Women power: Richland women's wrestling team gets down

The Richland women’s wrestling team “gets down” all right and not just not on your typical dance floor.  These women are “All American” championship wrestlers and their floor of choice is a collegiate wrestling mat. The women’s team finished fourth in the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA) Tournament held in Allen on March 11. 

The women of the Richland Thunderduck wrestling team include Alexus Sauceda and Yaritza Arteaga who finished second in their weight class.  Placed shoulder-to-shoulder with some of their male counterparts, these women may seem diminutive in size, but pound-for-pound they are just as tough. 

In preparation for their individual weight class matches, you will find them right alongside the men tussling, throwing, and taking down their female sparring partners. Their coach Bill Neal, who was named Southwest Conference Coach of the Year at the NCWA Tournament, does not hold back any expectation for this feisty trio. A full practice is each weekday Monday through Thursday with collegiate matches occurring on the weekends.  

Arteaga, a biochemistry major, keeps a full day’s schedule which includes morning classes, wrestling practice from 2 to 4 p.m and continuing on with her class schedule until about 8 p.m.  Even with a demanding schedule, she said, “I have never been so passionate about a sport until wrestling.”  She encourages others to “try it out,” and that they should “go for it.”  

Not all of the ladies challenges are squarely centered on the mat.  When considering wrestling, Cortez said that some of her peers would “just laugh at her and say she was too skinny and too small.”  This just motivated her to prove them wrong.  

Cortez enjoys the challenge of wrestling, saying “wrestling really teaches you discipline.”  Arteaga said wrestling because of the physicality.  During practice she can be seen hoisting her teammates both guys and gals, over her shoulder just as a fireman would lift a person they rescue.  

Arteaga said states she appreciates that along with the other women she’s treated the same as the guys. Arteaga said she respects learning from her more experienced male teammates as well.  Over spring break at their tournament, Arteaga along with Sauceda enjoyed the honor of becoming the women “All-Americans,” Neal said when other challengers find out that his women “throw” a lot (that is to say, flip or slam their opponent) for big points “they run from us.” 

Neal said that although the collegiate folk-style wrestling season is over the team will move on to two different forms of wrestling, freestyle and Greco-Roman. A tournament will be hosted here at Richland June 3 with an expectation of “80 to a 100 wrestlers from Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas” participating. 

For complete report of the teams tournament results over spring break, go to ncwa.net/results, and the brackets and team scores are available.  This month while some women march, others may wrestle.