Female Wrestler Advances to State for the First Time in History
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By Caroline Cluiss
Last Friday evening, senior Erika Torres confidently stepped onto the mat at the Berry Center in Houston and made history by being the first and only RHS female to wrestle at a state tournament.
Torres and her teammates worked hard while training for the regional and state tournaments, but Torres said that when she found out that she had advanced, she felt like the payoff was worth it.
“I lost my last match [at regionals] but I was happy that I qualified for state and that I never gave up,” Torres said. “I did not want to get pinned in my last round. I just had to keep fighting.”
The school competed at regionals with six girls, who placed 11th, and four guys, who placed 25th. Torres took 4th place at regionals and advanced to state where she lost 0-2 with an injury to her right leg.
Despite the injury, Torres was happy to have made RHS history and that she got to experience and wrestle in a state competition.
“The first day was definitely the coolest when we got to go to the Thursday evening practice,” Torres said. “There’s barely any space to move because there’s so many wrestlers. It’s really cool to have a stadium full of wrestlers.”
Torres said she immediately noticed a difference between girls from the school’s region and girls from El Paso’s region, where more girls participate in wrestling.
“I was actually surprised that I lasted longer with the El Paso girl,” Torres said. “They’ve been wrestling for a lot longer than we have been. All the girls in our region went 0-2, and that’s kinda mind-blowing. You kinda wish there was more opportunity here at Richardson to start earlier.”
Weight class, not experience, determines a wrestler’s competitors, but Torres said that having experience can be advantageous for the wrestler. When advancing to state this year, she said that she used her experience from competing at regionals last year to hone her strategy.
“[This year] I was injured with my elbow, but I kinda just blocked it out this time,” Torres said. “Last year I was injured in my shoulder and that got in my head. This year I didn’t let it because I didn’t want it to affect my chances to move on.”
Torres worked on take-down moves, ways of escaping, and ways of not getting caught in order to prepare for the state tournament. After getting a little banged up at regionals, she rehabilitated herself with ice baths and stretches until the competition.
“With state you want to kinda keep it consistent so practice isn’t as long,” Head Wrestling Coach Mike Roach said. “You’re going through, working your moves and staying healthy because state is two days, and even coming off of our region there’s only a few days to work.”
Torres said that a lot of wrestling is about the athlete’s mindset and approach to the match.
“Mentally, you have to be prepared,” she said. “Don’t think about the record or what they’re gonna do to you, think about what you’re gonna do to them. When you’re on the defensive, you’re usually not going to win.”
Roach said that being able to compete at state is an experience like no other.
“It’s just amazing to be on the floor to be with the best wrestlers in the state, guys or girls,” Roach said. “Everybody has smiles-until the action starts.”
The winner of the state UIL Girls title was transgender athlete Mack Beggs, whom Torres lost to last year. Because UIL requires athletes to wrestle as the sex written on their birth certificates, controversy is stirring up around the issue. Additionally, Beggs has been taking steroids and hormones to complete his transition, which many athletes feel compromises the ethics of the sport.
“After my match [last year] I looked him up on Instagram and I saw he was taking testosterone,” Torres said. “I have nothing against transgender people, but in the sport we are not allowed to take steroids. I get his transition but when you use testosterone, he kinda has an advantage over the other girls.”
Beggs won the title with 4 wins at state. At regionals, several wrestlers chose to forfeit rather than wrestle him, some citing a fear of getting injured in the match. Texas is one of the few states that doesn’t allow girls and boys to wrestle each other, which is why senior wrestler Cinthia Zavala doesn’t think its a big deal.
“I just feel like he should be treated like any other wrestler,” Zavala said. “[In] Oklahoma and California, guys and girls wrestle all the time and it’s just regular competition. If they really are worried about that, they should just let him wrestle in the guys division.”
Torres said that since she saw him last year, Beggs’ body had clearly changed and become more masculine.
“When I wrestled him back then, he wasn’t as developed because he had only just started taking testosterone but this year you could definitely see the changes,” Torres said. “He had facial hair, his muscles were more defined, and his voice was definitely deeper.”
Roach said that as long as it doesn’t affect the integrity of the sport, he thinks only trans individuals are able to decide what kind of direction to take regarding hormones and UIL gender regulations.
“You fight a lot of red tape and you do a lot of battles but you’d want to be supportive as long as it doesn’t take away from the sport,” Roach said. “It’s very delicate. You want to be careful putting anything in your body that might enhance muscle growth.”
Roach is looking forward to a new generation of wrestlers next year, as 17 of this year’s team are seniors.
“It’s like a new era,” Roach said. “If we can get our numbers up, we can do well. Our door is always open for wrestling. I think if [incoming athletes] can do hard work and dedicate themselves, they’ll do real well. I’m excited to see what happens.”