In second year, Grizzlies wrestling developing a dynastyFeb 23, 2022 07:54PM ● By Greg James
The Copper Hills girls wrestling team is headed to the state tournament as a favorite to win; it has become the team to beat. (Photo courtesy of Scott Pace.)
Girls wrestling is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, with over 28,000 high school participants, according to the National Wrestling Coaches Association. The Copper Hills girls team welcomes any girl that wants to give it a try.
“It has been another good year,” Grizzlies girls head coach Scott Pace said. “We are growing and building and have a good team.”
The 2021–22 Copper Hills team expanded this season to 22 girls. The school administration has done everything it can to help the team feel included.
“This year has been fun,” Pace said. “Our school has done a great job of taking care of our team. We have our own wrestling room and space. It has given us an identity and not just an add-on to the boys.”
The team's success has continued. In 2021, it finished second at state to Westlake. It is on track to do it again (state tournament is after the press deadline).
“We love to wrestle against Westlake,” Pace said. “I am sure we can challenge them. It is amazing the year we have had.”
Wrestling has given girls many more opportunities to continue a sporting career after high school. Iowa, a perennial men’s wrestling powerhouse recently announced the addition of a women’s program. Locally, Snow College added men’s and women’s wrestling to its athletic department.
Ross Taylor, a prominent wrestler at Utah Valley University, has been named as the Badger's new head coach.
“We are starting from scratch,” Taylor said. “We know there will be growing pains, but we have overwhelming support, and the community members want to see this program succeed.”
Graduated Grizzly Alyssa Pace is one that could be impacted by the surge in women’s wrestling programs.
“[Alyssa] is going on a mission for the [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints],” Pace said. “She has had dozens of schools reach out to her but has not committed because the landscape is changing so quickly.”
The Grizzlies have three returning state champions, Brooklyn Pace, Ashley Wilcox and Anya Hatch.
“Anya [Hatch] and Brooklyn [Pace] are both all-American wrestlers,” Pace said. “I don’t want to call the rest of our team surprises because they don’t surprise me. They all work so hard. Kimberlynn [Fowers], Kara Noyce, and Tayleigh Robertson have all really pushed and helped us grow as a team.I think we have made this an all-inclusive and fun family environment. We accept everyone for who they are, and we have had some success.”
Most girls on the team did not grow up thinking they wanted to be a high school wrestler.
“This is a unique sport, but once they get in the room and try it out, we don’t lose girls,” Pace said.
The girls state tournament was scheduled for Feb. 18–19 (after the press deadline). Pace is hoping the team would come away with a repeat of last season.
“This team looks after each other,” he said. “They all have different backgrounds. Some of these kids just need a place and this team has welcomed them with open arms. I really want to win, but more important than that is that it is a family.”