Girls changing the landscape of wrestling in Colorado

80 wrestlers from 42 schools participated in the first Colorado high school girls' wrestling competition this past week.

FREDERICK - For a sport that takes place on a mat, wrestlers set their sights high.

"No matter who you were, your goal as a wrestler is to make it downtown and if you're good enough, to place, and if you're even better, to win," former Golden High School Wrestler Brooke Sauer said.

Sauer was one of those wrestlers looking for a chance. She joined the wrestling team as a freshman, with her dad, Dave, as head coach. Dave is now in his 17th season with the Demons.

"I didn't give her the chance to talk to me about it," Dave said of Brooke joining the team. "I can't say I tried to talk her out of it, but I did let her know she wouldn't be treated any different because [she's] my daughter. It's going to be the same. I really wanted to lay it out there for her of what to expect."

"When both of us fell in love with it and realized, hey, we can do this, it continued to progress," Brooke added. "Then the whole state thing became this far off dream."

Together, this father-daughter duo chased that  goal. By Brooke's senior season, it had become reality. In February of 2006, Sauer became the first female ever to qualify for the Colorado High School State Tournament.

"We're coming up on 11 years, and we still talk about it and reminisce and enjoy the ride that we had," she said. 

According to the Colorado High School Activities Association, only six other girls have accomplished what Sauer started. Lauryn Bruggink from Soroco and Cody Pfau of Meeker each made the tournament three times, Maya Nelson of Denver East qualified twice, and Bennett's Brittaney Hudson and Byers' Areil Oster each went once. The most recent was Kaley Barker of Mountain View, who qualified as a sophomore last year.

"The girls I've been around over the years, they're eager to just keep moving on, and not have it end for them," Dave Sauer said. "[But for] a lot of them, it ends early, by not getting to wrestle varsity, or getting to wrestle against the guys."

But a big reversal is on the horizon. This past weekend, the first ever all-girls wrestling tournament was held at Frederick High School.

"You heard fans and coaches and parents rooting for these different people, and it didn't matter at that point if they were rooting for the girls or the boys," Brooke said.

Eighty female wrestlers representing 42 schools came as far as Buena Vista -- even the state of Nebraska -- to participate in this historic event. While this was only a trial run to gage the interest in the emerging sport, many were surprised to see the turnout. 

"The energy in there was incredible, and everyone was so excited," Brooke said. "All these girls needed was an opportunity. They just needed that one day and that one tournament to come out and say, 'Hey, we are here, we want to be doing this, this is what we love.'"

The Sauers agree girls' wrestling is long overdue, and that adding a female division of the high school sport would only make a positive difference.

"Men's wrestling is shrinking. We can look at the statistics throughout the country, men's wrestling is shrinking, women's wrestling is growing, so it could help both," Dave said.

"What really hoped open this door was, look at the Olympics and what Adeline Grey did. [She] made girls' wrestling the forefront," Brooke said. Adeline Gray is also a pioneer in the Colorado wrestling scene. She was the only girl on her wrestling teams at Bear Creek and Chatfield High Schools in Colorado.

Any wrestler would agree the sport creates a mental toughness and drive to accomplish whatever goal they set out to do. 

"[My dad] saw me struggle and saw how hard I had to work, just to hang with the rest of the guys, and so I think he wants to see these girls succeed so badly, he goes above and beyond for these girls to make sure they feel comfortable, that they're learning what they need to learn, and I think that's what makes him such a safe space and such an advocate for girls' wrestling," Brooke said.

It wasn't that long ago that Brooke Sauer changed the sport in Colorado. By this time next year, we could see our first female champion wrestler in state history.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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