Females wrestling in Minnesota State High School League competition is becoming more of a common occurrence.
More than 345 Minnesota high schools sponsor wrestling programs. According to MSHSL statistics, 28 girls were registered to wrestle in the 1997-98 school year and 26 in 1998-99 and 1999-2000.
Brainerd has two female wrestlers this season and Little Falls one, Rachel Holthaus, a freshman 103-pounder.
Flyers coach Mike Hendrickson said Holthaus wrestles in the off-season and her goal is to be an Olympian. This season, she is 2-7 in varsity matches, 6-3 on the junior varsity.
"Last year she wrestled in our practice room all year," Hendrickson said. "She works hard, she likes to work hard. She's for real. Her technique is pretty good. For a girl, she's pretty strong, but that's sometimes how she gets beat, because of the physical part of it. Some boys out-horse her a little bit."
Hendrickson said Holthaus is accepted by teammates because she's a legitimate competitor.
"She's been around," he said. "As a ninth-grader she wrestled all year in our high school room. The guys have accepted her very well.
"I give Rachel a blanket apology for all the times I say, 'You guys,' but she says, 'Don't worry about it.' We try to include her in everything, and we try to be as fair as we can be in everything. It's different, but at the same time she's very understanding."
"There's not a lot you can do about it," Hendrickson said of females wrestling. "That's the way it is. The only thing I worry about is if boys, especially a younger boy, gets beat by a girl, what will he think? I don't have a problem with it, but some boys would."
Brainerd coach Bob Brakke said some coaches detest the idea of girls being allowed to wrestle.
"When they come to wrestle a girl, (coaches) don't know what to say," Brakke said. "Some of them tell (male wrestlers) to do a move that doesn't involve touching them hardly at all. People have to get past that and realize this is just competition. You're going hard to win, not for anything else.
"I had a girl wrestle for me in California, thank goodness. That helped make this an easier thing for me. It was a great experience, one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life as far as coaching."
Brakke is not daunted by the prospect of more girls wrestling in the future.
"I don't think it hurts the sport at all," he said. "The more people involved, the better it is for the sport."
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