HELENA — History was made for Helena Capital athletics when Taylor Lay’s hand was raised at the end of the MHSA All-Class Girls Wrestling Tournament marking the first time any girl from Helena was atop the podium with a state championship in hand.
“I went into high school wanting to be a four-time state champion,” said Taylor Lay, a Helena Capital freshman. “I just really wanted to win. Like, it's been my goal. Since like – it's like, since girls wrestling started to, you know, be a role model for some of the new wrestlers.”
With one of four steps complete for the Bruin, there was a possibility that Lay’s goal was going to be put to rest shortly after she started, but she pressed on.
“Beginning of the year, I was really confident. And then I lost to the girl I beat in the championship, actually and I've never lost to her before and that just like really hurt my confidence,” said Lay. “Then I lost to this other girl I've been beating for forever, four times this year, which is quite a bit. And I just, yeah, I was just like, not confident, and then something just changed. State kind of flipped a switch.”
The names and faces of Helena Capital’s state wrestling champions are on display in the team’s practice room on the second floor of the school, a place that will now adorn Lay’s accomplishment as well. Throughout the season, Lay said she caught herself staring at the wall, dreaming about the moment when her name and face would be alongside the Helena Capital greats.
“I really look up to them,” said Lay about the Bruins that have won state titles before her. “I think it's so cool, and it's like representing your school. So it's like, a big deal.”
Winning a state title is a big deal, to put it into Lay’s words. Though it’s not the first time, and likely not the last time that Lay will be at or near the top of her division.
In 2018, Lay won the Flo-Reno World Championship at just 10 years old and she had only started wrestling a few years prior after being inspired by her family.
“My brother started because my dad was pretty into it. And I just– I don't know, I just kind of wanted to try it out. So my dad, we got like this free crappy pair of like Play It Again sports wrestling shoes that are like, you know, busted up a little bit, and I just started then,” said Lay.
Now with a number of championships under her belt, the goal now shifts to winning three more state titles. However, Lay has another goal of being an ambassador of the sport of girls wrestling hoping her victory will spark interest in other girls to compete as well.
“It's like really cool, because I'm like setting history for capital. You know, like, I'm the first and I don't know, maybe someone will look up to me and like, I'll inspire someone to start wrestling,” said Lay.
“What I'm hopeful for is that, you know, Taylor's success, piques interest in other girls at Capital High School, and that we're able to really grow this program and get it to the size and the level that some of the other schools are at already,” said Helena Capital head wrestling coach Shawn Graham.
As for what’s next? Lay said she hopes to take some time off following the grind that wrestling season can be, but she’ll be back in the gym after the break because those three other state titles aren’t going to win themselves.
“I want to keep going with it. Because I know offseason is really important to get a head start in like, high school season,” said Lay. “I really, really think I have like a good shot at being a four-time state champion. So I just need to like keep pursuing that and working hard for that.”