FLORENCE — When O'Maste Foster defeated Kali Hood by 5-3 decision to win the heavyweight title at the first-ever all-girls state wrestling tournament at Lockwood High School in Billings, Foster became a part of history.
But it was almost history that didn't have Foster's name attached to it due to a selfless act from the Florence-Carlton senior.
Foster, who has been wrestling since the fourth grade, opted to not go out for wrestling her senior year in order to keep her parents safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite it being the first year Foster would be able to wrestle girls in high school, she opted to protect her family and limit exposure.
But February brought great news to Foster. By then, her parents were vaccinated from the virus, and on Feb. 1, she was alerted that the Montana High School Association would be adding a heavyweight division to the all-girls state wrestling tournament.
"She called me, I was working, and she called me and I couldn’t hardly understand her because she was so excited," Florence wrestling coach Brian Volkmann said. "She’s like, ‘They added the weight class, they added the weight class.’ That was a pretty big deal. I was really happy for her."
"It was like a dream because I did come to terms with not having a senior season and totally missing the opportunity to wrestle girls or even be there to experience it even if they didn’t have a heavyweight class," Foster said.
On Feb. 2, she turned in her physical and practiced that day. She got her 10 required practices in with a week to spare before the tournament but still didn't have a match.
Volkmann submitted her record and placing from the Western B-C divisional tournament from the year prior, and that put Foster as the top seed in the state bracket. She earned a bye and was placed in the title match.
Her senior year consisted of just one match, but it's the only one that counted. And with it, history was made.
"That’s why I think a lot went into the match because I could either come out as the first heavyweight state champion in Montana history and bring it home for my school and kind of just be in the books," Foster said. "I just think that’s so cool. Even those girls are going to be in the books, like it’s not just the champions. It’s also like every girl that even participated in wrestling.
"Afterwards when I won, it was pretty amazing. I was crying of course because that's my title, I earned that. Even if it was a short amount of time in this (wrestling) room, that's totally OK because I worked my butt off and got myself into the mental space to work in the room and just wrestle. It took a lot of time to just get to this point, and even if it was just one match, it still meant the world to me.
"This was more than just wrestling."
Another highlight of the match was her father got a chance to watch her win after not being able to see her wrestle at divisionals in the past.
Her victory comes at the end of a high school wrestling career built on perseverance.
Foster joined the Florence wrestling team as a freshman but, as the only female, wrestled just boys for the first three years of her career. Because of that competition, Foster lost a lot and battled injuries along the way. She had wrestled at the state tournament the previous three years but always against boys.
But through all of those challenges she endured, through freshman year to almost missing her senior season, she became a champion.
"What I went through, pushing myself and not giving up and like my mental journey was getting my mental health healthy also, instead of being so hard on myself with the fact that I was constantly losing," Foster explained. "But I still won my matches and learned that losing was a learning point."
"She deserves all of the accolades she’s getting," Volkmann added. "The whole thing, from beginning to end, has been a highlight of my life. One of those special things you won’t ever forget."