Kayleigh Longley remembers when she went with her parents to watch her older brother, Jake, wrestle.

It wasn’t enough.

“I was always at the tournaments watching my brother wrestle,” she said. “I got bored, so I thought I would try it.”

That was 11 years ago. Longley was in the second grade.

Today at the Augusta Civic Center, she will try to help Noble capture its third consecutive Class A state championship.

“For her to stick with our program, especially, I think, is an accomplishment,” Noble Coach Kip DeVoll said. “Obviously we’ve had a lot of success, and we work hard at it.”

The Knights are seeking their 11th state title in 13 seasons.

“She’s had to go through an awful lot that a lot of guys won’t do in the school,” DeVoll said. “They just don’t want to put the time in and the physical effort that it takes to go through our practice every day. No question about it, she’s a tough kid.”

Longley, the only girl in the Class A meet, also is highly skilled. In four years of varsity competition, mostly against boys, she has won 122 matches and lost 58.

“I always thought it was fun beating the boys,” she said. “I like winning and our team has always won a lot, which makes it more fun.”

Longley competes in the 103-pound division, the lightest of high school wrestling’s 14 weight classes.

“I was an undersized 103 my freshman and sophomore years, then last year I was an actual 103-pounder, and this year I’m cutting weight a little bit,” she said. “I have to watch what I eat and wear a sweatshirt at practice and do some extra runs.”

In practice, Longley usually goes against Billy Gagner, a freshman at 112, Cody Seguin, a sophomore at 119, and Nate Trela, a sophomore at 125.

“They’re a lot stronger than the kids I’m going to be wrestling,” she said. “When I do get out and wrestle someone my own weight, it’s easier to handle their strength.”

Her teammates don’t make allowances because she’s a girl.

“I’ve actually been wrestling with her ever since peewees, and she’s never really listened to the wrestling is just for boys type of thing,” said Joe Badger, the Class A champion at 140 who will compete at 145 today. “She works hard and you can tell she wants to be as good as the rest of the guys out there. She’s just like us. She’s just another one of the guys out there.”

All 14 of Noble’s wrestlers qualified for the state meet, and Longley will compete for the second time in three seasons.

After finishing as the runner-up at 103 in 2009, Longley didn’t qualify last year.

“I didn’t handle the pressure, I guess,” she said. “I was the No. 1 seed going into the regionals and I completely choked.”

Longley, who is seeded second in her bracket of four wrestlers, has adopted a different approach this season.

“I’m just go out there and have fun and not worry about what might happen,” she said. “Just wrestle.” 

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: [email protected]