Steamboat Springs female wrestler making Colorado history for high school girls wrestling
February 7, 2019
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Adalia George tried wrestling for the first time as a joke.
Her shop teacher in seventh grade, Travis Bryant, happened to be the head wrestling coach at Steamboat Springs High School, and told her to go try it.
"I came to practice all smart and stuff, and then I ended up really liking it," George said. "It was kind of a joke at first, but when I actually started doing it, learning it was super hard. I didn't really understand it."
Now, as a Steamboat Springs High School freshman, George is heading to the first-ever Colorado High School Girls Wrestling Championships, a state-level competition that is part of a two-year piloting process to make girls wrestling a Colorado High School Athletic Association-sanctioned sport.
George competed in Region 1 Colorado High School Regional Tournament on Feb. 2 in Mead. George competed in a 16-person bracket and claimed fourth in the 136-pound weight class after winning her final match 7-5 in overtime to punch her ticket to the 2019 Colorado High School Girls Wrestling Championships. She will compete in an eight-person bracket at the championships Saturday, Feb. 9, at Thornton High School.
"That was my first all-girls tournament and before that, I had only wrestled one girl," George said. "Girls are the same as dudes, but they're actually more aggressive hand fighting, and it's actually really cool. And watching is almost more interesting than boys because there's always something going on. None of those girls were there to mess around. They were the real deal."
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George is the first female wrestler from Steamboat to make it to a state-level competition.
"I'm super proud of her," Steamboat head coach Jordan Bonifas said. "She's been working so hard, and it's been tough. We just don't have the capability right now to go to girls tournaments every weekend with the number of coaches we have in Steamboat. So, she's been wrestling upperclassmen at 132 and 138 pounds, which is tough and she's been keeping a good attitude."
George's warm-up partner is Spencer Mader, one of the top wrestlers on the Sailors' team, and a potential returning state contender in the 126-pound weight class.
Wrestling boys is what George was used to, and when she learned about the opportunity to compete in a girls' regional competition, she had to make a choice to compete in the girls or boys postseason.
"It was a change, I thought, 'Why not compete in my own bracket?'" George said. "Wrestling boys all the time gives me the advantage when I go to girls."
Colorado girls wrestling
The last female wrestler from Routt County, Lauryn Bruggink, was a member of the Soroco High School wrestling team and made history as the first female to win a match at the CHSAA boys state championships in 2010.
"The numbers have been strong at the youth level for a while. They just weren't high at the middle school and high school level," CHSAA assistant commissioner Ernie Derrera said. "When we have seen those girls wrestle, we've had nine girls compete at the state tournament. All but two have been in the lowest weight class. The difference in strength is not as wide as you move up the weight classes."
But this year marks the first of two pilot years for girls wrestling to become a standalone CHSAA-sanctioned sport. There were 10 girls wrestling tournaments held in the state of Colorado this year, not including the regional and state competitions.
There are currently 300 female wrestlers from 114 schools in Colorado registered on trackwrestling.com.
Just over 200 girls entered the two regional competitions, while 12 declared for the boys postseason instead. The remaining were injured or ineligible. There will be just under 80 girls competing at the girls championships this weekend.
For girls wrestling to become a CHSAA-sanctioned sport, it enters two pilot years in which leagues sponsor tournaments and a regional and state competition. There have been state invitationals in the past, but none had a set qualification bracket.
"It all started two years ago," Derrera said. "We had a subcommittee with the athletic director at Frederick High School, and we met in November, and we wanted to explore what it was going to be like for girls wrestling. To see if we had the numbers, we offered an all-girls wrestling tournament in Frederick High School Jan. 14, 2017, and 82 girls participated."
Currently, the Centennial and Continental Leagues, which encompass 19 schools in the Greater Denver Area, are sponsoring girls' wrestling pilot years in 2018-19 and 2019-20 by providing facilities and officials.
After two years of competition, the organizers of girls wrestling will come before a variety of committees on equity, classification and sports medicine.
The equity committee looks at participation numbers and if the sport will put the state out of balance with federal guidelines for boys and girls sports.
The sports medicine committee will evaluate the rates of injury and equipment involved, and the classification and league organizing committee will look at the classifications, number of teams and athletes, then lay out a growth plan to make it equitable across the board for other schools.
Once evaluated, the board of directors will vote on whether or not to move girls wrestling to the legislative council for the ultimate decision. The hope is that girls wrestling will become a CHSAA-sanctioned sport by the 2020-21 season.
Girls wrestling joins boys volleyball and unified bowling as a recognized sport looking to be sanctioned by CHSAA through this process.
National growth of girls wrestling
The growth of girls wrestling is not exclusive to Colorado.
According to Derrera, in 1990, there were 112 girls participating in wrestling nationwide, and this past year, that number has grown to 16,000.
Texas was the first state to sanction girls wrestling as an official high school sport in 1999 but, to this day, requires athletes to compete under the gender on their birth certificate.
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, there are now 12 states that have made girls wrestling a sanctioned high school sport and two, including Colorado, are undergoing the process to make it sanctioned.
"We anticipate five to six more states to add girls only wrestling next school year," National Federation of State High School Associations Director of Sports, Sanctioning and Student Services Elliot Hopkins said.
If girls wrestling becomes sanctioned by CHSAA for the 2020-21 season, George will be a junior at Steamboat Springs High School, vying for a chance to make the inaugural CHSAA girls wrestling state tournament.
"It means a lot, to represent a high school as a freshman. It's a big deal," George said. "I hopefully will do it all through high school."