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Next level talent: Meet Jessalyn Allen, 8th grade varsity wrestler

"It doesn't matter to me if I wrestle boys or girls. It's just like wrestling just a person."

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — "She's 5-3 as a varsity wrestler," said Chris Brinkley, the Grissom High School Wrestling Coach. "She's 15-11 as a JV and middle school wrestler, and she's 10-1 wrestling only girls. This year she took second at the girls state championship. She defeated the girls state champion in her weight class last year. And her only loss to a female this year was to a senior."

These are impressive accolades for any high school wrestler, but Jessie Allen is still in eighth grade, wrestling at Grissom High School on an all-boys team

She said, "It doesn't matter to me if I wrestle boys or girls. It's just like wrestling just a person. Boys and girls are mostly the same so it really doesn't matter."

It may not matter much to Jessie, but the thought of wrestling boys did spook her mother Kim initially. 

"My first words were, 'You can go, but I'm not going with you,'" explained Kim. "I was nervous."

Kim wasn't a wrestler, but Jessie's father Robert was, which is what sparked Jessie's interest in the sport. 

"I remember when I wrestled," recalled Robert. "I weighed about 119 pounds and I could handle my own with them, and so I was like, my girl if someone tries to push her or anything she'll be able to handle her own."

Jessie has now been wrestling for eight years, a constant in the lives of the Allen family, which is a welcomed gift after they suffered two unexpected moments of tragedy - losing Jessie's sister Brooke in 2009 and losing her sister Brittney in 2019.

Kim says, "She [Jessie] was a baby when one of them passed away, like just a few months old. And then, I think she was about 12 when her other sister passed away."

Jessie, her sister Leah, and her parents have developed a strong bond, fueled by unthinkable heartbreak in their family. 

But for Jessie, the idea of family is more abstract. It extends to the mat, each time she wrestles one of the boys on her team. She says, "The boys treat me like a little sister so they're just there for me."

"They see her as part of the wrestling family," Coach Brinkley explains. "And their job is to go out and make themselves better, and at the same time make her better...and she does the same thing for them."

She knows they'll be there for her win or lose, in her corner sticking up for her.

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