LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4) – As wrestling continues to attract the attention of many boys in high schools across the country, Colorado is quickly seeing an increase in girls looking to take their talents to the mat. Girls were once so underrepresented in the sport, they were forced to wrestle other boys.
But, with the popularity change as of late, girls are finding opponents among each other.
Hundreds of girls in Colorado are now invested in the historically male-dominated sport. So many girls have joined in the past three years, that schools are rushing to create girl’s tournaments, separate from the boys.
“Girl’s wrestling has exploded in the past three years,” said Audrey Bankes, a junior at Loveland High School and wrestler. “Girls are really into being tough. Girls see one girl do it, and they think, ‘I can try it, too.’”
Just three years ago, Bankes says she was the only girl who was wrestling in her school. Since then, Loveland High has formed an unofficial team of girl wrestlers, which also includes some athletes from neighboring schools.
Bankes participates in many extracurricular activities. Aside from wrestling, she is involved with FBLA, DECA, student government, swimming, track and more. As a straight-A student, taking several IB and AP courses, Bankes often spends time studying between her wrestling matches.
“When the whistle blows, I can’t remember half of (what happens), because my head is going so fast,” Bankes said.
As part of her IB courses, Bankes made it her goal to create a wrestling tournament for girls in Colorado. This year’s event was the second year her tournament took place with girls from around the state participating.
Loveland’s tournament is just one of many quickly popping up throughout Colorado.
“(Wrestling is) growing at a bigger rate than boy’s wrestling is at this point,” Bankes said.
Paul Bankes, Audrey’s father, said he was shocked to see how quickly the sport grew while she participates. Paul says he learned all about the sport through watching his daughter gain interest in it.
“I never imagined I would be the father of a wrestler, when I had two daughters,” Paul said. “Sometimes we go to tournaments with hundreds of girls wrestling, now. It’s very exciting for girls around the state.”
Audrey hoped her participation in the sport and the acceptance of local school administrators would encourage other girls to give it a try. She said, in recent years, she has even had success against many boys on the wrestling team.
“I haven’t lost to a boy yet,” Audrey said. “That’s what the girls are proving. Yeah, they can get out there, they can lose. But, they can be just as mentally tough as boys are.”
Audrey said she hoped to continue her pursuit of wrestling in her senior season, while convincing other girls to join. She also said she looked forward to perusing an education at either Stanford, or the University of Wyoming.
“I love wrestling so much,” Audrey said.