For the first time, Baker High School will have a separate girls wrestling team.

Nine girls turned out for practice Monday, and the Baker School District plans to hire an assistant coach this week to coordinate girls wrestling practices, said Buell Gonzales Jr., the district’s athletic director.

“It’s exciting,” Gonzales said. “This is going to be really cool.”

Brandon Young remains the head coach for the BHS wrestling program, encompassing both girls and boys teams, Gonzales said.

Young said he is excited about giving girls the opportunity to participate in a sport that has been such a positive part of his life, both as a competitor and a coach.

“I know what it’s done for me, so why would I say that a girl shouldn’t be able to wrestle and have that same experience?” Young said.

Baker High School has had one or two girls wrestle — against boys — in the past couple of years, but this year’s team is the first to have a separate team in which girls compete against other girls in meets and tournaments.

“You want to meet the needs of the kids you have, and do everything you can to make it a positive experience,” Gonzales said.

He said some tournaments, including regional and state tournaments, will have separate brackets for girls. If there are events without a separate girls bracket, Baker girls would potentially have the option to wrestle against boys if they choose to, Young said.

Gonzales said two of Baker’s Greater Oregon League rivals, La Grande and Ontario, have girls on their wrestling teams.

Young said he expects more girls to turn out for wrestling at BHS in the future. Girls have been competing the past couple of years in the Baker Mat Club and at Baker Middle School, where Brianna Peppers has been the girls coach.

“We planted the seed,” Young said.

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