There’s a growing group of high school girls wrestling, and they’re asking the Albuquerque Public School district for more competition. The Highland High School wrestling team has seen a major expansion in the number of girls on the roster.
Last year, the team had just two girls wrestling. This year, more than 20 are part of the squad.
“I think a lot of them really have something inside of them that they haven’t been able to show and that’s some aggression and some fight in them,” said Wrestling Team Head Coach Robert Velasquez.
The girls put on a special exhibition wrestling match Wednesday night at Highland High School.
“We brought all of our families out here to just show them that we can do this,” said Valerie Martinez, a senior who joined the wrestling team this school year. While Martinez and others say they enjoy the challenge, the struggle has been finding competition.
“I hope to show that it’s not just about guys wrestling, but that girls can also do just as much as guys can do,” said Martinez. Though she says she’s been able to compete in some matches, many of those matches have come against boys.
“The hardest thing is probably wrestling guys because they are more muscle and they do have more experience than I do,” said Martinez. The state just saw its first regular season girls-only tournament in Aztec last month, but Highland wasn’t able to participate.
“The only time they got to wrestle in the girls only bracket was during the Rio Grande JV Tournament, which was early on in the season,” said Velasquez.
During the regular season, APS and other school districts take the lead on organizing tournaments. It’s only the season-ending State Tournament that the NMAA is responsible for organizing.
Senior Andrea Regino says she too has experienced the difficulty in finding matches against other girls.
“Two of those (matches) were above my weight class and it’s been, it’s been rough,” said Regino.
The girls hope Wednesday night’s exhibition sends a message they’re ready to compete against each other more often. They hope the district can help facilitate more matches against other schools.
“We’re strong and we’re not here just to play games, we’re here to wrestle,” said Mia Contreras, a sophomore, and one of the first female wrestlers on Highland High School’s team.
The NMAA is planning to hold a girls-only wrestling exhibition during the State Tournament at the end of the season. That organization also estimates there are 165 women in high school wrestling this year, up from 115 last season.