Lev is determined to make it to the state championships this year. He's used to training with his two buddies as the Fearsome Threesome; they know how to work together. At the beginning of sixth grade, he's paired with a new partner--a girl. This better not get in the way of his goal.
Mikayla and Lev work hard together and become friends. But when they face each other, only one of them can win.
Like Martino's 2011 Perfected by Girls, we also see that there are not yet consistent rules concerning girls involved in the sport, and that the culture is somewhat slow in accepting them. Lev and Mickey are both struggling with this, but they both do a good job at learning to work with each other, and Lev is a great teammate when he needs to stand up for his partner. They even manage to have some fun with it, including a specially decorated "girl" trophy amongst the official ones during a meet. I do think that girls and boys have started working better together in the last 10-15 years, and we need to see this reflected in middle grade literature.
The family issues that both Lev and Mickey face are realistic and important to the story as well. Mickey's parents are divorced and juggling three children's sports schedules, and Evan has chosen to live with their father. Lev's family is very busy, and he feels that they don't get enough time together as a family. There are also issues with friends that come into play in the story and are well done.
There are so few middle grade novels about wrestling-- a smattering of Jake Maddox and Matt Christopher titles, Klass' Wrestling with Honor (1990), Spinelli's There's a Girl in My Hammerlock (1991), Wallace's Wrestling Sturbridge (1996), Flake's Pinned (2012, and this does have a girl wrestler!) and the new Petruck's Boy Bites Bug (2018). I believe the reason there are so few is that the culture of wrestling is one that must be experienced in order to convey convincingly. Shovan's son wrestled, and her experiences with teams clearly show. My own disappointment was that since the Gladiators and Eagles are travel teams and not school teams, there were no girls serving as statisticians. My elder daughter was a wrestling stat and team manager for six years; she was such a part of the team that the boys got her hew own pair of wresting shoes when she graduated. Nonetheless, I am absolutely thrilled to have Takedown to include in my middle school collection.