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Women’s Wrestling Week: Alaska’s Michaela Hutchison was first girl to win state title against boys

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | March 13, 2016, 1:19 p.m. (ET)

Michaela Hutchison competes as an Alaska high school wrestler. Photo from Alaska Sports Hall of Fame website.

During the early years of the development of women’s wrestling on the high school level, girls had only one choice in participating in the sport. They had to join the existing boys wrestling team, practice with boys and compete against boys. Although this situation led to a variety of challenges for a number of reasons, the number of girls who participated in wrestling steadily grew on an annual basis.

There were some very talented girls who not only were able to win matches in competitions against boys, but in some cases, compete at a very high level. This led to elite girls who were able to qualify for their state high school championships, and even win a medal at the state level.

On the final day of Women’s Wrestling Week, we celebrate a trailblazer in high school wrestling who reached the top of the podium at the state level, when that achievement was not expected to happen at all.

When Michaela Hutchison of Soldotna, Alaska claimed a spot on the varsity boys wrestling team at Skyline High School as a freshman, she was very successful. From a wrestling family, her father was USA Wrestling’s state chairperson in Alaska, and her older sister Melina had already been successful in high school and in USA Wrestling programs. She also had brothers Eli and Zeb who were very accomplished wrestlers.

As a freshman, Hutchison not only made the state championships at 103 pounds, she reached the state finals, where she placed second. She joined a select group of girls who had also been second in the state meet against boys, featuring Erica Dye of West Virginia and Deanna Rix of Maine.

In addition to competing in high school, Michaela was also active and successful in USA Wrestling’s women’s wrestling program. She made TheMat.com/ASICS Girls High School All-American First Team as a freshman. In 2005, Hutchison won a gold medal at USA Wrestling's Body Bar Women's FILA Cadet Nationals in El Cajon, Calif. at 108 pounds. She also captured a silver medal at the 2005 ASICS Women's Junior Nationals at 110 pounds.

As a sophomore, Hutchison continued to improve, and once again made the Alaska state championship at Chugiak High School at 103 pounds. This time, when she reached the finals on February 5, 2006, the outcome was different.

Hutchison became the first girl to ever win a state high school wrestling championship competing against boys. In the finals, she beat Aaron Boss of Colony High School, 1-0. The difference in the match was an escape with 16 seconds left in the bout. She finished the year with a 45-4 record, including 33 pins. It was also the first time that a brother and sister had ever won state titles side-by-side, as Eli also won the state title at 135 pounds.

Michaela Hutchison was inspired to wrestle because of her brothers, Eli and Zeb.

"I just started because of them, because I wanted to be like them," said Hutchison after winning the state title.

Since wrestling was such an important part of the Hutchison family’s life, her victory was all about the sport and about family, not about the fact that she was a girl.

"For us it's not a gender issue. To us it's just wrestling," said her dad Mike Hutchison at the time. "She wrestles because she loves the sport. She's not making a statement. Her goal was to win the state championship because it was the state championship, not because she's a girl. She just wrestles for the sake of wrestling."

The story of Michaela’s win at the state tournament quickly went national and global, as media reports told the story of the tough, talented and humble girl up in Alaska and her amazing feat.

Michaela and Eli did not stop making history together after that famous day up in Alaska. On July 25, 2006 in Fargo, N.D., the brother and sister combination won ASICS/Vaughan Junior National titles on the same day, with Eli taking the Junior National Greco-Roman gold medal at 135 pounds and Michaela winning the Junior women’s freestyle gold medal at 119 pounds.

Although Michaela wrestled the boys in high school, that wasn’t the case in college. She was a star on Oklahoma City University’s women’s wrestling team, winning three WCWA women’s college national titles and taking second the other year. The athlete who stopped her from being a four-time winner was Helen Maroulis of Simon Fraser, who beat Hutchison in the 2011 WCWA National finals in three periods, 7-1, 1-2, 2-1. Maroulis ended up winning four WCWA national titles herself and was a 2015 World champion.

Hutchison went into coaching after college, and serves as assistant wrestling coach for McKendree University in Illinois, where she works with head coach Sam Schmitz and others helping build the next generation of women’s wrestling championships.

And her competitive career is far from over. Hutchison is pursuing her Olympic dream, competing for the Titan Mercury WC on the Senior women’s circuit. She was second at the 2015 World Team Trials to secure a spot on the U.S. Women’s National Team, and won the 2016 U.S. Open in Las Vegas, Nev., her first Senior nationals title. She is currently training for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Iowa City, Iowa, April 9-10.

Another has followed. Hope Steffensen of Kenai became the second Alaska girl to win a state high school title, when she reached the top of the podium in 2010.

There could be fewer girls who are able to achieve success against boys, as more states are adding an official state championship event for the girls. Female wrestlers in high schools in Hawaii, Texas, California, Washington, Tennessee and Oregon have state championships for girls. And last year, there were enough girls wrestling that Alaska added a state tournament for girls at the Class 1-2-3A level. A day may come when there can never be another Michaela Hutchison story in high school wrestling, as all-girls competitions are developed in every state.

ABOUT WOMEN’S WRESTLING WEEK

USA Wrestling has declared the week of March 5-13 as Women’s Wrestling Week in the United States. Any female athlete who is not a member of USA Wrestling is invited to come out and try the sport at a chartered club practice. USA Wrestling will provide a complimentary membership for March 5-13, the time covered by Women’s Wrestling Week.

USA Wrestling chartered clubs have been encouraged to allow females of all ages to attend their practice free of charge during World Wrestling Week. To find a club program in your area, visit the link below:
http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Wrestling/Membership/Athletes/Find-a-Club

Additionally, female athletes with prior wrestling experience who would like to participate in a USA Wrestling sanctioned event may do so on both weekends of March 5-6 and March 12-13. USA Wrestling extended the week to cover two weekends in order to provide even more opportunity for young women to try the sport. Athletes who will attend practices or events with the complimentary membership are asked to confirm their attendance in advance with the club leader or event host before going to the activity.