The Girls on North's Wrestling Team
December 9, 2017 by Alberto Ramirez, Arizona State University
For the most part, wrestling has predominantly been a male sport. Over the years, however, that has changed and there are a growing number of females participating in high school wrestling programs. North High School is one of those schools as there are currently three in the wrestling program.
Rafael Reyes, head coach of North’s wrestling program, made it clear that anybody can join the team if they’re willing to put in the work.
“Wrestling is for everybody -- freshmen, seniors, males, females,” Reyes said. "We’ll put our best wrestlers in our lineup, so whoever it is, if they earn it, then they get it.”
Frida Cardenas, a junior, has been wrestling since her freshman year. She says that she got into wrestling because her brother wrestled.
“When I was a freshman I first started to go to Camp Verde with him and I thought that was really fun,” said Cardenas.
Her mom was not too fond of her decision in the beginning.
“My mom was kind of against it at first because it’s a male-dominated sport, but then after a while she kind of got used to it”
Cardenas expressed her desire to succeed at the highest level in wrestling.
“I hope to be varsity someday or go to state, or something like that. That’d be cool,” she said.
For Tonantzin Olmedo, a senior at North, wrestling is something that runs in the family.
“I come from a line of wrestlers.” Olmedo said. “My brother was the first wrestler and then my two younger sisters and actually my second oldest sister became state champion for the females.”
The fact that she came from a wrestling family added some pressure to her when she decided to be one herself.
“I was nervous, because I wanted to live up to what they were,” she admitted.
Olmedo is well aware of the taunts that female wrestlers receive, but doesn’t really give it much thought.
“Sometimes I would hear ‘oh girls can’t wrestle’. Not from coaches, but mostly from other wrestlers. It doesn’t really get to me as much because I know I’m pretty good on the mat.”
As a senior, Olmedo wants to finish the season strong and expressed that her favorite thing about wrestling is the discipline that it gives her.
Pilar Almezaga, the youngest of the three, is a sophomore and has been wrestling since sixth grade. She stated that watching Olympic wrestling on TV is what inspired her to participate.
“I was watching the Olympics and I thought it was cool. So I wanted to try it,” said Almezaga. “There weren’t a lot of girls when I started so it was kind of weird.”
When asked what she likes most about wrestling, she responded with “winning."
Regarding the future of female participation in wrestling, Reyes stated that he expects the number of female wrestlers to grow over time.
“I think there will be (an increase) because just in general I think the sport is growing,” Reyes said.
“At the college level more universities and colleges are having women’s programs, and I think the opportunity of getting a higher education for free on an athletic scholarship is very motivating for anybody, including, of course, our female wrestlers,” he added.
Another thing that Reyes mentioned that the girls can look forward to is an annual tournament hosted by Camp Verde High School that pits the best girls in the state against one another.
“That is something else that can motivate our female wrestlers, which is to get a chance to compete with the top girls in the state.”