CASCADE -- Chinook’s Rebecca Stroh has made a lot of history during her wrestling career.
As a freshman, she won the first all-female match at the 2018 state tournament. That same year, she became just the third female to ever place at state - following Laurel’s Abi Gontarek and Kalispell’s Tilynne Vasquez.
But after making history, Stroh is happy to witness history. Now a senior, Stroh has watched girls wrestling become an officially recognized Montana High School Association-sanctioned sport, and on Tuesday took part in central Montana’s first girls wrestling mixer in Cascade.
“You know, back then, I didn't think it would be possible,” Stroh told MTN Sports. “But it's really great to see it all happening now. Like, this is first all-girls mixer that I've ever been to, and I'm excited.”
Stroh’s example helped pave the way for future girls wrestlers, including her teammate, Chinook freshman Ryley Hofeldt.
“I'd like to say I make it easier for her, she doesn't have to try all the things that I had to do to get respect from the boys or even to learn where the locker rooms are,” Stroh said. “It’s just kind of the little things that I hope I'm making it easier for her.”
The Stroh name is well-known in wrestling circles in Montana and on the Hi-Line. Rebecca’s oldest brother Robert was a three-time state champion at Chinook before a four-year career at Wyoming. Her other older brother Ben was a four-time state champion, holds the presumed national record for consecutive pins at 101, and won an NAIA championship at MSU-Northern in 2017.
Some combination of Rebecca’s father Robin, her mother Lisa and her brothers has been in her corner for every match of her high school career.
“It's been really nice to have them in my corner,” Rebecca said. “The one thing I don't like is the coaching never stops. Basically until you get home until you go to bed, you're still getting coached up on.”
Ben, now an assistant coach with the Sugarbeeters, has enjoyed watching his sister walk her own path and pave the way for others.
“We always wanted a girls tournament and a girls state, and we finally got it. These girls are falling into it and realizing that they can wrestle everybody,” Ben said. “The boys are just a bonus. They wrestle boys to get mat time and keep the season going, but the girls are our big focus. And that's why tournaments like here at Cascade are huge. And we appreciate everybody that's putting these on.”
But Rebecca’s time on the mats will soon be coming to an end. The 2019 Miss Teen Rodeo Montana will pursue her first love at the next level, competing for the Miles Community College rodeo team.
“I do a little bit of everything, but roping is probably my favorite. I do both breakaway and team roping,” she said. “I've tried my hand at chute dogging. People see pictures and say, ‘You wrestle in the dirt and wrestle on the mats.’”
But no matter what comes next, Stroh will always do it her own way.
“She's so different than anybody else I've personally ever been around,” Ben said. “Being a rodeo queen, we didn't expect that to happen. Being a wrestler, we didn’t expect that to happen. But she did it and she's writing her own story, which is cool.”
Rebecca plans to study natural resources and range management at MCC and then will likely transfer to Montana State with the goal of becoming an agronomist and range land specialist.