MATTHEWS – Long before other Butler High wrestlers arrived for practice on a cold winter afternoon, Elisa Cox was hard at work laying out the wrestling mats in the Bulldogs’ practice room.
At first glance, one would think Cox was one of the Bulldogs’ student managers assigned the task of getting things ready for what is designated as a boys’ sport in North Carolina.
But that is not the case.
Cox is one of the team captains on the Butler wrestling team and the sophomore is starting to make a name for herself as a wrestler at 126 pounds.
It was evident by her pre-practice work ethic that she takes her role as a team captain seriously.
“I am not a captain because of my technique, but I have learned a lot of leadership skills,” she said. “I like to get out there and make sure people are doing what they are supposed to do and working hard towards their goal of winning matches.”
Cox decided to take up the sport as a freshman after she learned that her father and uncle both wrestled for Butler head coach Billy Puckett when the veteran coach was at West Mecklenburg High. North Carolina doesn’t have sanctioned wrestling just for girls.
Before taking the plunge in a sport that has few female wrestlers competing against boys, Cox had a chat with her uncle. He encouraged her to go for it.
“He said coach Puckett is an awesome guy and a great teacher,” she recalled.
Puckett encouraged Cox to give wrestling a try but the veteran coach was upfront about what to expect by being a member of the team.
“This is not the first girl I have coached, I had the first girl in North Carolina years ago at West Meck,” Puckett said. “I told her, ‘Look, you are more than welcome to come in but I am not going to cut you any slack because you are a girl. You will be expected to do everything just like the guys do. But, please come on.’”
Cox quickly fell in love with the sport but she realized that she would need to put in a lot of extra practice time to be able to compete against her male counterparts.
“The first thing I noticed is that everybody is really tall,” she said. “I felt really small, and I was really intimidated. I was at a strength disadvantage, so I worked really hard to improve my technique. That has really helped. I am addicted to it.”
Improving her conditioning was another area the sophomore has worked hard at since hitting the mat. And that led her to keep competing in another sport on the side.
“I am taking Taekwondo classes, which I have been taking for about 10 years,” she said. “Taekwondo is a stand-up art but it is good for memorization and discipline. If I am not at matches or practice or at Taekwondo, I go to the gym to lift and do some cardio.”
Puckett said Cox has a bright future and that she has the potential to wrestle for a women’s team in college.
“She is one of the hardest workers that I’ve got,” Puckett said. “If all of my kids had the heart she has, we would be outstanding. We would be great.”