Meredith Ledlow recently became the Tennessee AAU State Wrestling Champion in Lebanon in one of the largest youth tournaments in the state with over 150 entrants.
What makes her achievement all the more extraordinary is that she did it while wrestling in the Kindergarten-Second Grade 73-pound division.
Meredith is eight years old and a sophomore at Calvary Baptist in Kingston.
Although wrestling has been on a bit of a hiatus in Roane County for the past few years, it is rapidly gaining popularity across the country and state.
Girls’ wrestling in particular is growing rapidly with clubs and school programs popping up everywhere.
Meredith’s prowess on the mat isn’t just a fluke, it’s a family affair.
“She has two older brothers who wrestle and her dad is very passionate about wrestling,” her mother Paige Ledlow said. “We think it has a lot of value. It teaches confidence, strength and determination in a way that other sports may not have.
“His dad and I thought it would be a good sport for everyone to learn.”
Meredith’s father is from Michigan where amateur wrestling is quite big.
“He wrestled as a kid and had a cousin who was pretty into wrestling in college,” Paige said. “So growing up in Michigan, wrestling is quite popular in the Midwest.
“His two brothers are nine and 11 and they also wrestle Greco-Roman wrestling.”
Paige described how things are set up for the division Meredith competes in.
“One thing about youth wrestling is they make sure the age and weight matches the kids,” the elder Ledlow said. “When she wrestles, she wrestles other girls who are the same age and weight.
“It’s really just so that there are kids who do really well, no matter how tall they are.”
During wrestling season, Meredith doesn’t do anything particularly special to prepare for practice matches.
“She trains three days a week, there’s conditioning at the start with push-ups, sit-ups and strength training,” Paige said.
As there were not many opportunities for amateur wrestling in the county, Meredith traveled to Maryville and competed in the Renegade Wrestling Club. According to Paige, there are at least 50 children, boys and girls, who participate in the club.
“After conditioning, they wrestle, practice moves, and practice wrestling,” mom said.
The kids can be fickle at times with interests that change regularly, but that’s not the case for Meredith who has struggled for three years and is used to routine.
“She’s usually pretty driven,” Paige said. “She’s a very social child and she likes to be where people are.
“At first she was nervous about the games, I think she was afraid of getting injured.
“I think at first it was intimidating, but once she realized how good she was, she started having fun doing it.
“She’s naturally very athletic and strong for a little girl.”
Winning a championship at eight can only mean that Meredith expects a lot more as she gets older and gains more experience.
“Then she moves up from the third division to the fifth division and will fight girls a little bit older than her,” Paige said. “I think his goal is to continue to be successful and maybe even win a title in this next age category.”
With her potential, drive and interest, the sky really is the limit for Meredith.
With the rapid growth and interest in girls’ wrestling, it looks like she will come of age at the right time and the landscape of wrestling may change during this time.
“She can wrestle for the AAU until she’s out of middle school, after that she’ll have to find a school program to join,” Paige said. “Right now the only girls school wrestling program in this area is in Cleveland, they just launched their first sanctioned high school girls team.
“We hope that as the sport becomes more popular, maybe there will be more high schools that will accept girls wrestling so she can continue wrestling through high school.
“There are a lot of colleges now resuming too. I think Meredith’s goal would be to stick with it as long as she’s successful and having fun.