Girls dominate on the wrestling team

Juliette Bolte , Sports Writer

Wrestling, both professionally, and on the high school level, is a sport unmatched in its intensity and ability to produce tough and disciplined athletes. Although it is traditionally male dominated, female participation has been on the rise, with over 20,000 high school girls competing in the U.S in 2020 as compared to 804 in 1994, according to USA Wrestling.

Among the growing number of girls drawn to the sport for its mental and physical challenges are seniors Deep Kaur and Eliana Mazin and junior Nadia Estrada, all three of whom are members of the Richard Montgomery wrestling team.  

“Over quarantine, I got into martial arts and started watching a bunch of UFC…but I always wanted to try wrestling just because it’s such an intense sport,” Mazin said.

“I wanted to push my limit,” Kaur said. “I played club volleyball almost my entire life and I needed change.”

Estrada has been competing for the longest amongst the three. She gained an interest in wrestling in middle school after watching her brothers compete. “I always hated being on the side watching the sport. I wanted to be doing it,” Estrada said. 

At first, the idea of competing alongside boys can be intimidating, with the strength gap presenting a possible barrier in such a physically demanding sport. “It’s very humbling to get taken down by a guy who is seven pounds lighter than me and eight inches shorter than me just because they’re just built stronger,” Mazin said.

However, Estrada, Kaur and Mazin have not been deterred by this challenge. Instead, they welcome the opportunity to develop their skills and athleticism. “Even if you get beat down a lot, you learn a lot and it’s fun to put all your effort into a sport like that and then finally take someone down,” Mazin said. “That’s the most rewarding feeling.” 

“I’ll see a guy that is in my weight class and I will just think to myself, “There is no way I can win against him”, Estrada said. “But, to overcome that feeling, know that just as soon you get on the mat nothing matters, gender, how strong the person is or how much better you think that person is compared to you.”

The gender barrier does not keep the girls from training and competing alongside the rest of the team. “We all go through the same practices and workouts,” Estrada said. “The only thing that is different is the cutting weight part because… [boys] can lose five pounds in 3 days while for me it can take up to two weeks.”

Despite any differences, the inclusiveness of the wrestling community allows the athletes to feel like they are part of one team. “Even during matches we do actually wrestle guys because it has to be under the same weight class,” Kaur said. “In general, there’s no prejudice or differentiation.”

All three agree that the positive social environment is another major benefit of RM wrestling.  “I was afraid I’d be left out because there aren’t many girls that wrestle,” Kaur said. “I was very wrong… Whether it’s drilling or scrimmaging, the team keeps me motivated through it.”

With so few girls wrestling, encouragement from teammates and guidance from coaches is especially important for ensuring the athletes can perform at their best. “My favorite part… is the bond because all the guys are really welcoming, both the ones I know and just met,” Estrada said.

And, for any girls who are interested in wrestling yet hesitant to begin the sport, Mazin suggests taking the chance. “You’ll see yourself getting stronger and becoming a better athlete whether or not you win your matches,” Mazin said. “You learn so many valuable life skills and you have a wonderful time with the other members of the team that it’s worth it to just do it”.