Elise Golyer vividly remembers the moment she went from Poudre High School wrestling manager to an Impala wrestler, and it wasn’t pretty.
“I don’t know why I fell in the love with sport because my first match I lost, had a bloody nose, was sweaty and crying,’’ the junior said. “But I was like, ‘Hey let’s do it again.’ “
Wrestling isn’t for everyone, but increasingly it is for girls, especially in Colorado, one of a dozen states that offer the sport. Girls wrestling is currently a pilot program, but the Colorado High School Activities Association is in the process of sanctioning the sport. A final vote will take place in April.
The sport has evolved from girls being required to wrestle against boys to Colorado offering a girls division complete with a state tournament Feb. 9 at Thornton.
And that brings a smile to the faces of Elise and the other four female wrestlers competing at Poudre. They include junior Amaris House, sophomores Maya Beck-Kjer and Maggie Mosley, and freshman Elizabeth Esparza.
“Girls haven’t had the opportunity like now and you will see the numbers grow,” Poudre assistant wrestling coach Josh Weissman said. “It’s only fair that we offer this to our female students.”
CHSAA reports 114 Colorado high schools offer the sport — with more than 300 participants statewide.
House said she knew the sport was for her while running sprints in basketball.
“I was doing basketball and was too aggressive on defense,” she said. “In the middle of basketball sprints one day, I kept running and ran through the door into the wrestling room and saw them in there, and I knew I wanted to try wrestling. It’s my favorite sport.”
This year, girls had to declare by Jan. 1 if they wished to compete with boys or girls. The Poudre girls decided to wrestle against girls.
At Poudre, the girls practice and wrestle against the boys because there aren’t enough girls.
Elise, whose dad, Barrett Golyer, coaches the boys and girls wrestling teams, said it took some convincing for her parents to let her wrestle.
“At first my parents didn’t support me, but now they are 100 percent all in,” said Elise, who also tried boxing, volleyball and tennis among other sports. “Now, they are like, ‘That’s my girl,’ when I’m on the mat. They have been a big supporter.”
Barrett said he was hesitant at first, knowing the emotional and physical demands of the sport. But it didn’t take long for him and his wife, Jen, to see wrestling was for their daughter.
“Wrestling is something you really need to want to do, not just try out for it,” Barrett said. “So we take her to a girls tournament in Loveland and she gets beat (in) two matches. I asked her what she thought and she said, ‘I will be at practice Monday.’ That was so cool.”
Elise said it was difficult at first for her, as well as her male teammates, but that the male wrestlers on the team are now supportive of the girls.
“Early on, you have to find the balance of femininity while having a level of fight in you,” she said. “Girls struggle with that a lot. You are not going to look beautiful all the time. Your hair falls down, you’re sweaty, you’re bloody and sometimes it hurts. You have to be resilient.”
The National Federation of High Schools reported participation in girls wrestling has grown nationally from 804 female wrestlers in 1994 to more than 16,000 wrestlers this season, with more than 2,300 high schools now offering the sport.
Colorado Mesa last year became the first college in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference to offer women’s wrestling. It is one of 48 colleges in the nation to offer the sport.