SIOUX CITY, IOWA (KCAU)- Before our local girls high school wrestlers took part in sanctioned competition for the first time; it all started with hard work, training, and a dream for our Siouxland squads as they couldn’t wait to pin the opportunity.

Girls wrestling officially became the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union’s 11th sanctioned sport in January, with this season being the first opportunity for the athletes to compete on all-girl teams with local coaches believing it was a great opportunity to start programs at their respective schools

“We’ve had a few girls in the past wrestle for us and just talking about it with other coaches throughout the state, we knew it was a matter of time. We knew we just had to keep pushing the administration and just really promoting it and it just happened. It happened fast and we love it,” Sioux City East head coach Kyle Lewis said.

Many Siouxland schools quickly constructed programs with all three Sioux City schools holding informative meetings and using other advertising methods such as flyers and announcements over the intercom with the desire of boosting interest and giving local girls a chance to try something new.

“Holding meetings, talking to them about what wrestling is like, what to expect when the wrestling season comes about. We had a lot of interest late last year when we talked to the middle school girls as well as the high school girls and it shows,” Sioux City West head coach John Hessenius said.

At the beginning, all three teams accumulated interest with the next step focusing on adding more girls to the program. They hoped the excitement from the first group of wrestlers would bring in another wave of potential teammates.

“One of my friends told me and she’s been in it for like a year already and so I was just like, you know what, I’m going to try it and see if I like it and I do like it and it’s really fun. It’s pretty good experience,” Sioux City North junior Analicia Salas said.

With girls wrestling teams in place at all three schools, the next step involved learning the rules and how to properly wrestle.

“It was kind of like a lot of chaos. We were just kind of learning the different ways to do it. The rules and stuff like that. Kind of the basics,” Sioux City East senior Cori Parry added.

“It was kind of scary at first. I really didn’t think I would be strong enough or good enough. But as time went on and I kept practicing, I got better and I saw progress. I really enjoy seeing progress and it makes me want to work harder,” Salas noted.

As the intensity of practices began to ramp up, each team added more skills and moves into their practices with competition moving closer as the girls elevated their abilities through just the first couple of weeks, showing extensive growth from when they first hit the mat.

“There’s a lot of people that can pick up moves better than others and that’s normal. But, I think there’s been a lot of growth. We preach to the girls that you have to get one percent better every single day and that’s how growth happens,” Hessenius said.

With the wrestlers beginning to acclimate to the sport, they felt more confident both on and off the mat. But, they still were eager to learn and continue working on different aspects of wrestling while creating strong connections with their teammates.

“We’re still learning, us girls. We’re still learning how to do certain moves and all kinds of new stuff,” Sioux City East senior Nevaeh Hast said.

“I think a lot of us have had a lot of growth. There’s some girls that have gotten a lot of confidence from being on the wrestling team as well and especially as a team we’ve grown really close together as a team,” Sioux City West senior Nancy Flores added.

After weeks of practice and putting in plenty of hard work, it was time for the wrestlers to show their skills at the inaugural MRAC girls wrestling tournament at Sioux City North High School. All three Sioux City teams showed flashes of potential, highlighted by Sioux City West’s 2nd place finish. Sioux City East came in third and Sioux City North rounded out the metro teams in sixth.

A big milestone for all three programs and its wrestlers, as they are blazing a trail for fellow Siouxland girls in the future with the goal of growing the sport while inspiring others.

“Especially right now it’s more of just growing it as a sport because before there weren’t many girls in wrestling. So I feel like that is for sure one thing, getting wrestling to be more accessible to everyone,” Flores said.

The wrestlers spoke on their experiences so far, highlighting how they’ve learned far more than the rules and proper wrestling techniques as the girls feel they’ve picked up valuable life lessons that they’ll take with them as they continue life beyond wrestling.

“The things I take from it outside of the wrestling room is discipline and getting work done. I don’t know it’s just made me a hard worker really overall,” Sioux City North senior Elizabeth Rubio said.

“Just overall, to show that girls have potential and they can do anything,” Salas said.