Wrestlers make history as Lincoln’s first official female team


Rowan Budlong

On the centennial celebration of Oregon high school sports, the OSAA recognized girls’ wrestling as a sport for the first year. From left to right: Senior Natalie Brauser, sophomore Sophie Keefer, and senior Isabel Slevin at the Hood River Valley Tournament. They have led Lincoln’s first official girls’ wrestling team to a successful inaugural season, sending two wrestlers to the state meet.

Shake hands, head up, stance low, elbows in, shoot. In the past, that handshake used to only involve two boys in the center of the wrestling mat; however, girls are taking their stand in the center too.

As girls’ wrestling finally became a recognized sport during OSAA’s centennial celebration this year, Lincoln’s wrestling program welcomed their first official girl’s team and hopes to recruit new members so that the sport can continue to grow in the future.

“When I was a freshman and sophomore, we only had one [female] wrestler. It was Trynadii Rocha… she would always tell me how hard it was to go and see an entire team of women wrestlers [from other schools] and just be by herself [on the Lincoln team],” said senior Carson Hugill. He has wrestled for the team for all four of his high school years. Since Hugill’s sophomore year, the team has grown and now has twelve girls.

“A lot of girls don’t really know about it, or they haven’t thought about [wrestling] as a sport [they can do] because they’ve only seen men in the sport. They are empowered by females wrestling instead of seeing males dominate the sport,” said Amara Halverson, a junior who has wrestled co-ed for 5 years.

Although girls’ wrestling is new in Oregon, it’s been around for many years. Mildred Burke, from Coffeyville, Kansas, started her professional wrestling career in 1934, won the first women’s championship, held the Women’s Championship title for 15 consecutive years, and went on to win a world title, according to Legacy Wrestling. The Lady Cardinals hope to follow in her footsteps with the help of head coach John Farinola.

“I have a massive amount of respect for all sports, but even more so for wrestling. I find the character building element of wrestling may be more predominant and stronger and more pure than I’ve experienced in any other sport,” said Farinola. “There’s something to be said for learning to stand alone, on a mat, in front of lots of people, and [stay] focused on what you’re trying to do.”

Both the boys’ and girls’ wrestling programs hope to expand greatly in the future.

“Overall, women’s wrestling is likely to be the saving grace of the sport. It’s been around but it hasn’t been as publicized and accessible for young ladies [and] women,” said Farinola. “This is a great opportunity to equalize and empower women.”