me in charge of the office, and I did marketing, social media, advertising, you name it. I also helped organize and run camps.”
Mitchell continued in that role while getting her undergraduate degree at CMU in 2016, then extended it while working through the first year of her master’s requirements last year. In looking at other opportunities, she landed on WVU, which has a master’s offering in her preferred area of sports administration. That, in addition to the school’s wrestling program, proved attractive, and she contacted the West Virginia wrestling staff to see if a similar opportunity would be available. Then, as often happens, a wrinkle occurred. Previous coach Sammie Henson was not retained, so the process had to begin again.
“I kept with it when coach [Tim] Flynn came in,” Mitchell described. “We called and talked about it, and he ended up offering me a graduate assistant position.”
Some of her duties at West Virginia will be the same as those she held at CMU, especially in terms of administrative tasks and helping run the day-to-day operations, including full on involvement on competition days. The marketing and social media aspects won’t be as onerous, as West Virginia already has staffers in place to handle those duties, but Mitchell is willing to pitch in wherever necessary.
“I’ve done the social media thing for a while, so anything I can suggest or do to help, I will,” she said. “But not having all of those things will also help me have a little more time to work toward my master’s.”
Like new head coach Flynn, Mitchell will be starting from scratch with the team – something she views as a positive.
“It will be interesting,” she said of the process of getting to know the team’s members, and perhaps getting them used to the idea of a female staffer. “Coach Flynn will be getting to know all of the guys, and that will be something I have to do, too. It’s a good place to start for me. I know Brenden McRill (a sophomore on the team), who is from Michigan, and we’ve already been texting some about the program.”
Women have deservedly been making inroads in jobs or areas previously held only by males, so it’s not as if Mitchell is the first one to break this sort of barrier. The collegiate athletic training field is one area that has been almost completely broken down in terms of gender barriers, while others are just seeing the first inroads. Both the NBA and NFL have female officials (Lauren Holtkamp and Sarah Thomas) , and the former has a female assistant coach (San Antonio’s Becky Hammon), but wrestling, although expanding opportunities for women, is still a good bit behind that level.
For her part, Mitchell hasn’t seen much resistance.
“I guess that I have gotten some reactions from people outside the sport, based on stereotypes, but inside the sport, no,” she said. “I think people realize I know the sport.”
That mimics the respect Mitchell has for wrestlers. Noting that participants “have a different mentality,” she simply likes being around the culture.
“There’s not a tougher sport that puts more demands on you,” she said. “It strains every muscle in your body, and mentally the demands are even more. Wrestlers just have a different outlook.”
While her duties at WVU and her studies will take up most of her time, Mitchell has also recently thought about getting back on the mat herself. She participated in youth leagues and tournaments in Michigan, but didn’t continue when she reached high school.
“Part of that was my dad, who wasn’t in favor of me continuing at that level, but I kind of wish now I had stuck with it,” she said. “It has crossed my mind recently that maybe I’d like to get back into it. There is a mixed martial arts club in Michigan (Scorpion Fighting System) that is just now starting up a wrestling component, so that is something that I did think about recently. But I don’t have any firm plans yet.”