Girls wrestling may become official


June 5, 2019

File photo

A referee raises the arm of Tucumcari's Aleayah Lucero after she defeated Belen's Cailean Romero in the 121-pound girls third-place match in a state tournament exhibition February at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho. The New Mexico Activities Association is considering making girls wrestling an officially sanctioned sport at the high-school level.

The New Mexico Activities Association is poised to make girls wrestling an officially sanctioned sport, and Tucumcari's wrestling coach is all for it.

The association's commission voted for the proposal last month, and the NMAA's board of directors is scheduled to make a final vote June 13. If approved, girls wrestling will have its first official state tournament in February.

Female wrestlers previously had competed at the state tournament, but those matches were deemed as exhibitions.

Tucumcari wrestling coach Eddie Encinias said girl wrestlers previously chosen to compete at state were required to have one to two years of varsity experience and "ones they think can compete." Selections for the big tournament, as a result, were somewhat arbitrary.

"If they're going to do girls wrestling, I want them to do it right," he said. "Whether it's by district or by region, have a way where they can qualify for state. I'm glad they're doing this."

According to a report in the Albuquerque Journal, this is how the girls state wrestling tournament would be set up:

• Girls would qualify for state through one of two regional tournaments;

• Each region would qualify four girls per weight class to state;

• The top three finishers at state would receive medals;

• The top three girls teams would receive trophies;

• Girls can compete in boys wrestling events during the regular season but must compete in the girls tournament.

The Journal reported 160 girls competed in wrestling in New Mexico last season, and that number was expected to rise.

Encinias said he anticipates three more girls from Tucumcari's middle school will compete in high-school wrestling in the 2019-2020 season.

"There may be more," he said. "After what Aleayah has done, there might be a lot more interest from girls."

Encinias was referring to Aleayah Lucero, who as a junior last season in the 121-pound weight class finished third at the state tournament exhibition. She became Tucumcari's first female wrestler to earn a medal.

Encinias said he holds no reservations in coaching girls on the wrestling mat.

"I've coached Aleayah for three years. Wrestling is wrestling," he said. "There have been years past where girls competed against boys and actually placed in state in the lighter weights.

"The girls can use the same uniform as we use now. The only difference is girls is they have to wear an undergarment beneath the singlet."


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