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Sophomore Mariah Wahl has wrestled for the Cut Bank Wolves and head coach Cody Fetters for both seasons of her high school career. She and teammate Dakota Manecke have both had “top five” finishes at tournaments during the 2019-20 wrestling season. Mariah is the daughter of Chantry and Kara Wahl.

Girls wrestling on the boys wrestling team? While it is not a novel concept, it still seems pretty new for Cut Bank wrestling fans.

This wrestling season, Cody Fetters, the head coach of the Cut Bank High School wrestling team, has two girls wrestling on the team. Dakota Manecke is a senior at Cut Bank High School and Mariah Wahl is a sophomore. 

“Girls wrestling is becoming more and more popular. It almost seems more the norm than it was some time ago,” Fetters said. “Haylee Fultz was the first girl wrestler I coached and that was back in 2010 and there have been some others since then.” 

Fetters continued, “We have two this year. They are both good athletes, fast learners, very determined and never want to quit. More often than not, the victories they have had, have mostly been come from behind wins. They definitely are not quitters.”

Fetters said everyone from coaches, to the boy wrestlers, to the girls are getting used to having girls in what used to be, a predominantly boys sport. 

“The guys are getting more used to having the girls around all the time. And the good news–they really consider them their teammates. They not only watch them wrestle at meets, but they cheer them on too.”

He added, “It is tough, however, for some of the guys to lose to a girl. It is that male ego and adrenaline thing that kicks in for them and sometimes they are just super competitive and don’t want to lose to anyone, boy or girl. There are times, however, when the girl wrestler is just better and she wins and the boys just have to learn that is way it is.”

The goal Fetters has had since the first girl entered the boys wrestling program, was to “try not to treat them any differently. And for the most part, that works,” he said. “The challenge sometimes is when you have to show them certain positions or moves. It is always easier to demonstrate the position on them, which I still do, but now I have to think more about how I will do that. We make it work and the girls are really good with it all.” 

Fetters said the girls wrestling are often times stronger than they look, which is the case with both Dakota and Mariah. 

“Girls get underestimated a lot in wrestling. And they are getting really good at capitalizing on their opponent’s mistakes and using them to their advantage. That is the beauty of wrestling, perfect technique can beat strength, any time,” Fetters pointed out.

Both Dakota and Mariah have had a few top five finishes at tournaments, a feat that Fetters said, “is excellent!”

The girls wrestle in a weight class, just like the boys and, hopefully, they will find other girls at other schools they can compete against. However, if not, then they wrestle the boys in their weight class.

Next year, the wrestling season might be a little different for everyone in Montana. The Montana High School Association has decided to make girls wrestling a high school sport, hoping there will be enough girls participating that it becomes like basketball and there will be a girls team and a boys team. 

“We will have the girls wrestling pilot program in place next school year, 2020-2021 with Coach Fetters and Coach Bundy assigned as head and assistant girls coach,” said Wade Johnson, Superintendent of Cut Bank Schools. 

“The girls will wrestle in a very similar manner as this year, except at the State Wrestling Tournament, where girls will have their own division. Eventually, the idea is for the girls to have their own division at all regular season, divisional and state wrestling meets. That, however, will depend on the number of participants across the state. It will be very interesting to see if creating this new division will increase female participation in the sport of wrestling.”

Under the schools Title IX and Ridgeway agreement, the number of sports or activities offered in the schools must be equal for boys and girls. “However, schools must also consider proportionality in the numbers of boys and girls participation rates,” Johnson explained. 

“For Cut Bank, our boys’ offerings and participation rates are strong enough that we do not anticipate needing to add an additional sport at this time. This could change, but we study this each year and we will adapt when needed.”

Fetters agreed that the change for next year might bring more girls into the program, knowing they will more than likely be competing against girls and not as many boys. 

“We have some strong numbers this year, with 25 total kids in our wrestling program,” Fetters said. “We may end up with more, based on the change from MHSA adding girls wrestling. I am nervous, but excited about what could be for next year. There will be bumps and kinks for everyone that first year, but then it will become old hat.”

Fetters has been involved in wrestling since 1985 when he took to the mat as a “little guy” wrestler. He has been coaching in a variety of capacities for 18 years and has been the head coach for Cut Bank High School’s wrestling program for 15 years. 

“I have never had a team where I didn’t love the kids. Some years it is a roller coaster ride with numbers, but I love them all. It is my passion to coach these kids and seem them grow, mature and become good, productive citizens of our community. And for me, it doesn’t matter if I am coaching boys or girls. They are all great kids.”

“The Cut Bank High School Wrestling team is enjoying a very successful season as a whole under the direction of Coach Fetters and Coach Bundy. And Mariah and Dakota are representing themselves and our school very well,” concluded Johnson.

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