BILLINGS — Rebecca Stroh has seen history at the all-class state wrestling tournament.
Stroh, a freshman at Chinook High School, watched her older brother Ben win his fourth consecutive state championship in 2012, setting what was believed to be a national record with his 101st straight win by pinfall.
But Rebecca Stroh made history of her own Friday morning at Rimrock Auto Arena, taking the mat for the first-ever all-female match in Montana state tournament history.
“Yeah, it was another first, I guess, that I got. I’m hoping to get many more,” she said.
Stroh defeated Tjo Friis of Anaconda in the opening round, winning by pin at the 5:47 mark. The victory drew a louder-than-normal cheer from the crowd of thousands.
“I finally shot, I guess. That was one of my big things, I had to shoot. I finally got that shot and finished the match,” said Stroh.
“The coolest thing is, she hasn’t gotten to wrestle a whole lot of girls through the year. Even that’s different compared to a boy. When they wrestle her, she’s got the edge,” said Ben. “It’s another first for her and I told her, ‘The first match at state is the hardest one.’ I don’t care where you’re at in the state tournament, getting the jitters gone and she carried the sign in, that’s tougher. It’s one more thing where the eyes are on you.
“But I told her, ‘The mat is the same size, all the people in the stadium, what’s the odds they’re watching you?’ I was just trying to convince her, I don’t know if it helped. Then we get her out on the mat and I had to tell her to walk away because I was more nervous than she was. I had to take my coat off, I was sweating and everything. It was fun. It was really fun.”
Adding to the history-breaking moment, was the fact Stroh had older brother Ben in her corner during the match. The former NAIA national champion at MSU-Northern provided a sense of ease to his younger sister.
“Ben, it was amazing. Plus, having my other brother, Robert, my dad and Perry and everyone standing on the sides cheering,” she said.
But her eye-opening moment actually came earlier Friday morning. Stroh was selected by her teammates to carry the team’s sign into the arena during the annual parade of athletes. It’s a moment she had seen dozens of times from her seat in the crowd, but nothing prepared her for the exhilarating feeling of walking in with her team.
“Oh man, looking up and seeing all the people, it was amazing. It definitely had my nerves going coming in there,” said Stroh. “I’ve been here watching both of my brothers forever. I managed last year. Just being down here and having the eyes on me this time, it’s hard.”
Stroh’s win paired her with Circle’s Krayle Stormer in the second round, leaving her one win shy of the semifinals. The family and team celebration, while exciting, was short-lived as they prepared for the next match.
“Just settle in and wrestle. We trained for it, trust your training, trust everything you’ve done,” Ben said of his advice. “We can’t coach you up much more now, we can give you little pointers, but you’re never going to remember them. Just go out and trust what you’ve been doing, trust your body and trust that you’ve done everything right up to this point.”
Stroh fell in her quarterfinal match to Stormer, losing via pinfall in the opening period. But you better believe she’s already locked in on the wrestlebacks to continue her freshman tournament.