The Woodland Park Junior Wrestling Club (WPJWC) is growing in size and popularity, in large part because of the influx of female grapplers.
Of the 25 wrestlers in the club, eight are girls. The team wrestles together. Head coach Dustin Rodriguez is hoping to field an all-girls version of his team next season.
“They would wrestle both all-girls and co-ed,” Rodriguez said. “The goal would have them wrestling all-girls only.”
The Woodland Park female wrestlers are Chloe Sebring, Susui Elderbaum, Trinity Diamond, Raegan Graff, Payton Watson, Cierra Elderbaum, Temprence Douglas and Olive Magnuson.
Despite having to primarily wrestle against boys, the Woodland Park girls have held their own.
“(We’ve) had some girls compete more than others, but as a whole (they have done) very well,” Rodriguez said. “Currently, all my girls wrestle both all girls brackets and co-ed. If I had to choose the top three girls based off record and dedication alone, it would be Diamond, Elderbaum and Graff.”
Rodriguez said he doesn’t train the girls differently than the boys.
“Of course, I have to keep in mind that I’m coaching girls, so there are some very small differences,” he said. “Emotionally, they are different than the boys, so I have to keep that in mind. But other than that, they are just as tough mentally and physically as the boys — sometimes even more so because they are walking into the room with something to prove.
“Everyone knows that wrestling has always been a male-dominated sport,” he added. “So every time the girls step on the mat, they are determined to prove that they belong just as much as anyone else, and they do. Some of the most determined and mentally tough wrestlers I’ve seen are girls.”
Rodriguez believes girls are making a huge impact in the sport.
“Girls are surely making their presence known in the sport, that’s for sure,” he said. “And it starts with girls like mine. Yes, they are my girls. I think of them as my family. Not only my girls, but all my wrestlers. I love them all.”
Girls are allowed to compete at the high school level. Many placed at the CHSSAA state meet last winter. Rodriguez thinks the involvement of female wrestlers at all levels will only add to the sport’s popularity.
“I think the future of girls’ wrestling is huge,” Rodriguez said. “There are big-time colleges looking to start their own all-girls programs, so they are giving out scholarships like candy in order to get their programs going.
“I am in contact with the Colorado USA Wrestling chairman, along with the women’s director, and they both say that female wrestling is growing at an unbelievable rate.”
Rodriguez hopes more coaches encourage girls to wrestle.
“At the end of the day, I’m just glad to be a part of this huge addition and I’m glad our club can contribute to the future of boys’ and girls’ wrestling,” he said. “Hopefully, one day we can have our very own Olympic wrestler that started with WPJWC. If not, that’s OK, too. As long as they grow to be respectful, responsible and successful adults. When everything is said and done, that’s my No. 1 goal.”
Rodriguez will hold open camps and training throughout the summer with the hopes of introducing more local girls to the sport.