SALEM SCOBEE | CONTRIBUTOR
April 6th 2020 on Instagram, Denver native Adaline Gray laments the cancellation of the Olympic trials due to the Covid19 virus. Gray is the first woman to win the Olympics in the sport of Freestyle wrestling. Behind the scenes architects have pushed for equal participation in the sport through sanctioned athletics at all levels. Even with feats like Grays, tensions continue to deepen the conversation of female participation within the sport. At the 2019 Colorado state wrestling championships, issues with male athletes unwilling to compete against female counter parts propels the conversation of inclusion and diversity. In 2018 CHAASA piloted its first season of women’s wrestling and flash forward 2 years hundreds of athletes have made the voyage to embark in the revolutionary efforts of so many. Next season the sport will make the leap out of interim status to permanence and jutting out of the most unlikely spaces is a church turned school of excellence.After school the cafeteria transforms into a grapplers den where The Lotus Schools Head wrestling coach Ronnie Kois has harvested the sport. Boasting state qualifiers, placers, and a senior talent that appeared out of nowhere, who has turned a gamble into an expedition. This is Salem Scobees Hail Mary into a Half-nelson.
Where would I be without wrestling? In order to answer this question, I have to think about where I’m at because of wrestling. I can confidently say that I love the place I’m at right now physically, mentally, and emotionally, I can also say with great confidence that wrestling is a large part of me feeling this way. When I started wrestling, I was a sophomore in high school. I had recently made the switch from large public schools from preschool up until I was a freshman, to Lotus which is a small charter, so you could say that this transition was not easy on me.
To add insult to injury (for lack of better term lol!) My dad is a teacher at this school and there are 45 kids in my grade and I barely knew anybody. So, for the first couple of months at Lotus I struggled, BIG TIME. At first I had Volleyball to keep me company for a month or so but then the season ended and I had to face that “OMG I am sitting here and doing absolutely nothing feeling” and personally that is just a feeling that I can’t ignore, so when Coach Kois came to me and said “Anybody can be a wrestler” those words really stuck with me.
For a few days, because I had so much time with my thoughts, I just sat there and wondered about what would happen if I decided to join the team. Finally, the curiosity got to me. And, not to sound like that girl but when I was growing up it was always bugs and dirt and things that are typically reserved for little boys, so in a way wrestling awakened my lil tomboy spirit and that just really excited me. When I decided to tell my parents I was joining the team my mind was completely made up, the conversation went a little something like this “Mom and dad I am going to wrestling practice tonight.” then I went to get my stuff ready.
The first couple weeks of wrestling were literally the hardest thing I had ever experienced at that time, but something kept bringing me back. After weeks of tough training and recovering from a wicked cold it was time for my first tournament. All these weeks of training had prepared me somewhat physically for an actual match but mentally and emotionally? Oh boy.
My first match of the tournament (first match ever) I wrestled some guy, I don’t remember his school, or what her looked like, or what color singlet he had on or anything. However, I do remember that I went the full six minutes with him and how awful I felt afterwards. I felt so awful in fact that the first thing I did after shaking his coaches’ hands and stepping off the mat was, I went and found my mom in the stands and cried into her arms for a good ten minutes.
My first-year wrestling I only wrestled boys the entire year and I lost
So, picture this happening about twenty more times. My next season was the pilot season of Colorado Girls High School Wrestling. The next season I came in ready to have a much better season, after getting my first W in the off season and working hard to prepare myself mentally and physically; I was so ready. So, for starters and I guess over all, without wrestling I would be literally just a less tough version of the person I am now.
I remember my first win ever. This took place at an off-season tournament during an exhibition match, so as far as trackwrestling is concerned it meant nothing. But to me it meant EVERYTHING. I can remember every detail of this match, it was that girl from TJ, I pinned her, the first thing I did was call my mom and dad and tell them about my first win ever! This was the best I had ever felt, after a season of taking non-stop L’s, it was such a great accomplishment to finally take a win.
