In a room hidden behind the main gym at Palm Desert High School, a group of student athletes are helping build up a sport while taking each other down.
“It’s tough: mentally, physically, it’s exhausting,” said Mia Navarro, captain of the Palm Desert high girls wrestling team. “But I love it.”
Navarro is competing in a sport that’s one of the fastest growing in the country.
I think once they see their friends do it, they want to come out and they’re succeeding, said Aztecs assistant head coach Edgar Santana.
Santana said a few years ago Palm Desert High had just a handful of girls competing in wrestling. Now, there’s enough to field a varsity team.
“We have three returning state qualifiers on our team, one nationally ranked wrestler. So, it’s going awesome,” he said. “Right now, we have a total of 14 girls.”
This rise in girls wrestling at Palm Desert High School mirrors what’s happening across the country. New numbers from the National Wrestling Coaches Association show a 46 percent average increase in girls high school wrestling competitors across all states from 2022 to 2023.
Many of these girl wrestlers at Palm Desert High School say what they learn on the mat impacts their lives off it.
“It’s a lot of discipline,” Navarro said. “I mean discipline is in life, like, all the time. So, I use that a lot.”
Navarro’s grappling goals are to win the high school national championship and later compete in college.
That’s my dream. Wrestle at (University of) Iowa,” she said.
A dream coach Santana expects more girls to have as this sport continues to build up one takedown at a time.
“There’s a bunch of scholarship opportunities. We’ve had a couple girls ourselves get some calls,” he said. “It’s growing and it’s only going to get bigger.”
This story was written and reported by Kai Beech.