Who says daddy’s little girl can’t kick butt?

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Sugar and spice and everything ... yeah right. Who says daddy's little girl can't kick butt? I’m old enough to remember when Title IX was ushered in and a lot of wrestling programs went to the chopping block to make room for women’s athletics.

We’ve come a long way, baby, and so has women’s athletics, more particularly girls wrestling.

Three years ago wrestling was dropped from the Olympics, only to receive a reprieve. When Portland State cut wrestling in 2009, it was the 670th college in the nation to do so, according to the National Wrestling Coaches Association.

Nationally, there were 258,208 boys wrestling in the 2015-16 school year. That was a decline of over 20 percent from 335,160 in 1976-77, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. So the push to include girls may have started as a way to preserve the boys sport, but the girls’ side has grown faster than expected.

Here in the Columbia Basin girls wrestling has built a successful foundation of its own. Othello is becoming one of the dominant girls teams in the state and is ready to take a run at a girls state wrestling title. Kaylee Martinez (140), Nikki Velazquez (130), Elizabeth Giles (135), Victoria Mendoza (170) and Estephania Vargas (190) lead a young team coming off a district championship en route to bigger feats down the road.

It always brings a smile to my face when Othello coach J.J. Martinez says, “We have some of the meanest, nastiest girls in the state on this side of the mountain.”

Warden has its fair share of mean and nasty (in a kind and loving kind of way). Angelica Vela (106) is currently being recruited by Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. Vela, along with teammates Aaliyah Escamilla (100), Monica Canales (125) and Karely Garcia (235) made their way to the top shelf of the podium at districts on their way to bigger and better things.

Throw in Cynthia Diaz (110) of Quincy, Mya Spencer (115) and Sienna Stocking (120) from Ephrata, Abby Yorgensen (145) and Diana Lopez (155) of Mattawa and Melanie Flores (100) from Moses Lake and the Basin does in fact have some of the best girls wrestlers in the state of Washington.

Six states – Alaska, California, Hawaii, Tennessee, Texas and Washington – sanction a high school state championship for girls. Nationally, there were 11,496 girls wrestling in high school in 2015-16, compared with 783 in 1993-94, according to the NWCA.

Twenty-seven colleges fielded women’s intercollegiate teams this season and 14 had club teams. Eastern Oregon University and Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen have added teams.

Women’s wrestling became an Olympic sport in 2004, and according to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) participation survey, girls wrestling is the fastest-growing sport for high school girls (in terms of percentage increase).

The United States, Japan, Canada and China are the best countries in the world for women’s wrestling. The beauty of wrestling — no matter what the gender — still remains: There is one circle, two contestants and one winner.

So, who says daddy’s little girl can’t kick butt?

Rodney Harwood is a sports writer for the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at rharwood@columbiabasinherald.com

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