The growth of girls wrestling in California and across the nation is taking off. Mira Costa was one of the only schools locally to have girls competing against boys in recent years, but that will not be necessary anymore. This year Mira Costa has a separate girls wrestling team.
"Wrestling has a lot to offer," said head coach Rick Gurrola. "It is more than just a sport. It is a lifestyle."
Originally he started out with around 25 girls, but now the team is down to 12 after some dropped out for various reasons.
"They realized how tough wrestling really is," Gurrola said. "For us to have 12 is great. It is a great accomplishment."
The coach recently went to a tournament at Carter High School in Rialto and noticed that two teams had a large number of girls participating.
Two schools from Corona-Northview and Corona had 38 and 50 girls, respectively.
"It's growing every year," Gurrola said. "They said last year (at the tournament) that they did not have the number of girls that they have this year."
For the Mustangs, it all started with Alex Rosen and Ariel Floro in 2011. Rosen was a soccer player with athleticism that translated to the mat and did well against the boys with her limited experience.
Floro carried the torch the next three years before graduating. She went on to place sixth at the fifth annual CIF Girls Wrestling State Invitational Championships in the 131 pound weight class. It was the first medal in girls wrestling by a Mira Costa competitor.
Sasha Medvidovic also wrestled last year, but was a freshman and learned as much as she could from Floro.
"All of my goals are based off what Ariel has done," Medvidovic said.
Her freshmen year was a big learning experience.
"She was at such a higher level than me. I had no confidence in my wrestling. She really helped me build my confidence. She told me how it was her freshmen year."
She remains in close contact with Floro.
"We talk all the time," Medvidovic said.
As a sophomore, she has the chance to do what Floro did as a senior. Medvidovic is that talented, according to her coach.
"Sasha is incredible," Gurrola said. "She is really committed to it."
A lot of the rise in popularity comes from girls who are inspired by UFC star Ronda Rousey. She has a big influence on them, even though the sport is a bit different.
"I know both Ariel and I look up to Ronda Rousey and also I know that she breaks all the barriers," said Medvidovic, who is the captain of this year's team.
She and Gurrola have had to teach the younger wrestlers the finer points of the sport – like not apologizing to your opponent when you put on a good move and win.
"I look at all the girls hugging each other, but they always say they are sorry," Gurrola said. "We have to correct them. They are so nice and kind to each other."
Besides Medvidovic, the other wrestlers are freshmen and eager to improve their skills.
"They're learning and coming around," Gurrola said.
Sofia Beck received support to join the team from her father, who is a former wrestler.
"When I told him there was a girls wrestling team he said, 'You should totally go for it and he has really inspired me to do this. And I really love this so much, so it's perfect really.'"
Being part of the first team is something she will always cherish.
"It's one of the best things I have ever done,” Beck said.
Allysa Nocum is new to the sport and is truly excited about the opportunity.
"I didn't even know there was a girls wrestling team until there was a demo in my class and it was really good," Nocum said. "It was the best thing in the world."
She explained that in the demonstration a small girl threw a boy to the ground. That had her hooked.
"It's the most fun thing I have ever done."
The other wrestlers on the team are Sierra Harvey, Isabella Avila, Emily Ayers, Samantha Carranza, Jaslynn Mejia, Madison Reinart, Sofia Aguirre and Vivianna Ramirez.
The wrestlers will get a chance to test their skills in late January during a tournament in Carson.