Taci Tapia (left) with coach Billy Cox (right).
Carbon County’s own Taci Tapia was part of history over the weekend as she traveled to Idaho to wrestle in the first ever girls Greco duals at the 2018 Turf Wars.
At the meet, for the first time in United States history, female age-group athletes participated in a series of official Greco-Roman dual meets. Tapia was part of the Utah team that competed against teams from 11 other states at the tournament.
In Idaho, 160 athletes wrestled in a pool-system dual meet format. Tapia met opponents on the mat four times throughout the weekend, notching a 2-2 record and adding impressive feats to her wrestling resume.
Tapia’s interest in wrestling began at a young age.
“She was born into a wrestling lifestyle with a dad who wrestled with her the moment she was able to lift her head,” Tapia’s mother Jamill said. “At seven years old, Taci begged to wrestle so we gave in and allowed her to wrestle in the Raptor Wrestling program with her four-year-old brother.”
Taci completed this one season to some distress to her parents.
“We understood that one day she would become a young woman with a young woman’s body and because there was no such thing as a ‘girls wrestling league,’ she would have to wrestle boys,” Jamill said. “Yes, we were ‘those parents.’ We were afraid of what might happen, what others would think, what others would say and what could happen to our daughter.”
What Taci’s parents didn’t realize was that in the present day, nearly single boy in the wrestling world would eventually compete against a girl in a meet or tournament. Wrestling continued to be an important part of the Tapia household, and as Taci watched her father as an assistant wrestling coach, her love for the sport was reignited.
This led Taci to the Helper Junior High wrestling team. There, coach Phil Howa told her that if she could find another female wrestler to practice with, she could be part of the team. It didn’t take long for Taci to encourage one of her friends to join her on the mat, where she would go on to earn varsity positions throughout her tenure.
Then, two years ago, Taci met Billy Cox, the former Utah Girls Wrestling Director.
“Billy shared opportunities with Taci that almost seemed too good to be true,” Jamill said. “When Taci joined his girls wrestling team, he has since then introduced her to college wrestling coaches who coach female wrestling teams.”
Taci has traveled across the country with Cox and the Utah Girls Wrestling Team to national tournaments where she holds a third place national title for two years in a row as well as a first place state title for two years in a row. This last years’ state title included being Carbon High School’s first female who has earned a first place championship title in an all-girls high school state tournament.
“As recent as 10 years ago, it was much of an oddity and unheard off to see a girl wrestling amongst the boys,” Cox explained. “There were that occasional one or two but at the high school level the thought that a girl could beat a boy on the mat was often openly scoffed and laughed at.”
According to Cox, there are now over 45 colleges that offer girls varsity wrestling while the Olympics has had women’s wrestling in it for over 20 year and just recently crowned its first gold medalist. In Utah, there are over 100 girls wrestling in high schools across the state and over 250 girls from grades kindergarten through 12 have USA Wrestling Cards. Utah has taken girls teams to Oklahoma, Texas, Nevada, Idaho and North Dakota. Girls from Utah have also wrestled girls from Canada, Norway, Sweden, Mexico and Japan.
“No other sport can boast the diversity and travel than girls wrestling has brought,” Cox said. “Just this year, it was presented by USA Wrestling President Craig Lamont to sanction girl wrestling. It’s soon to be an emerging sport where every girl will have a chance to become a wrestler.”