FRUITLAND, IDAHO – As of 2022, 34 states end the girls wrestling season with sanctioned championships. This past summer, the U.S. women’s wrestling team won nine Olympic medals, including three gold and months later, the U.S. team picked up an additional 15 medals at the Senior World meet.
In 1990, 112 girls across the nation participated in high school wrestling. In the 2016-17 school year, that number had grown to 14,587 grapplers. For last season, 29,791 female wrestlers hit the high school mat. That number includes 850 Oregon wrestlers.
The increasing popularity was evident on Saturday, June 18 as 12 female wrestlers gave up their Saturday to travel to Fruitland, Idaho and receive instruction and training from Michaela Schmitz at “The Factory”, a local wrestling club owned and operated by Luis Cisneros, a Nyssa native and current middle school teacher.
Schmitz, an Alaskan native, started in wrestling prior to girls having a team and spent her youth on the mat against the boys. She later wrestled collegiately at Oklahoma State University, winning three national titles. She continued both her education and wrestling career, obtaining a master’s degree in education and placed fourth in the Olympic trials. Schmitz now spends her time touring the United States as a coach.
“I think many girls are getting into wrestling as it is just something so completely different for them,” said Schmitz. “The sport is good movement for both boys and girls.”
Discussing her sport of many years, Schmitz said the continuing popularity is also taking place due to new sanctioning by schools both on the collegiate and high school level.
“It has taken some time, but it is exciting to see states everyday adding more girls’ wrestling programs,” she said. “Colleges every year are adding women’s programs.”
The popularity of the sport has resulted in changes to the Oregon state tournament for girls starting in 2023. After four years of one classification for girls’ wrestling, the 6A/5A classification will be split off from the 4A/3A/2A/1A classification.
One of those hoping to be in attendance at the 4A/3A/2A/1A state tournament was learning some new moves from Schmidt. Lacatia Mason will be a sophomore in the fall at Four Rivers Senior Preparatory in Ontario, Oregon. One small issue facing Mason is the 1A Falcons do not participate in wrestling-yet.
“I wrestled in first grade and I was the only girl there,” said Mason. “This is a sport that really pushes you and is the only sport for me that I never feel in good enough shape to take it easy for a day.”
Pretty strong statement considering Mason was part of Four River’s first team ever to qualify for a state track and field meet. Joined by Abby Nunez, Mariana Lopez and Leah Benson, Mason’s team finished sixth in the 1A 4-by-100 relay finals.
Mason’s future plans include wrestling at the collegiate level, following much the path of Schmidt, her coach for the day.
The explosive growth of the sport has also translated into a traveling team for The Factory. With 20 members on the team, Cisneros takes the team on the road to tournaments around the northwest in addition to the weekly training.
“We continue to see interest in girls’ wrestling from all age levels,” said Cisneros. “This is a sport in it’s very early stages and will see nothing but continued growth and success for many of the girls.”
In addition to wrestling, The Factory offers classes in impact Jiu Jitsu, boxing, kick boxing and yoga. For more information about the programs offered, The Factory has a website at https://www.thefactory-impactjj.com/. Cisneros can also be reached by email at [email protected] or if preferred, the old fashioned phone at 503 894-0699.