Fayetteville coach Nika West said his wrestlers broke new ground in Arkansas wrestling last week, being the first to compete as a group in an all-girls tournament in Springfield, Mo.
The Purple Bulldogs became the first team in Arkansas wrestling history to take competitors to an all-girls event out of state on Dec. 27, West said. They competed in the all-girls portion of the Kinloch Classic, and three of the four earned runner-up finishes.
Freshmen Mayte Rodgriguez (152) and April Stanley (131), along with sophomore Abby Fimbres each finished second in their respective weight class and helped Fayetteville finish fourth out of 11 teams with 37 points and just two points out of third. Fimbres is a sophomore and one of two girls, who came out a year ago for the team. There are currently seven females on Fayetteville's wrestling team.
West is one of several coaches in Arkansas trying to get girls wrestling sanctioned in the state. He estimated only 15 to 17 states currently sanction girls wrestling, and Arkansas held its first unsanctioned state tournament last March.
But he's excited for his wrestlers' opportunity to compete against other females.
"I'm pleased with their work," West said. "It's a great opportunity, and I'm excited for them."
The female wrestlers will head to Columbia, Mo., this weekend for another all-female event and also take part in another in Branson, Mo., in a couple of weeks.
The fact that Missouri sanctioned girls wrestling this year will make it easier for him to find events in the future. But he's also looking at running an all-female portion of his own Battle for the Belt tournament next year.
"We want to create opportunities for these girls, and when Arkansas does jump on board, we'll be ahead of the game," West said.
The Tigers finished up 2018 strong, taking third at Fayetteville's Battle of the Belt and also went 6-3 taking sixth in a 24-team dual tournament in Baton Rouge of the Christmas holiday.
Bentonville High coach Jason Adams said the experience against strong out-of-state competition was great and it's something he will continue next year.
"I just started doing some research about tournaments out of state, and we wanted to do some traveling to see different teams and different styles," Adams said. "Getting to spend four days with each other helps with the team concept, too.
"We went down there and wrestled solid and won some close duals and a lost a couple close duals but got some good experience."
Sophomore Tristan Stafford (106), Quinn Graves (120) and Zane Simes (160) each lost just one match over the weekend in Louisiana.
The Tigers were the highest finishing Arkansas team in Fayetteville's 34-team tournament. Sims and Connor Klein (182) each won their respective weight class.
With only one senior in the lineup, the Bulldogs are off to a solid start this season.
Colton Tuck and Ty Moose form a strong 1-2 punch. Both earned state runner-up finishes a year ago, and they look strong again, coach John Kincade said.
Tuck (145) and Moose (126) each finished third in the recent Battle of the Belt in Fayetteville, both being saddled with their first loss of the season against Oklahoma opponents in the semifinals. Moose is currently 16-1 overall, while Tuck is 13-1 and helped Greenwood to a ninth-place finish out of 34 teams.
Kincade is hopeful his Bulldogs can contend for a state team title, especially since Greenwood won't have to compete against larger schools this season. Greenwood has several recent top-five finishes when the tournament included Class 6A and 7A schools. But this year the Bulldogs will compete only against schools in their own classification, in this case, Class 5A.
"We're 7-1 in duals right now with our only loss to Bentonville," Kincade said. "We've been without a 195-pounder, too, and now after the first of the year, we'll have a full lineup."
The Wolverines may have only finished fifth in last weekend's Diamond Duals, but coach Aaron Wise was still pretty pleased with the way his group finished.
Bentonville West dropped its first two duals but roared back to win the last six straight, which included a 40-30 win over Springdale Har-Ber and a hard-fought 36-35 win over Moore, Okla., in the final dual of the weekend.
"I was happy about the way the kids came back and were able to respond to bad situations and our ability to learn from our mistakes," Wise said. "In our first dual against Camdenton, we had five matches that we were winning and ended up getting pinned.
"But I talked to the guys and said, 'Look, we've got to get our heads on straight.' We wrestled Carthage, Mo., in our next dual, and we didn't win, but we wrestled much better against a tough opponent."
Wise singled out Brady Stafford with a huge effort to help the Wolverines earn the one-point win over Moore, Okla., to get fifth in the 14-team event. The odd part was Stafford did not win. But he was able to take the match to a decision to help the team win the dual.
"That was big for our team, and Brady understood that," Wise said. "If he gets pinned, we lose the dual. That's the thing about a dual, it's about getting those bonus points or avoiding giving them up. He was big for us."
Sports on 01/03/2019