It’s not every day a high school athlete or coach gets to be part of history. It’s even more rare when they get to participate in a “first” event.
Tuesday evening at Rogers High School, the Pirates girls wrestling program became the first team in the Greater Spokane League to host a dual meet when it took on the Othello Huskies head-to-head.
Othello won the match 54-26. Savannah Taylor (110 pounds), Jaelynn Luna (145), Addy Steppe (170) and Kayla Tuttle (190) had wins for Rogers.
“It means a lot to be a part of it because this will be something that will be talked about further on,” Taylor said. “It’s the first, so being a part of it feels like being a part of history almost. And that’s pretty neat.”
“It felt amazing,” Steppe said. “Coming out with all these amazing girls and just wrestling them having a fun time.”
“It is really exciting. The girls are super excited,” Rogers Coach Whitney Bowerman said before the match. “Even the ones that have wrestled before or if they wrestled last year, they never got this opportunity of wrestling under the lights. They haven’t had the opportunity, so to bring awareness of girls wrestling just to the greater Spokane area is amazing.”
“Our coaches have done a great job of promoting girls wrestling here,” Rogers Athletic Director Aaron Brecek said. “Whitney has done a great job of promoting it. We’ve seen some good results of growth in the GSL, so it’s really cool to see something that’s stemmed from what we’re doing here at Rogers be the first to kind of kick it off.”
Bowerman has spent the past few weeks texting and emailing to make sure everything would be ready for the event.
“We were just trying to make sure that we had enough girls and then that we had the communication with Othello to make this happen,” she said. “(Brecek) was amazing. The boys team helped us out. Getting word out on social media. The community has been very supportive, not just within Rogers, but within the greater Spokane area. So, we really appreciate all of that.”
Most schools in the Spokane area have girls participating in the wrestling program, but only a handful field a full girls team. Bowerman hopes that this first match leads to a full slate of GSL duals soon.
“I’m glad to see that there are more girls programs this year. Seeing the girls division grow is amazing,” Bowerman said.
“We have 130-plus girls in our league right now. I think you’re gonna see this year it’ll be emerging, but I think for sure next year you’re gonna see straight-up duals. Maybe not every school will field a whole team, but I think the girls program is emerging and there are a lot of coaches out there that want to see it grow and they’re willing to put the work in.”
“I hope we inspire many more girls and boys to come out and wrestle,” Steppe said, “so we can do more events like this.”
The school has been buzzing this week in anticipation of the event, Brecek said. Along with the success of the football team in the fall, he said student morale at Rogers is as high.
“Anytime athletics is going well, you see greater school spirit; you see more people wanting to be a part of it,” he said. “There’s lots of research out there that says kids that are engaged in extracurricular activities do better in school, so that’s always been my goal as an athletic director is to get kids involved so that we can help them with their grades and their interaction and showing up to classes and stuff like that. So yeah, anytime we have successful sports going, the kids want to be a part of it. That’s a good thing.”
Despite losing several seniors from last year’s team to graduation, including state champions Ellabelle Taylor and Viktoriya Dovhoruka, the future of girls wrestling at Rogers is strong.
“Our team is one senior, and the rest are freshmen and sophomores,” Bowerman said. “I feel like that’s super promising.”
The success at state was a boost for the program.
“I think it also showed that if you work hard, you can get there,” Bowerman said. “(Ellabelle) wrestled in middle school, but the girls saw the work that she put into it in the summer, the amount she lifted – even the boys saw that. They saw the work that she put in and how she stayed after practice. … If you work your butt off and you’re willing to put the time in and learn about the sport, you can get there, too.”