Women’s wrestling has become one of the fastest growing sports, especially at the high school and college level. Bear Creek has offered men’s wrestling since 1995, but it took 13 years for a women’s wrestling team to be added.
Coach Harold Bacich is the current head coach and mentor of the Bear Creek wrestling team. He is also the father to the successful San Joaquin female wrestlers McKenzie and Jenna Bacich, both of whom have either attended or currently attend Bear Creek.
McKenzie, a prime example of a strong female advocate for the sport, became the first three-time Sections Champion, as well as a three-time State placer, in the history of Bear Creek girl’s wrestling. She was offered a wrestling scholarship to the University of Kentucky. Menlo College in California also offered her colleague, Abby Aragon, a wrestling scholarship.
Bear Creek women’s wrestling won the 2014-2015 season SJAA Girl’s League Championships, the prestigious San Joaquin high school wrestling event.
For the 2016-2017 season, Bear Creek’s female team hosts six girls; because there are so few of them, the girls say they are close, offering encouragement to one another.
“Girls definitely have a unique bond on our team,” freshman wrestler Eyan Atad said.
Although many men and women alike support women’s wrestling and encourage its rapid growth alongside men’s wrestling and other male-dominated sports, its critics have found loopholes in advocates’ reasoning.
Men and women sometimes do not like to see muscular, unfeminine women acting against their gender roles. However, on the other side of the coin, and often in smaller-scale versions of the sport, some see the growth in female wrestlers as a positive break from undesired tradition.
“Some guys would diss volleyball when I put on my volleyball outfit, but if I dress up for wrestling, guys will think it’s cool because I’m doing something not a lot of other girls or freshmen do,” freshman wrestler Maya Peyton said. “I’m representing wrestling and something different.”
Women’s high school and college level wrestling has grown at a similar rate as professional wrestling. The NWCA reports that since 1994, the number of high school level female wrestlers has grown from 804 to 11,496. Twenty-seven colleges now offer women’s wrestling scholarships.
A growth in female wrestlers may be a result of laws and regulations put in place to counteract gender discrimination in sports. Title IX, a law signed into law by President Nixon in 1972, avoids using federal money to sponsor discrimination in any educational activity.
“When more girls gain equality, we are able to do things guys used to do alone, like guys’ sports,” Peyton said.
A large number of women wrestlers on all levels are introduced to the sport by a male relative or friend.
“I wrestled just because my brother encouraged me to do it, but it’s nice to wrestle to know you’re tough too, like someone of my size,” Peyton said.
Women join for other reasons, however.
“Some girls just want to lose unwanted weight, others just want to try something new,” Atad said. “But I think a lot of girls do it to test their limits.”
Women wrestlers find themselves wanting to be strong for their own safety and self-confidence.
“Wrestling helps me become both physically and mentally stronger and it has pushed me past all my limits,” sophomore wrestler Nyah Gaines said.