The thing about wrestling for me is it’s filled with all my “bests” and all my “worsts”,some of the highest points in my life have come from wrestling and so have my lowest. For example, the worst pain I have ever felt in my entire life is when I sprained my ankle. It was my junior season right after spending all of winter break doing ‘two a days’, I walked into Bennet High School feeling amazing. After spending a couple of weeks not competing, I was eager to get back on the mat, this showed big time! I spent all day working my way to the finals. By the time finals rolled around I was filled with nerves. At this particular tournament the finals are done under one big spotlight in the main gym, everybody’s eyes were on me and my opponent. The whole match I was behind a little but still wrestling tough. There was a chance for a comeback. Then in the third period an awkward movement caused me to twist my ankle and land straight onto my back. When it happened I swear I could hear the little pop of the tendons in my foot ripping from each other, but when I hit the ground it had not fully occurred what happened to me yet so when I realized I was on my back I tried my hardest to turn away from the HalfnelsonI could see and feel coming. I did fight it off for a little bit but then I could the pain from the sprain really starting to kick in. I felt completely powerless. It was like nothing I could do at this point would help. That girl ended up throwing that Half and sending me right back to my back. When the ref called the pin I did all I could do at that moment- lay there. I believe it was the other girls coach who offered me a hand up and over to my coaches.
As soon as I was out from under the spotlight and out of the gym I broke down in tears.Almost immediately my ankle started to swell and bruise. I had never in my life felt pain like this, sure I had some pretty bad falls or whatever but it felt like my ankle was going to fall off. This combined with the fear that I would be put out for the rest of the season made me feel terrible. Quite honestly the worst I had ever felt. But the great thing is that I made a speedy recovery and was back at tournaments in three weeks just in time for regionals where I placed fourth and qualified for the first ever official Colorado Girls State! And that felt the best. I can look back at my high school seasons and remember how much better the ‘bests’ felt in comparison to my ‘worsts’.
I am so incredibly lucky to live in a state where women’s wrestling was welcomed with such open arms. I am double incredibly lucky to live in a household where women’s wrestling was welcomed with open arms. This definitely does not mean that every tournament I attended these past two seasons the girls have been met with the same enthusiasm as the boys have.
Actually, I would say, it’s the exact opposite. Just about every girl’s tournament that shared a space with a boy’s tournament the girls came second. In the mornings we would be forced to wait to weigh in so the boys could go first or the refs would not take our matches as seriously as they did the boy’s. This was hard to deal with because as women in wrestling it’s already difficult trying to break through this idea that wrestling is a boys sport and then these little things happen and it just hurts your feelings in a way. Especially the passive aggressive comments like “Oh she’s a good wrestler, but only when she’s wrestling girls.She wouldn’t last wrestling with the boys” or the boys who won’t wrestle girls because they are afraid to hurt them or the boy’s who choose to objectify and demean women wrestlers by commenting on how our body looks in our singlets or how good we look when we wrestle. Things like this are what is keeping women’s wrestling from moving up in athletics. It is something that I deal with and I know a majority of the other girls deal with too. It is not fair to us,the culture needs to change.
Right now, I am coming out of my senior season. This was my second year qualifying for state, and my second year not placing. While this is a heart breaker, some really good things came out of the season. I took my first 1st place and my second 1st place ever, I wasn’t pinned one time (something I am especially proud of), and the most important part of this season- I was given the chance to compete at the college level. At the moment I am trying to figure out how I will be preparing myself for the next level while also taking a little tiny break. I will be graduating in a couple of months and the thought of that is so exciting and scary. I think daily about how amazing it will be to compete at the next level. But for right now I am just going to collect myself from last season and focus on graduating.
Wrestling is going to take me to college. Wow. That is just so crazy like I have met the coach and practiced with the team and got my official letter of intent and it still does not feel real or fully clicked in my head. In a few months I will be making the move to Fremont, Nebraska to attend a college where I will be on the wrestling team. This is something that if you went back in time and told young me I totally would not believe you, first that I am going to be a college athlete, and secondly that the sport is wrestling. It is really just an amazing feeling. I am eternally grateful for my coaches and my parents help getting me here.