Girls wrestling catching on at Del Oro High

Lady Eagles squad of 32 one of the biggest in California
By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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Del Oro’s girls wrestling team will stay busy in the coming week as the Lady Eagle grapplers host a dual meet on Friday and then ready for their Lady Eagle Invitational Tournament.

On Friday, the Lady Eagles will host the Sacramento All-Stars at 6 p.m. in the Yokote Gym. The event is being billed as the Sacramento area’s lone girls wrestling dual meet of the season.

“It’s really fun, it fills the Yokote Gym, the band plays and a lot of people come,” said senior Emily Nash. “It’s one of the highlights of the year.”

Since Del Oro is the only area school with an all-girls team, all other wrestlers throughout the region compose the all-star team.

Next Saturday, Jan. 26, the Lady Eagles will host girl wrestlers from around the state in the Lady Eagle Invitational, which begins at 8 a.m.

~ Gold Country News Service


Emily Nash is well aware that people often have misconceptions about girl wrestlers.

“They think of really big, buff girls with crazy built-up hair,” said Nash, a 108-pound senior wrestler at Del Oro High School — who also happens to be the reigning homecoming queen.

Nash, one of 32 students on the Lady Eagles squad, doesn’t think there’s a certain type of girl that comes out for wrestling.

“It’s not just the super-manly girls or the super-competitive, crazy girls,” she said. “There’s normal people that come out to do this and it’s a lot of fun.”

That fun atmosphere in Loomis has created one of the largest girls wrestling programs in the state of California in just its third year of existence.

According to coach Mike Maben, the school has more girl wrestlers than any other team in Northern California. In fact, the Lady Eagles are the only all-girls team in the local area.

So, how exactly did the small-town school in the foothills create such a big-time club?  

“It’s unique here at Del Oro because we have coach Maben, who makes it really fun and he’s really good at recruiting,” said Nash, one of four captains on the Lady Eagles. “He makes it not as intimidating for somebody who’s never done it before to come out and do a sport like this.”

Nash, like fellow senior captain Lea Bertz, joined the team two years ago because she wanted to get stronger for the track and cross country seasons.

Both girls, who are good friends off the mat, enjoy wrestling for Maben, a 1996 Del Oro alumnus who went to wrestle at UC Davis.

“He makes a really positive environment for everybody,” Bertz said. “It’s OK to make mistakes as long as you gain from your experiences. He’s not harsh when you mess up.”

Bertz and Nash also enjoy the competitive aspect of the combat, grappling event.

“This is the kind of sport that’s really high intensity and high adrenaline and there’s not as many sports that have this kind of intensity,” Nash said. “It’s not something we’re necessarily used to.”

Wrestling, in Bertz’s opinion, helps bring together girls who normally wouldn’t connect. The friendships and bonds the girls develop also helps them become better athletes.

“Usually we go pretty hard on each other because we both want to get better,” the 108-pound Bertz said of wrestling against Nash. “It’s really good to have a partner who’s a friend.”

Maben is hoping his team will continue to develop more friendships in the future, as he’d like to see the number of girls coming out to wrestle continue to grow.

“I want to see more high school students wrestle regardless of gender, size or strength or anything,” said Maben, who is also an assistant coach for the Del Oro boys. “If you’re a high school student, you should be wrestling at some point. I would love to see more high school girls. That way my girls would have more opportunities for meets and a legitimate league championship.”

Maben believes his squad has been able to be successful in terms of numbers because Del Oro holds separate practices for boys and girls.

“Co-ed practices prevent a lot of girls from coming out to the team,” he said. “Imagine how many girls basketball players you’d have if you made them play with the boys?”

Maben also thinks the popularity of girls wrestling would “double overnight” if other schools started holding separate practices. The nearest high school girls wrestling teams to Loomis are in Napa, Vallejo and Fairfield.

Many schools, however, don’t have the necessary resources — facilities, mats, coaches — to follow Del Oro’s lead, Maben said.

Maben acknowledged that the sport can be physically and mentally tough for teen girls.

“There’s a lot of tears that come throughout the season,” he said. “But at the same time it helps them learn and become stronger. The tears are from everything. We have tears from winning, losing, pain — tears that are not even from wrestling. We’re that tight-knit.”

And the coach welcomes anybody and everybody on campus to join their circle.

“We do have every walk of life on this team,” Maben said. “There’s everything from homecoming princess to the kid who has never said a word their entire time on campus. We have everyone here. We’re trying to be as inclusive as we can be.”

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