Wrestling dynasty set to begin at Copper HillsNov 09, 2020 03:57PM ● By Greg James
Jasmine Herrera (pictured with her parents at the 2018 senior night) was one of the first girls to wrestle for the Grizzlies. She is an assistant coach on the new girl’s team. (Greg James/City Journals)
By Greg James | [email protected]
Girls wrestlers around the state are zeroed in on winning the first-ever Utah High School Activities Association-sanctioned state championship.
Copper Hills senior Alyssa Pace could take on and beat most of the boys in her wrestling weight class, so when girls wrestling became an official sport there was some disappointment, but the excitement of starting a new team and teaching others about a sport she loves has made it all worth it.
“I have wrestled since I was in seventh grade,” Alyssa said. “It is fun to push me. I like drilling and working hard. I think wrestling has been a confidence booster. It has become a part of me. It is fun to be part of the wrestling family.”
Alyssa has been on the boys varsity team at Copper Hills for two years. This season, the UHSAA sanctioned girls wrestling. In competition, girls will no longer compete against the boys. Female athletes that wish to participate will need to join their school’s girls team.
Copper Hills has hired a girls head coach, longtime boys assistant coach Scott Pace (Alyssa’s father). In its first preseason practices, the team had had as many as 15 girls participate, but coaches are expecting around 40 girls.
“It has been really good,” Scott said. “The girls like seeing there is an opportunity for them. Our mindset is that we want to take this by storm and build our little dynasty.”
In the past, there has always been a stigma with girls wrestling. Athletes have wanted to try the sport but were afraid to join because it was male-dominated.
“Now that it is all girls they are jumping at the opportunity,” Melissa Pace, Alyssa’s mother said. “A few years ago, boys would forfeit because they did not want to lose to a girl or beat a girl, but we know there will be growing pains.”
Schools in the Grizzly’s region have committed to having teams, but some have not seen numbers to justify hiring coaches. In each school, the team may be structured slightly differently. Copper Hills plans on running the girls team completely separate from the boys. Training and practices will be held at different times, and they have separate tournaments.
“I want to help build the name and the team for girls wrestling at Copper Hills,” Alyssa said. “I want to share my love of wrestling with the girls that are coming into the team. I want this sport to be more competitive in the future. Our entire family is part of this team. I tell girls to try it out. It will be worth it.”
Copper Hills has several girls that have experience. Alyssa, her sister Brooklyn and their younger sister Maquelle have been nominated as girls wrestlers of the year in their age groups.
Brooklyn is a freshman, wrestling on the Copper Hills team. She has been ranked as high as third nationally in her weight class. Alyssa is ranked third in the state by wrestleutah.com
“I expect them both to have great seasons,” Scott said. “We have spent time wrestling around the country. My girls are excited to help teach these girls about a sport that they absolutely love—building a team and family and sharing it with the girls. We are excited about it. At first, I was a little against it; I did not think that girls were supposed to wrestle, but I have realized how much they love it. They can do hard things. The same values that help boys can help these girls in this sport.”
The girls wrestling will be different.
“Girls are more flexible,” Scott said. “We have seen gymnasts and cheerleaders that can bend a lot differently. That makes the sport a little different than on the boys’ side. I think being sanctioned will only help both sports grow in popularity. I consider myself to be a big cheerleader for these girls.”