Being a wrestler is no easy task for a girl.
East Valley High School’s Rachael Coleck placed sixth at state in the girls division in her weight class and is helping set the standard for female wrestlers.
EV’s head wrestling coach Craig Hanson said having a girl on the squad isn’t a problem.
“She enhances our team by being here,” Hanson said. “If I could give every guy on the team the same drive she has, there’s no doubt we’d win state titles year in and year out.”
Coleck, a junior, doesn’t fit the stereotype of a female wrestler. The petite 118-pounder packs her wrestling gear in a cheerleading bag because she’s also on the cheer team.
She doesn’t complain when her hair is pulled out during practice and doesn’t bat an eye, Hanson said, even when she catches a skin infection “just like the guys do.”
She’s different than most girls, classmate Bryan Westwood said, who isn’t in her weight class but enjoys having her on the team.
“It’s cool to see a girl get down and wrestle with guys instead of acting like it’s all dirty – because they’re all sweaty,” Westwood said.
Coleck’s older brothers, also wrestlers, introduced her to the sport. She already knew some moves when she joined the team as a freshman.
There are four girls on the team, including Coleck.
The first time on the mat was intimidating, Coleck said, just because of her stage fright. When it got down to business, Coleck said she could feel the opponent’s vibe.
“When they touch you and tie up with you and put their hands on you,” Coleck said, “you can tell they’re in it to win it and they don’t care if they hurt you.”
Coleck finished her season with a 24-4 record against girls, but only 4-6 against guys. Hanson said she’ll need to practice more against the boys, because they’re tougher. She also had 20 pins, Hanson added.
At first her mother didn’t want her to wrestle because the boys were too aggressive.
“Now she’s so proud, I make her cry every time she watches me,” Coleck said.
Things are different than the first time she played the sport. She tried out for a wrestling team in sixth grade, but remembers being called a man, so she didn’t show up for practice.
Now she’s comfortable in her skin and appreciates a simple text message that says she’s beautiful, even as a wrestler.
“Hearing people say that I’m pretty – it makes my day,” Coleck said.
The aggressive sport takes a toll on Coleck’s emotions. She said girls bring more feelings to the game than the boys, and she cried for nearly a half hour after a loss. Still, she didn’t let that get her down.
“People expect me to be really girly because I’m a cheerleader, but when it comes to wrestling – I’m like one of the boys,” Coleck said.
The dual role is noted on her letterman jacket, a unique patch made just for her – a wrestling helmet and a cheerleading pom-pom.
The school hopes to attract more girls to the sport to split practices into gender teams, Hanson said. Until then Coleck will practice with the boys and build her strength, speed and endurance. She has another year to go on the wrestling team, another chance to place higher and become a state champ.