As the fastest growing sport in the US, wrestling is attracting new females to the sport. States are beginning to follow the lead of examples like California, Texas, Hawaii, and Tennessee and are sanctioning wrestling in order to have all-girls teams. However, this still means many girls across the US who want to wrestle must compete against the boys. This poses a challenge for the athlete, the parents, and the coaches. I was very fortunate growing up and competing in California during an era where the state was pushing for all-girls competition, and I was rarely the only girl on my team. Because of this, I brought in ladies who were the only girls on their high school team to speak about their experiences and give their own advice. Forrest Molinari grew up wrestling in California, and today is a resident at the Olympic Training Center. Rose Martines started wrestling her Junior year in Oregon, and will complete her Senior year as the only female on her high school team. Neither athlete a female wrestler come before them as the example for how to be the only girl on the boys team, they were the trend setters. As we continue to encourage girls to try this amazing sport, we are going to need the experiences of others to forge a path for those to come.
Why did you choose wrestling when there were no examples of females competing already on the team?
ROSE: I have played roller derby since I was about eleven years old, and have grown to enjoy physically challenging contact sports. In high school, I began developing an intrigue for trying new things and throwing myself completely into it to understand other worlds. To put it simply, I like a good challenge, especially one where I learn about what is meaningful to other people. I had done a lot of personal development my sophomore and junior year, reading books and listening to audios about leadership, ambition, and being your best self. This built my general mentality to strive for nothing less than my best. In my science class we formed a group; my male classmate wrestled and my female classmate was a stat girl. I heard about wrestling everyday and thought about joining, the guy was pretty supportive. Then the girl told me about how some of the creepier guys on the team were talking about if there was a girl how much they would like it. I was creeped out my sophomore year because of that, but I was still interested. By junior year I had built enough self confidence to not really care even if people were thinking creepy things, I was excited and wanted to try it. I went up for the meeting and I could tell they weren’t sure if I was going to be a stat girl or a wrestler. The coaches had us go around and say our name and grade, and if we were thinking of being a wrestler or stat girl. I said my name was Rose Martines, I was a junior and I wanted to be a wrestler. I had no experience. The coaches and wrestlers didn’t know how to handle me, and neither did I honestly. They gave me the same directions and I followed them and did my best. It all began to fall into place. I think the aspect of being no other female wrestlers really to look to was inspiring to me. Of course it terrified me, but it was also thrilling to try something new that made other people uncomfortable. I could grow and prove to myself that I am strong, and make a statement for other girls. I remember googling how to be the only girl wrestler and there was a Wiki How for it.
FORREST: Funny thing is, I actually wanted to play football my freshman year of high school but I was way too small for it (I weighed about 95 pounds). So I started wrestling instead. I didn’t know the first thing about wrestling, but I loved every minute of it. Throughout my four years of high school, there was maybe one or two other girls on the team aside from myself each year. I had played baseball for years before high school, and being on an all boys team seemed normal to me. I practiced with boys who were better than me everyday so I could learn faster. Lucky for me, they were willing to help me because I worked hard and was eager to learn since I was our varsity 103 pounder.
What do you think girls should know about being on an all boys wrestling team?
ROSE: Guys have a general different kind of humor where everyone makes fun of each other but will still love you at heart. One of the biggest lessons I learned during my first year was how to take crap from people and not let it get to me. At the end of a grueling practice, we typically have conditioning and buddy carries for strength training. I couldn't always do it the right way, but would be doing it the best that I could. One coach would joke about how I looked like a limping grandma carrying the guy. He is like that to everyone, and he and I have a lot of respect for each other. I had to learn that in those moments, I was doing the best and earning respect by trying, even if it seemed or felt pathetic.
FORREST: In my opinion, being on an all boys wrestling team makes you a better wrestler as a girl. It pushes you harder and makes you a lot more gritty. I was held to the same standard as the boys when I was in high school and I believe that is what gave me a strong foundation for my wrestling career.
What advice do you have for other girls who would like to wrestle on an all boys team?
FORREST: I say go for it! Show up everyday and be the hardest worker in the room. Show them you mean business.
ROSE: People may think it’s weird, but secretly they all have an immense amount of respect and admiration for trying wrestling. I would suggest having an honest conversation with the coach about why you want to do it, that you are willing to learn and push yourself, AND BE COACHABLE. Being the only girl on an all boys team is completely doable, and is happening all the time all over the country. Just trust yourself, and know that you are amazing and strong. You are competing against guys who are biologically predisposition to be stronger than you. You are doing the same training and skills that they are doing, but it is so much cooler that you are doing it because girls have another level of barriers to overcome. If people think it's weird, they just do not understand and you have to be okay with that. Do it for yourself.
What kinds of lessons have you learned about yourself?
FORREST: I’ve learned so much about myself and about life through wrestling. I really couldn’t imagine what my life would be like today if I hadn’t started wrestling. I have learned what my core values and morals are, what kind of person I want to be and how I want to live my life, what my goals and standards are, and strengthened my faith.
The best part is the memories and friends I’ve made from this sport and how it has blessed me to live this amazing life traveling and competing all over the world.
ROSE: Because of wrestling, I better understand people, teamwork, dedication, commitment, discipline, respect, and heart, which are all skills and qualities that every job looks for. Wrestling has taught me to always be strong, have confidence, push limits, poke at sexism, do my best, and respect everyone and everything I work with. It has taught me to dream big and commit to your goals. It has taught me that I am tougher than I ever thought, and can do things I never imagined myself doing. It has taught me so much and I am most especially grateful for all of the meaningful relationships I created with my teammates and coaches.
How have you implemented these lessons for your wrestling career?
FORREST: I can look back over the years and see where I learned life lessons and how wrestling contributed in those moments to help me grow. It wasn’t always easy and I learned a lot of lessons the hard way but that has made me who I am today and given me the confidence to pursue my goals with no doubts in my mind.
ROSE: Wrestling has helped shape who I am and who I will become. I joined because I began to find that so many of the people I looked up to or respected, had wrestled at some point in their life, so I knew that there was something about the mental challenge that prepares you for success and discipline outside of sports as well. I think one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much was because of how I was able to fully throw myself into it, and the world of the sport. I think by putting your all into something like wrestling, helps you know in the real world that there is always more that can be done; you can always organize a little more thoroughly, speak more genuinely, pursue more passionately, test yourself and dig deeper. You know that somewhere there is more, even if all seems lost, if you have the will, and the passion you can find a way to make something happen.
Forrest Molinari graduated from Benicia High School in 2013 in Benicia, CA. She attended King University and upon graduating, became a resident at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. She is currently a National Team Member for USA Wrestling at 65kg, a 3x WCWA All-American, and a 2018 World Cup team member.
Rose Martines joined her high school wrestling team in Oregon as a junior, with no prior experience. Her experience in contact sports was playing roller derby for five years. She was the only female on her team and competed against mostly male opponents. She committed herself to morning workouts, extra help after every practice and daily tracking of her weight and everything she ate. Both junior and senior year, Rose received the Heart and Effort Award, and her senior year she was awarded the Outstanding Female "Citizen-Athlete-Scholar" award from Rotary.