FREDERICK — There may be hundreds of girls in Colorado alone who love the sport of wrestling. Heck, maybe even thousands.
The sport, though, certainly hasn't always loved them all back.
For every success story — those like former Golden grappler Brooke Sauer, the first female state qualifier in Colorado annals — there's likely tenfold the amount of stories of girls who nearly gave up wrestling because the respect just was not there.
Legacy's Brandee Greer is one such girl, but there she stood at Frederick High School on Saturday, having just competed in the first girls-only high school level tournament in Colorado prep annals — an exploratory step in the possibility of the CHSAA adding girls wrestling down the road.
Greer began wrestling after watching her younger sisters, both adopted and having been previously abused, get into the sport as a way to let out some of their anger.
"I went to practice one day and enjoyed it more than I've enjoyed anything before and just kept going with it," Greer said after placing fifth in the 131-pound weight class of the Warrior Girls Invitational. "But it's definitely been a rough path, especially with getting respect because there are a lot of people that don't respect the idea of girls wrestling with boys. Yes, I definitely thought about quitting because of it, even as a sophomore in high school. In middle school, my coaches didn't respect me as much as I should have been respected."
Saturday was the ultimate 'look-at-me-now' moment for Greer and a host of other girls. There were about 80 participants representing 42 schools across seven weight classes — girls of all levels of talent and experience getting the chance to face off against each other in a well-attended event.
Greer will not back down from wrestling the guys, but she does see the benefits of the direction CHSAA might eventually go.
"I just hope that it makes more girls join, and that there will be a bigger opportunity to wrestle more people and in bigger brackets," Greer said. "It's a cool thing that they've started."
It was the kind of participation that CHSAA wrestling committee chair and Frederick athletic director Ernie Derrera was hoping for — especially since schools from corner to corner of Colorado and even a school from Nebraska sent some athletes.
It seems there are a lot of people in the camp of those pushing for sanctioning, including Sauer herself, who was present at FHS and eating up the atmosphere that she might not have dreamed of after graduating from Golden in 2006.
"It's pretty surreal, actually. I mean, 11 years ago I was one girl in a pool of 100 guys at a tournament, and to see this, 80 girls in the same gym with a lot of the same coaches is incredible," said Sauer, whose father Dave still leads the Demons. "To see the possibility of this girls (sanctioning) taking off, it opens so many doors for girls here in Colorado. What struck me today is the support that these girls have from their teams and their coaches. To know they have the opportunity to continue to do something that they like to do no matter what their gender, that's what made today so much fun."
Several more girls-only events are planned for the coming weeks, but the process to get sanctioned is lengthy and it may not happen until the current 2016-17 freshmen class are graduated.
However, it was quite obvious that plenty of girls long to be warriors on the mats, too. In the varsity event that counts towards season records, the 106-pound weight class nearly featured an all-girl final as Silver Creek's Olivia Ioppolo and Roosevelt's Angel Rios both made the semifinals. Rios went on to win the weight, her second major win of the year, and was named the tournament's most outstanding wrestler.
Ioppolo has big dreams of qualifying for state, and even bigger dreams of wrestling in college. After meeting some different people that converged to this special event on Saturday, Ioppolo's eyes were opened even more to future possibilities.
"There was a lot of girls here ... and there were a few from each weight class that were on top of their game for sure," Ioppolo said. "Those girls were hungry for victory, and that's really cool to see.
"There are colleges that are looking for girl wrestlers ... and they are just looking for grit, work ethic and the attributes that say you want to go to college, you will get looked at and you can go far in the sport. And internationally, it's getting way bigger."
Frederick Warrior Girls Invitational
At Frederick HS
101 — Jessica Mosqueda, Holyoke, p. Naliah Rosales, Liberty, 1:14.
111 — Jaslynn Gallegos, Brighton, p. Destanie Juarez, Grandview, 1:19.
121 — Leigh Janke, West Point Beemer (Neb.), d. Alia Poell, Grand Valley, 10-7.
131 — Kaden Campbell, Greeley Central, p. Berlin Vanness, Buena Vista, 5:17.
143 — Tristan Kelly, Douglas County, p. Sophie Matthaei, Strasburg, 1:58.
161 — Estefanias Barragan, West Point Beemer (Neb.), p. Angelica Diaz, Doherty, 2:26.
189 — Marietou Atore, Denver South, won four-person round robin.
101 — Trinity Kelly, Bear Creek, p. Ana Malta, Liberty, 1:48.
111 — Alexandra Vasquez, Fountain-Fort Carson, p. Monica Jimenez, Summit, 4:50.
121 — Moemi Morales, Northglenn, p. Shyla Diamond, Buena Vista, :29.
131 — Natalie Benavides, Del Norte, p. Joelle Westcott, Thornton, 1:32.
143 — Kailee Godinez, ThunderRidge, p. Michelle Pena, West Point Beemer (Neb.), 1:46.
161 — Makayla Martinez, Westminster, p. Isaura Alvarez, Northglenn, :48.
189 (second place) — Rosie Gonzales, Golden, finished second in four-person round robin.