Albany, Ore. -- One of, if not the fastest growing sports at the high school level is girls wrestling. In 2019, OSAA finally added the first girls state wrestling tournaments. In 2020, the greater willamette valley made some history of their own with the girls again leading the way.
"We'll make it a special moment for the girls is something that will go down, they'll remember forever and know that this was the first dual meet in Albany's history," explains West Albany girls wrestling coach Casey Horn.
On Tuesday evening, the eyes of the Oregon prep sports world turned to an exhibition wrestling match at West Albany high school. A collection of six teams broke into two split squads for the area's first all girls dual wrestling match, and the first ever in the school's history. The sport has grown significantly across the country and has led to the introduction of several high school and college teams in the state. But even still, purely girls wrestling events aren't a common occurence yet. So when Bulldogs coach Casey Horn brought up the idea, his team jumped at the opportunity.
"When Coach Horn told us that on Febraury 11th we were gonna have an all-girls dual we were like 'no way. It's just gonna be us? There's no boys? Like it was just us?'," says senior Emily Alvis enthusiastically. "And we got the spotlight on us. So much fun."
Alvis is the reigning southern district champ in the 115 pound weight class. She's been to meets all over the state for the last four years and has gone from simply trying to find a partner at events to now having a chance to compete for her own OSAA state title. But this progression, while relatively quick, didn't happen overnight.
"We rarely get the opportunity to have as many duals as the boys because the programs are not quite there yet," she explains.
But Horn knows it's only a matter of time before the schools catch up with the growing participation numbers. This year, West Albany alone had their first female state qualifier and first all-girls dual. If more schools in the area, with the Bulldogs and the likes of McKay, Junction City, McNary and Corvallis high schools leading the way, build up their teams it could turn into a sport to rival any of the other scholastic athletics.
"I think it's gonna be a norm in a couple years here when teams can build up enough girls to put up a full lineup," Horn mentions. "We're gonna have a normal boys dual and a girls dual just like girls basketball and boys basketball.
The parental support was on full display at West Albany too. Dad's cheering on their girls...yelling for a pin while Mom's are going crazy for a takedown.
"They do just as much work," says Brandy Alvis, Emily's mom. "They practice just as many hours, some of them practice more because they have a disadvantage of not having done it since they were 10 or 6 or 5 and it's the program's that matter."
"It's the team mentality, the team concept," continues Michael Alvis, Emily's Dad. "These kids are getting behind each other like we've stated before and that's because of the positive influence it's creating."
And where it starts with the girls, it continues with the support systems of parents and coaches.
"We turned around and we said, 'we're gonna throw this one together at our school because you guys have worked so hard'", Horn concludes. "'And you want it so much that this is what's important to you so we're gonna make it important to us.'"
"It's really amazing having the support of them and not only my parents but the parents of the rest of the girls on the team come together and fight for a bigger program and fight for more opportunity because it's such a worthy sport,"echoes Alvis, who once was a girl at Crescent Valley on her own wrestling with the boys, to being on her own team of girls at West Albany doing the same thing every day.
So heres to the Girl Dads, the TrackWrestling Moms, the coaches putting it all together. But most importantly, heres to the girls on the mat. Making history under the bright lights at West Albany high school.