Cal sees more female wrestlers

Program strengthens as number of girls on team doubles from last year.


Alexander Gomes

Junior Mia Larson (right) tries to escape her opponent’s grasp duirng Cal High’s senior night.

This generation, men and women coexist in sports at all levels, but especially in high school.
This is happening at Cal High and around the EBAL. Last year, there were four girls on Cal’s wrestling team. This year, that number doubled to eight girls.
That’s nothing compared to Dublin High’s team, which had 30 girls on last year’s team. The EBAL even boasted four girls ranked in the state, two each from Monte Vista and Granada.
Cal experienced success with its four girls who wrestled last year.
Junior Brook Ironside, who is in her second year on the team, was among Cal’s four girls who qualified for NCS last year. One girl, senior Ella Hofer, made it all the way to the CIF State Finals and won two matches.
Ironside, who was named the girls’ team captain this year, said being part of a team that’s mostly male is no big deal.
“[The coaches] aren’t as hard on the girls as they are on the guys but they still expect you to put in the work,” Ironside said. “The team is very supportive of the girls. I don’t feel like they treat us much differently than the guys.”
Ironside said during practice she wrestles guys. Although girls mostly wrestle other girls, they have the choice to choose to wrestle a guy. If there is no one to wrestle in their weight class, they wrestle a guy.
Sophomore Sylvia Heloin also is a second year wrestler, but this is her first at Cal. Last year Heloin attended Menlo-Atherton High School and sees little difference wrestling the guys.
“They’re usually more aggressive but otherwise it’s the same,” Heloin said.
While wrestling against guys may appear to be a disadvantageous for the girls just because of their size and strength, but the playing field is starting to level. Heloin experience wrestling against guys on the daily at practice.
“I usually wrestle with guys during live wrestling, which is when you go 100 percent to get that feeling you know how to do things correctly,” Heloin said.
Heloin only has positive things to say about team captain Ironside.
“She has a responsibility of making sure that we have everything,” Heloin said.
For freshman Vidhi Thakkar, this is her first year wrestling. So far this year she’s learned a lot from her new sport.
“I’ve learned to be really aggressive when I wrestle, because even if you have the technique, it’s hard,” Thakkar said.
“I think Brooke is a great captain. She’s really nice and knows how to motivate you too,” Thakkar said.
Junior Jack Gamble, a returner and captain on the team, spoke about the differences this year compared to last.
“We have a lot more people this year, but are a lot more successful, our varsity team is better, and people are just more excited to be in the room,” said Gamble. “Last year we had a lot less girls so this year we actually have a functioning girls team.”
Gamble is Ironside’s teammate, and he gets to witness her firsthand as a captain, being on the same team.
“I’d say she’s a good captain. She really enjoys the sport and she really loves what she does so I think that it brings some enthusiasm, which is needed,” Gamble said.
Coach Bobby Rios is the head of California Wrestling. He is in charge of both girls and guys this year. He has seen a lot of growth since last year.
“This year we have a little more depth of returners,” Rios said.
With a more experienced team it is easier for Rios to work with his kids.
Returners can support the newcomers.
“They’ve been around a bit longer and they understand the tournament structure,” Rios said.
The girls and guys seem to work in harmony with one another, constantly supporting each other on the mat.
“They support each other, three or four girls showed up for guys tournament,” Rios said.
Even though the girls didn’t have to show up for their male counterparts, they did nonetheless to support them.
The increase in women wrestling is exciting because the norms of sports and society are changing and the playing field between men and women becoming more even. The number of girls doubled over this past year and will continue to rise.
These girls are paving the way for the younger generations, creating interest in the sport for young girls.