LAYTON — Endurance, persistence and determination are all traits of a winner. That mentality is something that Kelly Janis has been teaching her daughter, Kathleen, firsthand.
"Last year we asked for Kathleen to be able to wrestle for Central Davis Junior High, but she was told no. When we were told no again this year, we decided to find an attorney and because it was a civil rights issue, we sued," Janis said.
The district, however, was Title IX compliant, citing Title 34, a provision of the Education Act that offers an exception to equal access based on the fact that wrestling is a contact sport.
The battle went all the way to federal court and a judge granted a temporary injunction. After a year and a half in the legal system, the family got what it wanted — a chance for Kathleen to wrestle with the boys.
"I am pretty happy about it. It is a new experience for all the other guys. For me, it's not new but it is good because I am on my team with my school," said Kathleen.
Kathleen made her debut on Tuesday when Central Davis hosted Mueller Park. There was no one to match up with her in the 175-pound weight division, so she won by forfeit. While she wished she could have wrestled, that wasn't the point.
The family is trying to open doors for others and they have already done that. Central Davis Junior High eighth-grader Gabi Serrano joined the wrestling team on Monday. The next day, she was competing on the mat.
"It felt pretty nice. Finally girls can wrestle. I just never really liked the fact that they couldn't. But, now that they can it's really exciting," said Serrano, who won her match in the 104-pound weight class.
"There are two girls on this team. It is amazing. Whether it be Kathleen or any other girl, that is what we are fighting for," Janis said. "To see Gabi go out there to wrestle and win, the first girl ever. These girls are setting a precedent."
This court battle isn't over, though. The temporary injunction may last through the duration of the case, however long that may be. Kathleen is in ninth grade, so the case could still be going through litigation by the time she moves on to high school. But Janis said they still want to finish what they started.
"It is not about Kathleen. It is about all of these girls. All of them deserve a chance," Janis said. "Right now with litigation going on, we will just have to wait and see."