r When many girls her age are involved in things like dance and cheerleading — or even on girls’ soccer, basketball or softball teams — American Leadership Academy sophomore, Sage Mortimer is busy competing as a member of her high school’s wrestling team.
While the Utah High School Activities Association considers wrestling to be co-ed, even though it is predominantly a boys’ sport that girls can participate in, it’s girls like Sage who are taking things to the next level.
On January 8, Sage competed in the state’s All-Star Duals wrestling in the only co-ed match, taking home the win. Earlier this month, she represented her team well at the state championships, and just days following, earned the state title in her weight class at the high school girls’ state championships held at Telos U.
But it isn’t just at the state and local level where the high school sophomore has shined. Sage has traveled the country competing, even being the first female ever to place at the U.S. Marine Corps Jr. National Championships just last year. At that same meet, she came in second place in her weight class behind the female world champion. She has traveled to Colombia, Chile, and Japan, and was able to represent the United States at the Junior Pan American Championships.
Sage, who has competed since the age of eight, following the lead of her dad and older brothers, knows that competing against boys has only made her stronger. Even so, she believes that in order for the sport to progress, more girls need to join, and it needs to be a state-sanctioned sport for female high school athletes.
“I like that girls have opportunities to wrestle other girls since it is hard to do well against boys,” she said. “I like that there can be an even competition so you can see without a disadvantage how good you are. I hope the sport grows to a point where it is extremely competitive so that it won’t matter if you wrestle boys because you’ll have five tough girls on your team to push you. I also hope that wrestling becomes popular for the right reasons. Many girls want to wrestle for the attention and there’s no way you will be successful if that’s what you have in mind.”
With many more years ahead of her both as a high school athlete and beyond, Sage has set some goals for the future.
“I want to become the first girl to win state in the men’s division in Utah,” she said. “I have two more tries to get there, so I have to push myself harder than I ever have if I want to meet my goal. My biggest goal is to be an Olympian. I have been to other countries on Panam teams and won gold both times, so I want to make world teams and eventually go to the Olympics and win gold.”
It isn’t just the act of wrestling, and the prospect of big wins that motivate Sage to continue in this male-dominated sport. The star athlete loves the other things wrestling has taught her.
“What I love about the sport of wrestling is the hard work it takes,” she said. “I like showing myself and others what my body is capable of. You can’t show up to practice and not work as hard as you can, especially wrestling boys. I’m at a physical disadvantage to begin with, so I have to be the hardest worker in the room, district, state, country — whatever it takes. I love that wrestling is individual. You can’t rely on your team to win a match for you. You have to put in the work and do it yourself. But you can also have pride in the win and look back at it and say ‘yeah I did that,’ and be proud of it. The individual part of it also holds you accountable for your losses. You can’t just blame a teammate for your loss.”
Sage encourages girls who really want to try wrestling, to give it a try.
If you are interested in getting involved in girls’ wrestling in Utah, go to wrestleutah.com and click on the “Girls Info” tab where you will find information on camps, upcoming matches and team opportunities.