Over the course of the past few years, fans may have seen a couple girls wrestling at tournaments here and there. But now girls wrestling is a Montana High School Association-sanctioned sport, and the turnout has been really solid.
Senior Jaylen Kinzel is new to wrestling and is the only girl on the Colstrip wrestling team.
“It’s a different environment from being in basketball," Kinzel said. "I enjoy being with the boys every day. They make me feel like part of the team, part of the family. It’s just a great experience. Staying in shape and having fun, really.”
“I think it was a little bit of a culture shock at first for her," Colstrip head coach Dan Valdez said. "I think it doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a boy, first year wrestling in a high school program, it’s a culture shock, I think especially for a girl coming in having to wrestle boys, but she’s taken it in stride and she really likes it. That helps a lot, it goes a long ways.”
Kinzel was part of the Colstrip basketball team since her years in middle school, but she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to wrestle in her final high school season.
“I wasn’t that great at basketball and I wasn’t always treated the best, but I had some pretty cool coaches and teammates. I just thought it was time for a change," Kinzel said. "I knew I’d regret if I didn’t try wrestling at least once in high school, so I was like, ‘Why not? Just do it.’”
Kinzel is extremely aggressive and physical on the mats, which has boded well for her early in the year. Kinzel admits she enters into a sort of nirvana when she gets on the mat, too.
“You can’t teach that. That’s something within. That’s even with boys. You can’t teach that, aggressiveness. They either are or they aren’t. It’s hard to coach that part of it. With her, that goes a mile in wrestling," said Valdez.
“I really like to get aggressive. It’s a great place to take my anger out, I guess," Kinzel said. "Once I get in there, I can’t hear what’s going on. I’m just in the zone going at it.”
Whether she can hear it or not, Kinzel has the support of the entire Colstrip team behind her.