Girls Wrestlers have Invitational of Their Own

Tournament shows how girls wrestling has evolved

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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Mountain View senior Kyra Batara looked focused and prepared, as if only one thing mattered.

She took off her warm-up gear, maintaining her intensity. At that moment, seconds before her match started, it was all about winning, moving on in the bracket.

It was one-on-one combat.

A few minutes before that quarterfinal match last week, Batara did take the time to consider the significance of the day.

“I’m representing the school that is hosting this huge thing,” Batara said. “I want to represent and show everybody that Mountain View is a big-time team.”

This huge thing is the West Coast Women’s Wrestling Championships. More than 200 girls from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California showed up for battle at Mountain View High School last week, a first-of-its-kind tournament for Clark County girls wrestling.

“It’s exciting, isn’t it? It’s about time,” Washougal girls wrestling coach Heather Carver said.

Carver has been Washougal’s coach for all five seasons since girls wrestling has been a sanctioned sport by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.

Washougal was one of the first established teams. While many other schools had one or two girls — or in a lot of cases, no girl wrestlers — the Panthers have always had the numbers.

Now, the sport is big enough for Clark County to have its own invitational.

“It’s a testament to two things. One, to the girls who have embraced the sport. Second, to the people of Southwest Washington for being so supportive and accepting of something that is new,” Carver said.

She also thanked Mountain View coach Travis Chipman for organizing the event.

“Female wrestling is here to stay, and it’s up-and-coming,” said Chipman, adding that he hopes this becomes an annual event. “They deserve a showcase of talent, just like the boys.”

Evergreen senior Stephanie Simon said she was thrilled that she was able to compete in the inaugural tournament.

“I’m not used to having tournaments this close,” Simon said. “I’m used to traveling two hours to go to a tournament. I’m pretty happy about this.”

She also appreciates the number of wrestlers who showed up last week.

She has been to regular-season tournaments with just a few people in her bracket. Last week, there were 15 wrestlers in her weight class, 145 pounds. Simon would end up winning the championship, too, with a pin in the title match.

“I’m sad because I’m a senior and I won’t be around as it gets even more popular,” Simon said. “It’s been pretty awesome over the years to see more and more girls wrestling.”

The WIAA has 12 weight classes for the state championships, held at Mat Classic in Tacoma alongside the boys championships.

Still, the sport does not have enough wrestlers to break the teams into classifications. Small schools go up against the big schools in girls wrestling — a classification all of their own.

That, actually, is something the girls like to brag about to the boys.

“We don’t do classifications,” Batara said. “If you win state, you really are the best in the state of Washington.”

Perhaps high school champions from the region will go on to bigger things in the sport, as well.

The West Coast Women’s Championships also invited Kelsey Campbell to give a clinic, to present awards, and to help out with the tournament in any way she could. A Milwaukie High School graduate in Oregon, the 26-year-old now lives and trains in Colorado Springs. A 2012 London Olympic Games hopeful, Campbell said she is always looking at ways to boost the sport.

“It’s the Northwest,” she said. “This is where I started.”

She was impressed with the event and Chipman’s dedication.

“I’m just blown away. There are a lot of girls here,” Campbell said. “It means a lot to see someone who is working hard for women’s wresting. There are a lot of girls who want to be great athletes. They need someone to guide them.”

Batara has post-high school plans that involve the sport, as well.

“I want to go pro in MMA (mixed martial arts), and I wanted wrestling as a base,” said Batara, already a master at jujitsu.

Batara tried wrestling her freshman season yet only lasted a few weeks.

But she was motivated by watching her brother, 9-year-old Dominic, excel in his beginnings in the sport. So Kyra returned to wrestling as a junior. She placed eighth in the state.

“The coaches and the people, it is such a positive experience,” Batara said.

Winning is a positive experience, too. Batara won the 112-pound championship Friday, joining Simon as Clark County champions.

Kelso took the team championship, and Battle Ground, in fifth, was the top Clark County team finish.

The athletes from the region all felt like winners last week, though.

Their sport has arrived.

“It’s really amazing to see how many girls are coming out to do this,” Batara said.