RHS adds girls wrestling

RHS adds girls wrestling
RHS Senior Madison FarrisIt takes a single spark to ignite flames that, with a little nurturing, can turn into an inferno.

Madison Farris is hoping that she is the spark to lead a ladies wrestling wildfire at Rifle High School.

For the 2022-23 school year, girls wrestling is the newest sport in the Rifle High School athletics inventory, thanks to Madison’s curiosity, and a lot of logistics work from Athletic Director Chris Bomba and Head Wrestling Coach John Wisniewski.

For its initial campaign, the team is a small but mighty five girls. They can accept new members throughout the season including girls from other local schools that may not have a program. Girls need five practices before they can compete, and get weight certified, but they can join the team at any time.

Madison was the catalyst for the new sport. She transferred to Rifle High School this year - her 13th school during her academic career. Throughout all of the travel - all of the challenges - wrestling has been a constant in her life.

“I’ve been a wrestler, even in middle school when I was moving around. I went to four middle schools. Wrestling has just been the thing that I can kind of settle down on, and it helps me maintain my grades throughout the year because that's the one thing that I look forward to at every school.”

Over the course of her wrestling career, Madison has seen success wrestling both girls and boys. When she realized Rifle High School did not have a girls wrestling program, she began asking questions.

“I was persistent on having it because I've been on other girls teams and I prefer wrestling girls instead of the boys. So I just kept coming in and talking to Mr. Bomba about, possibly trying to figure out if we could even start one. Over time it kind of just happened. Everybody started putting work in.”

Rifle High Athletic Director Chris Bomba and Head Wrestling Coach John Wisniewski were excited by the idea and the interest.

“We’ve had girls on the wrestling team in the past, Keaton Long, Matti Long, Emilee Demann, and they were really successful, but there came a point in their careers where they were not as successful against the boys,” said Wisniewski. Keaton Long was somewhat of a pioneer in Colorado’s girls wrestling journey earning the 147-pound weight class title from the USWGWA Colorado Girls Wrestling State Championship back in 2008.

The sport has advanced in the last decade. In 2020, the Colorado High School Athletics Association sanctioned girls wrestling as an official CHSAA sport. There had not been interest at Rifle High School until Madison came along. Coach Wisniewski is ecstatic to add the girls to the wrestling program.

“I'm really happy to see this addition,” he explained. “Girls wrestling is the number one growing sport in America and it’s great to have a program at Rifle High School.”

He said over the last decade, many colleges have added women’s wrestling programs with the men’s wrestling powerhouse University of Iowa adding a program for the 22-23 school year. In Colorado, girls have their own state tournament, but female athletes can only compete in that tournament if they are wrestling girls during the regular season. Any female that wrestles with the boys, must compete in the boys wrestling tournament.

There are still a few wrinkles to be ironed out as they build the new program. Coach Wisniewski said the schedule is still being finalized since it came about late in the planning process and they are looking for a coach to focus exclusively on the girls program.

“It’s been fun and challenging,” said Wisniewski. “We're trying to manage the boys and girls at the same time. It's fantastic to have a full (wrestling) room. The last three years we’ve had 15, 14, 12 guys in the room. Now we have 20 guys and five girls. There is a lot of excitement in the program right now and it’s really invigorated my passion for the sport.”

Madison is hoping that this year’s team will ignite interest in years to come.

“We’re building a program, but we’re trying to build that family aspect, that friendship,” said Madison. “These girls are amazing. It's not about the seniors this year. It's about trying to highlight our juniors, sophomores and freshmen and keeping them going. We’ve got each other’s backs. We help each other with school work, with transportation. We're trying to build a family.”

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