Alli Ragan is going to war Saturday at Final X: Lincoln at the Devaney Sports Center — but there is an underlying battle in the sport of women's wrestling.

The Nebraska School Activities Association's proposal for high school girls wrestling fell one vote short in April, but Ragan, along with many others, have a chance to build support for future proposals at Saturday's Final X event.

"Iowa was the same way for a while. They struggled to get that passing as a sanction of women's wrestling," Ragan, who represents Hawkeye Wrestling Club said. "It's crazy. I mean, who ever didn't vote for that, I want to meet them.

"I want to have a conversation with them, because I feel like even one conversation like that, any of us girls would have an impact on that."

Women's wrestling has gained interest around the United States and in Nebraska, with many girls wrestling clubs forming.

With Final X coming to Lincoln for the second consecutive year, more women's matches have been added to the schedule. Only three women's matches were in Lincoln in 2018, while five are scheduled for Saturday.

"You might take a chance on us, but we are going to work just as hard to prove that we are with it," Ragan said. "Whoever voted no, I'm here, come talk to me."

Ragan won her Lincoln Final X event in 2018 against Jenna Burkert of Colorado Springs 4-0 and 5-0 in the best 2-of-3 series before being injured and unable to represent Team USA as a senior team member and compete in the World Wrestling Championships.

This time around, Ragan will have a second chance to represent Team USA in Nursultan, Kazakhstan, on Sept. 14-22, but will have to get past fellow Hawkeye Wrestling Club member Lauren Louive in a best 2-of-3 series.

Final X is in its second year replacing the World Team Trials, but it is an event that brings more than just some of the best wrestlers in the world.

"Final X is going to bring more people to bring more attention to our sport," Ragan said. "Who wouldn't want to see this hype and war that is going to come (Saturday). 

"We are here fighting for ourselves and to make this world team, but we are also fighting for the sport of wrestling."

Former Nebraska wrestlers Jordan Burroughs and James Green have both spent the last decade wrestling in Nebraska and the world as a whole.

"I know when I was growing up, having and knowing these people or this support around you is key in growing wrestling," said Green, who just had a baby girl early Friday morning. "When I was young, I didn't really come from a popular wrestling town. 

"It was hard for me to gain knowledge. I was always traveling trying to gain that knowledge. To know to have those people around and those resources … is really big and really important to build wrestling in Nebraska."

Burroughs, the second-oldest wrestler at Final X but one of the longest-tenured Team USA members, has seen the sport grow since his first experience in international competition in 2011.

"We've just been able to be ambassadors for the sport in this area," Burroughs said. "Events like this, in a nontraditional wrestling state, you have some of the best wrestlers in the world in Lincoln, Nebraska.

"If you are even remotely close to a wrestling fan or follow the sport at all, it's a beautiful place to be (Saturday) … people that have this sport and want to improve on it have it right at their back door."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7431 or tgray@journalstar.com.


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