German girl tackles football, wrestling at River Ridge

girl wrestler
Felicitas Heiland

By Ted Pennekamp


Perhaps it is not unheard of anymore if a girl participates in high school football or wrestling, but a River Ridge foreign exchange student from Germany is doing both. 

“It helps me to let some anger out,” said Felicitas Heiland, who was a defensive end and left tackle on the Timberwolves football team and is also enjoying her first wrestling season. 

“Football was exhausting but it was a lot of fun and a good experience,” said Feli, a 16-year-old junior. “Now, I’m learning a lot in wrestling. The conditioning is tough. There’s a lot of running. I think it’s harder than football.” 

Due to an injury to her left shoulder, Feli has yet to wrestle in a meet, but she is really looking forward to her first match. “I’m excited and I think the team is really excited to see me wrestle against a guy,” she said. “I hope it will happen pretty soon.” 

When that first match comes, Feli will probably be wrestling at 145 or 152 pounds said her coach Adam Guthrie, who noted that Feli is the first girl he has coached on the River Ridge-Cassville wrestling team.

Feli said that she got involved in football and wrestling because she wanted to experience something new, sports which are not available in her home city of Berlin. As in many European countries, sports are not associated with high schools in Germany. Rather, the athletes participate on club teams outside of school. Feli said that she was the only girl in her club who has been training in boxing, which she has done for about three years. “It’s very helpful in keeping fit,” she said.

During her school year at River Ridge, Feli is staying with the Al and Barb Stagman family of Patch Grove, which includes host sisters McKenzie, Madison and Morgan. The capital of Germany and Patch Grove are obviously quite different, but Feli said that she is “more of a country person” and is looking forward to visiting some farms this spring.

In addition to competing in sports, Feli enjoys reading and watching basketball. “I can really scream loud,” she says about cheering on the Timberwolf boys and girls. Feli has become a Wisconsin Badger fan and especially enjoyed a trip to Iowa City to see the Badger football team beat the Hawkeyes this season. “I really enjoy it here and I like River Ridge more than the schools in Germany,” she said.

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