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They warmup like the boys, get motivated with music like the boys, even put the shoulders to the mat like the boys, but this is girls wrestling.  And it’s growing in the state of New Mexico.

“I gotta admit, as an old dog, I kind of fought it for a bit until about five years ago,” said longtime wrestling coach Herb Stinson.  “We had Bella Wells come out and she proved that she could stay with the boys and she sold me.”

Girls wrestling is still relatively new to New Mexico and they all have different reasons for signing up.

“I like the contact, it’s not like other sports,” said Belen sophomore Cailean Romero.

Her teammate Priscilla Gonzalez followed some family members into the sport.  “First it started with my cousins,” she said.  “They started wrestling and they brought me into it. I’ve, kind of, always been into rough things.  So this sport became perfect for me.”

“My older brother did it and he liked it and convinced me to do it,” said Miyamura sophomore Yele Aycock.

“I just woke up one day and was like, ‘I kind of want to try wrestling,’” said 8thgrader Makayla Munoz.

“My older sister started to do wrestling and I kind of liked going to the tournaments, it looked fun, so I tried it out and I liked it,” said Cleveland sophomore Amanda Smith.

Some of them found wrestling after other sports weren’t a perfect fit.  “I was doing basketball and it wasn’t really made for me and I tried out for the wrestling team and I loved it since the first day,” said Cleveland junior Samantha Tuttle.

Aztec recently held an all-girls tournament, the first of its kind in New Mexico, and the event was well received.

“Girls are coming out more, which I’m really glad and it’s having more competition now so the guys are actually like, ‘hey, there’s girls coming out,’” said Miyamura junior Nancy Rodriguez.

“It’s really cool because it brings awareness and grows girls wrestling which isn’t really big in New Mexico,” said Aycock.  “It’s big in other states like California, but not in New Mexico so it’s really cool.”

“We don’t get as many opportunities as the boys, so it’s really different wrestling girls,” said Tuttle. “I’m glad that they made a whole tournament for us.”

The number of girls getting involved in wrestling has gone up.  Last year, New Mexico had a girls exhibition at the state tournament for the first time ever.  In 2018 there were eight weight classes, this year there will be ten at the same exhibition.

“They get to compete against their same sex, they get to compete against people with their same strength,” said Aztec wrestling coach Monte Maxwell.  “It gives them a lot more opportunity to succeed at it.”

“In middle school when I was wrestling there weren’t many girls, there were only a few,” said Tuttle. “Now I go to my brother’s tournaments and there’s middle school girls wrestlers all the time.  It’s cool.”

“We started out with 3-4 girls, as the season progressed, we picked up 10 and now we’ve leveled out now that the grind has happened and now we ended up with seven,” said Miyamura head coach Weston Sanchez.

What’s the biggest difference for these girls having to wrestle against their own sex as opposed to wrestling the boys?

“Some of the girls are newer, so it’s kind of easier to wrestle the girls than guys,” said Munoz, who is one of the better wrestlers this year.  “Guys are kind of intense and really intense and aggressive.”

“We can try our hardest and we are very strong, but our strength doesn’t compare to the guys,” said Belen freshman Priscilla Gonzalez.  “Whether we go against guys or girls we always go hard.”

The girls hope events like this one will grow girls wrestling even more each year.

“I just think that girls get the encouragement,” explained Smith.  “They see other people doing it and they’ll be influenced to do the same thing.”

“There’s other girls that get inspired to be in it and maybe other times they felt like they couldn’t because they saw nothing but guys,” said Gonzalez.  “Once they saw that one girl step up, they all decided to take that step.”

Growing girls wrestling one step at a time.

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