Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Communication and Information



First Advisor

Dr. Anthony Limperos


This study aims to understand the challenges and expectations of high school wrestlers, and how they are managing their social identities within the parameters of the sport. The rise of female wrestlers within the last decade and the hegemonic masculine roots of the sport show how imperative it is that research shed light into the unique experiences of high school wrestlers. Social identity theory was used as a theoretical framework and participants answered interview questions that discussed the three components of their social identity (i.e., cognitive, affective, and evaluative). They also identified challenges that they faced, the kind of expectations that were put on them, and the origin of those expectations. Interviews were conducted with 24 individuals who formerly wrestled in high school and graduated within the last five years. Results identified nine challenges that participants faced that often stemmed from expectations put on the individual (i.e., none, medium, high) by several sources (i.e., themselves, family, coach, community) and ended in either positive (e.g., expectation was met) or negative (e.g., expectation was not met) outcomes. Questions regarding identity revealed both consistent and unique experiences among participants, highlighted stereotypes, and evaluations of the sport, and determined whether participants felt emotionally tied to their team. Practically, this thesis offers a suggestion for how to combat one of the challenges noted by many participants and recommends that wrestling be used as a case study for understanding the growing pains associated with participation in a male or female dominated sport.

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