A dozen girls participated in last week’s Little Guy Wrestling tournament in Challis, a number that wrestling coaches expect to continue to grow.

The event drew 70 youths — nine from Mackay and 61 from Challis, coach Bill Bradshaw said.

The numbers of girls joining the wrestling program has steadily grown, Bradshaw said. The 12 girls in this year’s program participated in four age-weight brackets, most in third through fifth grades, but there were a few preschool girls in their own bracket.

“We tried this year to limit matches to girls versus girls,” Bradshaw said. In years past when fewer girls participated, girls had to wrestle boys because the field of competitors was limited. This year, some of the girls’ matches were more competitive than the boys’, Bradshaw said.

“Those girls were intense,” he said. “They were wanting to win.”

Three more youth wrestling tournaments are scheduled this spring: March 16 at West Jefferson High School, March 23 in Challis and March 30 in Mackay.

Members of the Challis Blackhearts wrestling team are referees at the Little Guy tournaments and assistant coaches at practices. Bradshaw, the head Challis High School wrestling coach, gets help from Anthony Bartlett, Scott Lamb and Johnnie Piva. The men taught the youngsters basic folkstyle wrestling moves at five practices leading up to last week’s tournament. Twice-weekly practices continue through March.

For years, the Little Guy program fed experienced wrestlers to the Blackhearts team, giving Challis a competitive edge against wrestlers from towns with no youth program. It only takes a few practices and a few matches each season to build basic skills and core knowledge of the sport, said Bradshaw.

“We don’t have to wrestle all year long,” Bradshaw said. He knows some people start thinking of other activities like steelhead fishing this time of year, although there are some diehards who compete year-round.

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