Tiger Talk: Leading in the Growth of Women’s Wrestling

Tiger Talk: Leading in the Growth of Women’s Wrestling

Welcome to #TIGERTALK – a SweetwaterNOW exclusive series where Rock Springs High School Tigers inspire our community by telling their stories in their own words.

I am Maggie Smith. I am 17 years old, going into my senior year here at Rock Springs High School (RSHS). I am a wrestler, football player, member of RSHS choir, leader in National Honor Society, wrestling coach, and a type 1 diabetic.

I am about to complete my 14th season of wrestling. I grew up in the wrestling room because my older brothers wrestled. I was the kid in a baby carrier at every practice.

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When I turned three years old, I began practicing with all the boys. I have almost always been the only girl in the room, but that has just been normal for me. As time went on, I fell in love with the sport and it became my happy place. I was not born with the talent that some wrestlers have, but I loved the sport and have always stayed dedicated to it.

Around age 11, I finally started to win more than I lost and I saw improvement. At this point, the sport transformed for me. With the new success, we began traveling to more and more tournaments. We mainly did this so I could compete against other girls. I continued improving, making connections with other female wrestlers, and finally saw a future in the sport. Since then, I have traveled to multiple national or international tournaments and camps every year.

Some of my most recent/prominent accomplishments are making it to boys high school state the past three years, earning at least 12 All-American honors (placing top eight at an official national tournament) in the past four years, being ranked nationally (top 25) several times in the past two years, and acting as a pioneer for the sport in Wyoming.

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I have participated in many sports, but nothing has made such an impact on me as wrestling. Wrestling, in my opinion, is the hardest but most rewarding sport. In wrestling and life, success is temporary. This helps remind me that no matter what happens, you need to keep working to improve yourself, as an athlete and person. One of my coaches, Anthony Guillen, always reminds me that the sport is a “marathon, not a sprint,” and I have been remembering that in my training and ups/downs this past season.

Wrestling has taught me discipline, dedication, and how to give back to others. The wrestling community is such a welcoming place. You can walk around any tournament and see Olympic wrestlers and just chit-chat with them. Every wrestler is treated the same and my family and I have made friends all across the nation through wrestling.

The greatest part of wrestling to me, however, is that ANYONE can wrestle. There is no specific build, strength level, or speed that is necessary as a wrestler. I have seen people from every background and walk of life wrestle.

Currently, wrestlers all across America are working to grow women’s wrestling. Few girls are comfortable wrestling the boys (and that comfort often disappears after you enter 8th or 9th grade), so it has become very important to provide a women’s division in high school. I have been very fortunate to not face much adversity as one of few female wrestlers in Wyoming. But that is rarely the case. I have heard many horror stories from other female wrestlers, from disrespectful coaches to unsupportive parents. This is why it is such a big deal that women’s wrestling is finally sanctioned in Wyoming.

As of April of 2022, 36 of the 50 states have sanctioned women’s wrestling at the high school level. This means that girls are wrestling and competing with other girls at their high school tournaments and duals. And there are several brands, businesses, and organizations all working to support this. One of these is D1 Women’s Wrestling. This group has spread the message to “Bridge the D1vide.” As of July 2022, there are 120 colleges with women’s wrestling, with only 4 D1 programs. This is compared to about 425 colleges with men’s wrestling and 81 D1 programs. The message of “Grow Women’s Wrestling” and “Bridge the D1vide” is being preached at every tournament, at every level, right now.

I, along with my teammates from across the state have pushed to get women’s wrestling sanctioned in Wyoming for the past three years. Without all the hard work from my coach, mentor, and friend, Jessica Brenton, the WAWA Women’s Director, we would not have been able to sanction so soon. The state committee is expecting about 70 girls to compete this next season, but the rest of us are expecting 500+ girls to start the 2022/23 season. We will have our own brackets, weight classes, and state championships.

I feel like I have done my fair share to promote women’s wrestling, and my most recent project has been hosting my very own Grow Women’s Wrestling Camp. When I first began setting up this camp, I was expecting three or four girls to sign up. I ended up having 31 girls sign up, with about 24 girls finishing the entire camp. My little local camp was just a few girls short of the official Wyoming Women’s Camp that is hosted annually. Myself, and my best friend and teammate, Brinley Green/Griffin, coached and put together the whole camp. It was an amazing turnout and we covered all the rules and fundamentals of the sport. I am hoping to host this camp for years to come!

Maggie Smith coaches at her wrestling camp this offseason.

This upcoming year will look a little different than the last 14 years of my wrestling career. My goals are similar as they have been: sign to a college, become one of the first Wyoming Women’s High School Champions, place at both folkstyle and freestyle nationals, and place at Fargo Nationals (the most competitive high school tourney in the US). I also have goals as a coach for this upcoming season: host all-girl practices (welcome to girls from any town/age) once a week throughout the school year, recruit 5+ girls from Rock Springs to wrestle on the high school team, continue to work with as many young club athletes as possible, and look to earn my silver coaches certification once I turn 18.

This upcoming fall I will be managing football, going on plenty of college visits, hosting my all-girl practices, and training to compete in my high school and club seasons. I am also looking to study biology and business in college, as I am striving to become a Game Warden or to start my own wrestling academy somewhere in Wyoming.

This year will be full of new experiences, and I am so excited to see women’s wrestling grow in Wyoming.

And remember, you can always find success in wrestling, and life if you are willing to put the work in!