When Bayfield High School sophomore Brooke Moorse began wrestling as an eighth grader in middle school, she was an outlier. She was the only female wrestler in town and never saw a fellow girl wrestler on her way to a middle school state tournament appearance. That’s not the case anymore, as that narrative is being rewritten. She now has company.
The Bayfield High School wrestling team consists of 22 members at the varsity level, and three are girls. Moorse, who made a year-round commitment to the sport, believes that once the Colorado High School Activities Association makes girls wrestling a full-fledged sport next season, the Wolverines will see a significant jump in participation. This season, she’s anything but an outlier. Moorse, alongside freshmen Shayden French and Lindsey LaMay, consider themselves to be trailblazers.
“For me, I look forward to wrestling girls at a certain point because you’re not at such a disadvantage anymore,” Moorse said. “Guys are all muscular, and girls are a little bit more equally matched. I’m excited to see how many girls have started wrestling, because when I started, I was the only female in Bayfield. Now, I have these girls, and we’re all super close and we all have a passion for the sport.”
Like so many girls around the nation, females are finding ways to break into the sport. Participation in girls wrestling has doubled in the past six years, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations, and over 16,000 females are competing across the country. Six states have fully-sanctioned girls wrestling state championships, and Colorado will be the seventh next winter.
All three Wolverines joined the team for different reasons. French grew up with two older brothers, and she said there was always intra-sibling skirmishes. Moorse wanted to channel her “aggressive nature” into a positive force. LaMay was convinced to compete by an eighth grade teacher, and since joining the team, she has loved it.
“It’s really nice to have the relatable things, and different sides of the sport,” French said. “It’s nice to have girls up here because you all go through the same struggles together. But also, I think girls are underrated a lot, and so it’s nice to wrestle guys to show them what we can do.”
When it comes to practice, team camaraderie and breaking through a previously male-dominated sport, all three girls said their male teammates and coaches are supportive. LaMay said once they step onto the mat, they represent the Bayfield wrestling team.
“They always make me laugh, for one thing,” LaMay said. “If it’s a hard day at school, I’ll come here and it’s all gone. I feel so much better and the guys and coaches always make you feel happy. ... The expectations are the same. If the guys can do it, they expect us to do it just as good, if not better. That really motivates us and it’s one big family.”
For Bayfield head coach Todd McMenimen, he said his coaching style has slightly changed, but added that the girls are even more motivated to prove themselves against tough competition. They take on all comers and are fearless, he said.
“It takes adjustment for the other wrestlers up in the room, and for me as well especially with how I approach certain things,” McMenimen said. “But generally, the girls that want to come out and wrestle, they understand the environment they’re coming in to, and while yeah, we’ve got to change things a little bit, they know what they’re in for. They go battle with the guys all of the time, and it’s really good to see.”
While the trio’s mindset of taking on a male versus a fellow female is slightly different, they all agree, the technique and moves they use are exactly the same.
“I think you have to be a little more spot-on with your moves,” LaMay said. “Because if you do them wrong, they can easily just overpower you. So it helps me get focused on getting my moves right.”
“Well for me, since I’ve been wrestling for three years and I’ve only wrestled guys, there’s not really a mindset change for me,” Moorse added. “I’m so used to it at this point. I think you definitely have to be quicker on your feet because they can overpower you, but at this point for me, you go out there and give it your all, female or male.”
They will attend a handful of all-female tournaments, and while they acknowledged they are hopeful to make the girls state tournament at the end of the season, they’d first like to improve their technique and pick up key wins along the way.
“For me, my goal isn’t getting to state or anything,” French said. “I just want to be more confident in my wrestling, and get a lot more comfortable in the moves. I want to get the hang of it so I’ll be ready for next year.”
A few years ago, Morse was the lone wrestler in town. Now, she’s ready for the floodgates to open.
“I’d say if you are a female and you want to try – it doesn’t even have to be wrestling but a guy’s sport – just go for it because wrestling has literally become my life,” she said. “And it’s a ‘guys’ sport. I’d say if you want to do it, don’t let anything limit you, and take your shot because women can do everything men can, and are on a roll. Women’s wrestling is one of the fastest growing sports in the world right now, so I’m super excited for it, and it’s got a bright future.”