KALISPELL — The Kalispell Glacier and Flathead high schools are set to open a new chapter for girls wrestling in the Flathead Valley.
A year ago, on Jan. 20, 2020, the Montana High School Association announced it would be adding girls wrestling as a sport.
“Over the years we've had a couple of girls here and there try it out, and that's kind of a hard situation where we don't have girls for them to wrestle. They don't have girls to wrestle from other teams," said Ross Dankers, the Glacier wrestling head coach.
Dankers said that now with the option for the girls to wrestle other girls, it drew more athletes to the team.
But the MHSA allows for only seven weight classes for the girls wrestling teams, unlike the 13 weight classes for the boys teams.
“Some of the girls are having to wrestle up in weights, but they're excited for the opportunity to get out there and try something new and to be a part of making history in Montana as well as at our high school,” said Amber Downing, a Flathead assistant wrestling coach.
While there are some early obstacles, Nelson said that the girls are still putting their best foot forward.
Glacier junior Audrey Goodsell said that the wrestling teams don’t see each other as any less or different.
“It feels very encouraging as a woman -- like, it doesn't feel like there's any separation. They're there for us, we're there for them," said Goodsell.
Downing also feels that the boys and girls have become more united this season.
“It isn't like a boys team and a girls team, it is Flathead wrestling," said Downing.
Dankers said that this new opportunity for the athletes has brought out a new confidence in them as well.
“Seeing their love for a sport that's brand new to them, that's pretty special, and then you see that trickle down to their families and it just creates this awesome positive culture within the room," said Dankers.
The Glacier and Flathead wrestling teams will compete in Butte on Saturday, Jan. 16.