Girls wrestling de­buts as emerg­ing sport

The Arizona Republic - - High Schools - Will Tyrrell az­cen­tral sports

Mercedes Na­talia De La Rosa Avila is a se­nior wrestler at Tuc­son Flow­ing Wells who has a goal of win­ning a state cham­pi­onship this year.

In girls wrestling.

With 2018 be­ing the de­but as an Ari­zona In­ter­scholas­tic As­so­ci­a­tion emerg­ing sport, De La Rosa has a chance to ac­com­plish her goal.

“This is my last year, I don’t want to be liv­ing on re­gret, not think­ing if I am good enough or if there is go­ing to be a girls team or not, so I am just go­ing to take the shot my­self,” De La Rosa said.

She added that there was a good chance she was go­ing to wres­tle any­way, re­gard­less if there was a girls team or not.

Be­fore this year, De La Rosa wres­tled boys all sea­son but that made her a long shot to win a state ti­tle.

“It is a level play­ing field from the stand­point of prac­tice. It is a level play­ing field as far as com­pe­ti­tion and then it is a level play­ing field when you get to the state tour­na­ment as well,” AIA sports ad­min­is­tra­tor Dean Visser said. “So, the op­por­tu­nity af­fords it­self for the girls to stand on the podium and get rec­og­nized as well as the boys.”

What we will see

The girls state tour­na­ment will be aligned with the boys state tour­na­ment in Prescott Val­ley.

There are 105 schools in the state who have girls wrestling as part of their sports cur­ricu­lum, but it re­mains to be seen how many of them will have enough girls to field a full team.

Girls will have the op­tion to com­pete in any of the ten weight classes: 101, 110, 118, 125, 130, 135, 145, 160, 185 and 225.

How the sport is grow­ing

“(I want) to ac­tu­ally be­come a girl wrestler, not just have the ti­tle of a girl wrestler but to ac­tu­ally be one,” De La Rosa said. “I can’t wait to pin peo­ple and have the full ex­pe­ri­ence.”

It is tough to ex­pect a sport to grow overnight. Wrestling is viewed as a male-only sport with very lit­tle fe­male par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Phoenix Moon Val­ley boys var­sity wrestling coach Brian Smith be­lieves com­pe­ti­tion is the quick­est way for the sport to grow.

“We need to pro­vide as many op­por­tu­ni­ties of girls from one school wrestling girls from an­other school,” Smith said. “Right now there (are) only eight girls com­pe­ti­tions sched­uled through­out the state. It is evolv­ing just about once ev­ery week or so I get a no­ti­fi­ca­tion of an­other school that is go­ing to have a girls ver­sus girls com­pe­ti­tion. We just need more com­pe­ti­tion.”

There are eight tour­na­ments on the sched­ule that will fea­ture girls-only tour­na­ments this sea­son:

Dec. 1 - Quest for the Crown at Gil­bert Higley

Dec. 7 - Pe­abody En­ergy Wrestling Clas­sic at Mon­u­ment Val­ley

Dec. 14 - Girls Vet­eran Me­mo­rial Wrestling In­vi­ta­tional at Win­dow Rock Fight­ing Scouts Event Cen­ter

Jan. 12 - An­thony Robles Women’s Wrestling In­vi­ta­tional at Mesa

Jan. 19 - Flow­ing Wells Girls Wrestling Open at Tuc­son Flow­ing Wells

Dec. 3 and Dec. 10 - Tolle­son High School

The state tour­na­ment is set for Feb. 7-9 at the Prescott Val­ley Event Cen­ter.

Smith be­lieves girls wrestling will take off as a sport, per­haps faster than peo­ple may think.

“I will make a pre­dic­tion, as of next year there will be a big num­ber of schools that lit­er­ally will have enough girls that they could field a par­tial, maybe even a full team and at that point within two years we should be able to have school ver­sus school girls com­pe­ti­tion,” Smith said.

“It all kind of de­pends on what kind of coach­ing is out there and how well the stan­dard wrestling coaches that are out there can re­late to coach­ing more of the girls,” Visser said. “I think it starts with coach­ing and of course the en­thu­si­asm from the stu­dents and from the ath­letes.”

The AIA has in­di­cated girls wrestling “will be­come a full sport when the coaches and ad­min­is­tra­tors in charge of it are ready to present it to the Ex­ec­u­tive Board to be cat­e­go­rized as a sanc­tioned sport. There is no time­line on that but rather when the sport is ready and has shown sig­nif­i­cant growth,” ac­cord­ing to an AIA spokesman.

De La Rosa Avila

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