For 26 years the Challis Blackheart wrestling team has invited athletes from around the state to compete at the Mario D’Orazio Invitational, but this year marked the first time enough girls signed up that a separate bracket was made for them.
“The younger girls are really getting into it,” said Jennifer Zollinger, Challis High School’s acting athletic director.
Mia Cauley Baker, mother of wrestler Aedan Baker and a tournament volunteer, said the idea was the brainchild of Blackheart head coach Bill Bradshaw.
“This year we had enough girls, so I called all the other coaches and they were all fine with it,” Bradshaw said.
Baker said it is preferable for the girls to be in a separate bracket for the sake of everyone involved. She said it’s good for the girls because it means they can compete against opponents on a more even playing field, and boys like it because they feel awkward when they have to wrestle a girl.
“The more girls get into the sport, the better it will be,” said Baker.
Bradshaw said one of the reasons he decided to have a girl’s bracket was more girls are wrestling every year in Idaho. In 2019, Idaho High School Activities Association Executive Director Ty Jones reported the number of girls wrestling that winter rose by about 25 percent.
“It’s become very big and it’s happening really fast,” Tyler Matthews, a Declo coach said.
“It helps me get better,” said Sandra Dickison, a sophomore wrestler from Jerome, after she won a match against Aberdeen’s Larrissa Camarillo.
Dickison said wrestling other girls gives her a chance to work on her skills against opponents who wrestle like her. The 170-pound wrestler said she has been wrestling since the seventh grade, so she’s wrestled both boys and girls. She said wrestling boys definitely made her stronger, but getting to wrestle more girls lets her improve her technique.
Dickinson said she is happy to see more girls at tournaments. She said wrestling is a good sport and is excited to see more people in general get into it.
Bradshaw said while there are no girls wrestling for Challis High this year, he has his eye on some incoming freshman. He said the junior high has a couple of female wrestlers that he expects will continue with the sport in high school.
“Our younger girls in junior high are looking good,” the wrestling coach said. “We won’t have many, but we’ll have some.” Bradshaw said one girl to look out for is Josie Jensen, sister to 98-pound Blackheart Bronc Jensen. The coach said she is going to follow her brother and wrestle in the lighter weights.
Jensen and his mom, Angela, said they have been a wrestling family for years and are looking forward to Josie continuing the tradition.