Samantha Erikson has traveled all over to wrestling tournaments but she'd never seen a hot pink wrestling singlet before.
"There were all kinds of cute singlets," she said. "There were ones with stars and hearts and lots of bright colors."
Cute probably isn't a word often associated with a wrestling singlet unless it is a girl talking about the attractiveness of her boyfriend on the mat. Last weekend though, it was different when five girls from Moffat County traveled to Denver for the United States Girls Wrestling Association's Colorado Girls Wrestling State Championship.
"It was exciting for us because our parents won't let us wrestle boys," Erikson said.
The "us" is Erikson and Amanda Nichols, who only wrestle when there is a girls bracket available in a tournament.
"I used to wrestle boys but when they started an all-girls league my mom said 'you'll only wrestle girls,'" Erikson said. "So it was nice to have our own tournament this weekend."
More than 60 girls from around the country came to the tournament. The brackets were small compared to regular boys' tournament that averages 150 to 200 wrestlers.
The most any of the Craig girls had in their age and weight was four.
Ashley Griffiths finished first in the 8 and under division. Clara Tomlin finished second in 10&U, Kelly Myers was fourth in 12&U while Erikson and Nichols were both third in their weight classes in the 14&U age group.
The growing numbers of girls on the Bad Dawg wrestling club is following a national trend. According to the U.S. Girls Wrestling Association, the numbers of girls in high school wrestling have increased 200 percent from five years ago.
Next year Nichols and Erikson would like to become the first female wrestlers at Moffat County High School.
Tuesday night at the eighth-grade expo held at the high school, wrestling coach Roman Gutierrez was asked a question he hasn't heard before from an eighth grader.
"I asked him if he would let girls wrestle on the team," Nichols said. "He said he wasn't sure because he'd never had a girl wrestler before."
Erikson and Nichols are both new to the mat. They started wrestling last year so they know it would be tough in a wrestling room of one of the best boys teams in Colorado.
"I want to try to wrestle at the high school level," Erikson said. "If we could do it, we could clear the way for other girls."
This weekend they got to see some of the female wrestling pioneers who had already gone through the trials of proving themselves in a male-dominated sport.
"There was one girl who was going to be traveling for three months straight to wrestle at different tournaments," Erikson said. "She was on varsity at her high school."
The ability level of some of the high school girls surprised the eighth-graders.
"They were a lot faster than we've seen from other girls," Nichols said. "I wrestled a girl who was the fourth-ranked girl in the country and she smoked me."
The Intermountain League in Colorado started to offer girls brackets at their tournaments for elementary to middle school aged wrestlers this year. High school wrestling does not offer the same option. If the girls want to wrestle in tournaments they will have to be the best in the wrestling room.
Three younger girls will watch if Erikson and Nichols will next year to see if they get a chance.
"We have to prove ourselves," Erikson said. "We have to get faster and tougher if we want to make it."
Tomlin, Griffiths and Myers hope to wrestle in high school. What they'll have going for them is a little bit more experience.
All three have will have at least five years of time on the mat before high school.
They are already trying to prove themselves.
"Ashley beats my brother all the time," Nichols said.
"My mom tells me that I'm just as tough as those boys," Tomlin said. "I just go out there and beat them and make them cry."
Seven colleges have female wrestling teams and the 2004 Olympics will have women's wrestling as a medal event.
As the orders for more rolls of bright pink and heart-patterned Spandex increase, Erikson and Nichols hope their efforts will encourage others.
"I want to go to the Olympics," Erikson said. "I have a long way to go."
David Pressgrove can be reached at 970-824-7031 Ext. 211 or firstname.lastname@example.org