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How 2 Arizona girls are breaking barriers on the wrestling mat

These teens are etching their names into Arizona wrestling history by not only dominating the girls division, but the boys division too.
How 2 Arizona girls are breaking barriers on the wrestling mat
Posted at 11:54 AM, Mar 04, 2024

Two Arizona girls are breaking barriers in high school wrestling, and the governing body of high school sports is making an exception so they can compete against boys to enhance their competition.

Audrey Jimenez of Tucson's Sunnyside High School recently etched her name in the state’s history to be the first girl to win an Arizona state title for wrestling in the boys division.

SEE MORE: Arizona teen is the 1st girl to win boys state wrestling title

Everest Leydecker from Desert Vista High School in Phoenix is the other female wrestler who has been allowed to compete against boys.

Trying to pin Leydecker down is an "Everest" of a challenge in itself. It’s not uncommon for her to be on a national stage and for her to shut out her opponent.

In a sit-down interview after the season, Leydecker explained, in wrestling circles, it’s common for girls as good as she is to wrestle boys. In fact, some of her male competitors seek her out to train alongside her.

“He said he wanted to wrestle me at the state tournament, so he came that weekend,” she said about one of her male competitors.

Pound for pound, Leydecker is one of the state’s best wrestlers. She’s won multiple national championships and even represented the U.S. at an international competition in Turkey.

“Ultimately, I would want to be an Olympian, a world champ, in the future,” she said.

However, there was a time recently when she would face off against a guy, she’d beat him handily, and because of Arizona Interscholastic Association bylaws, the match would go down in the record books as if she forfeited. She was awarded no points for her varsity wrestling team.

”I know everybody who was there knows who really won,” she said.

SEE MORE: Girls dropping out of sports spark concerns and conversations

Leydecker and Jimenez went before the AIA calling for an exception to the rule, along with other athletes who came before them.

Two-time Arizona high school state finalist and collegiate wrestler Nick Kehagias wrote a letter to the AIA asking to change the rule saying in part: “Our concern is that this rule promotes apathy among girl wrestlers and actually lowers the level of competition for both boys and girls wrestling.”

The AIA board listened and allowed only Leydecker and Jimenez to compete against boys for just one year.

Next year, Leydecker will be a junior and will have to ask for the exception again.

Her first match following the change was against a boy — and yes, she won that one, too.

”I did pin him in the first period,” she said.

In February, Jimenez became the first girl to win a state title competing against the boys. For Leydecker, her sights are set on doing the same — and then some.

Her coach David Gonzalez feels she, too, will be etched in wrestling history.

”If you set your goals at a high level, things can be accomplished,” he said.

This story was originally published by Jordan Bontke at Scripps News Phoenix.

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