Don’t ever tell 8-year-old Lily Hutto she is a fragile flower.
The giggly little Rock Hill girl with braids and freckles is a champion wrestler. She holds state championship titles in both South Carolina and North Carolina, and on Sunday she finished second at a national competition.
And, she’ll tell you, she has pinned her competitors 18 times at 25 tournaments.
“There’s nothing like seeing your little girl out there throwing a cement mixer on somebody and pinning them,” said Lily’s dad, Tom Hutto.
A cement mixer is one of the moves Lily picked up when she started wresling a year ago – after convincing her parents to sign her up.
"My dad had been refereeing at wrestling matches, and I would go out and watch him and I thought it was a pretty cool sport,” said Lily, a second-grader. “One day after school, finally, he took me to a club.”
Lily started winning tournaments, and her thirst for competition kept the family on the road many weekends, Tom Hutto said. The soft-spoken girl who breaks out into grins and crinkles her nose, eyed the prize of a tournament series and went after it — an oversized champion belt with red and blue rhinestones.
“Don’t mess up my braids, please,” Lily said to her dad as he draped it across her shoulders. It’s too big to fit around her tiny waist.
Before long, Lily won the South Carolina Youth Wrestling Association state championship and North Carolina’s USA Girls Folkstyle state championship in the 55-pound weight class for 7- and 8- year old girls.
She finished second Sunday at the 2017 U.S. Marine Corps Girls Folkstyle Nationals in Oklahoma.
Lily is a fierce competitor who said she dreams of getting a scholarship to wrestle in college. She also loves Barbie dolls, playing with her sisters – 5-year-old Laurel and 9-year-old Lila –“most of the time,” fishing and playing with her pet chickens, she said.
Lily wants to be a leader and help female wrestlers “make history” in the sport, she said. Her “theme song” is Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”
“I really encourage girls wrestling very much,” she said, while standing next to several dozen medals she has won. She picks up her War of the Roses tournament medal with her blue-and-red painted fingernails and twists it.
“As you can see, there’s sparkles on it – my favorite part,” she said. “I think that’s really girly.”
Like one symbolic meaning of a lily is devotion, Lily is fiercely devoted to her sport, said her mother Sara Hutto, a chef at Westminster Presbyterian Church.
“I have never met an 8-year-old that has more dedication,” Sara Hutto said. “Lily is definitely a fiesty little girl and she needs an outlet ... I think we found her outlet.”
Tom Hutto said in a sport dominated by males, more opportunities for female wrestlers are popping up.
“It’s good athletic competition,” said Hutto, who wrestled at Appalachian State University and one year at Winthrop College, as it was known in 1985, the only year the school had wrestling. “There’s more and more collegiate women’s teams popping up all over the country, and they don’t have the shoes to fill the ranks.”
The sport, he said, also teaches his daughter self-defense.
“It’s probably good for a girl to know how to get away if they are grabbed,” said Hutto, a property manager in Rock Hill.
Tom and Sara Hutto said they are teaching their daughters that winning is not as important as doing their best.
“She knows she’s strong, and she knows she can do things that maybe she wouldn’t have known if she didn’t wrestle," Sara Hutto said.
“If she trains hard and does her best, then the wins come,” Tom Hutto said. “I’m proud of her ability to stick with it and excel at it.”
Tracy Kimball: 803-329-4072
Want to wrestle?
Lily and Tom Hutto want to start a girls’ wrestling team at S.C. Hammer’s Wrestling Club in Rock Hill in May. Visit clubschammers.com in the coming weeks for details.