The loudspeaker at the Illini Open wrestling tournament blared: "Breitbarth of North Central College and Maxey of Northern Illinois, report to Mat 3 for the 118-pound wrestle-backs."
Referee Bill Shreve had been working Mat 3 like a revolving door all morning, so when Maxey arrived on the mat wearing a T shirt—a rules violation—he had little patience. "You've got to take off that white T shirt," he said.
"I can't," said Maxey.
Shreve turned to the Northern Illinois trainer. "Is there any medical reason why he can't take his T shirt off?" No medical reason, but uh....
The referee turned back to Maxey: "Take it off."
"I can't," said Maxey. "I'm a girl."
The only female college wrestler in America—Brenda Day Maxey—has learned to live with the bizarre and ridiculous. The day she went out for the Northern Illinois men's team, the assistant coach, passing out forms to the new wrestlers, was so startled when he got to her, he blurted out, "It's got bumps."
Yes, it has bumps, plus a husband, three cats and a world title in a sport you've probably never heard of. What's more, this 5'1", 118-pound junior is competing in NCAA Division I wrestling right there in the heartland, where the really good wrestlers have at one another.
Brenda played Little League and Babe Ruth baseball in her hometown of Fredonia, N.Y. and has competed in road races, ski marathons and triathlons. She made the Olympic cycling development team and trained for a couple of months as the only female rider at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. She holds a black belt and has won three national titles in judo.
But the sport she really excels in is too obscure for Trivial Pursuit. Name the Balkan sport that combines the finesse of judo and the strength requirements of wrestling.