The wrestling room at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington is well-padded in blue wrestling mats from wall to wall. It’s cramped and warm, and the distinct smell of sweat and hard work can overpower onlookers the moment the door is opened.

In the far corner of the room, Brooklyn Webber, Abigail Garland and Kendall Foster are grappling in preparation for their biggest meet of the season: The Maine State Girls Wrestling Championship on Tuesday at Winslow High School.

The trio is also part of a rapidly growing number of high school girl wrestlers at Mt. Blue, as well as across the state and country. The girls wrestling championships, for example, will feature a record turnout of 97 wrestlers. Only 50 competed in this event last season.

Nationally, the numbers are equally as staggering. According to statistics kept by the National Federation of State High School Associations, the number of girls participating in wrestling jumped from 31,654 nationally in 2021-22, to 49,127 last year.

Mt. Blue wrestling team members Abigail Gartland, top, and Brooklynn Webber, in black, demonstrate a move Monday as the team observes during a Mt. Blue High School wrestling practice at the Farmington school. There are 10 female wrestlers on the team. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“It’s so great,” said Webber, a sophomore. “Last year, there were more girls (wrestling in Maine) than there was registered for the state tournament. A lot of the girls didn’t even show up (to states). It’s awesome, because there’s so many girls on other teams who don’t get those opportunities, because there’s boys in their (weight) class. They just sit on (the junior varsity roster) and don’t even get a chance to get a match. Now they have an opportunity to go to their own (state meet).”

The surge in participation numbers in Maine, both coaches and athletes across the state say, can be attributed to a few reasons: Many wrestling programs across the state are holding girls tournaments, which allows competitors the added comfort of competing against their own gender. Then, there’s the Maddie Ripley effect.


Ripley, a senior at Oceanside High in Rockland, made national headlines last season when she became the first girl in Maine to win an individual state wrestling championship while competing against boys. Ripley accomplished the feat by pinning Nick Allen of Wells in the final of the Class B 106-pound division.

“With her beating the guys, it sets a good goal for us,” said Belfast Area High School freshman Zady Paige, a state title contender in the 165-pound class. “I think she motivated a lot of girls to start wrestling.”

Added Oceanside wrestling coach Jason Yates, who is Ripley’s stepfather: “I think (the growth) is fantastic. Maddie’s older sister (Shannon Ripley, a 2017 Oceanside graduate) wrestled years ago. Back then, there were barely any (girl wrestlers). It wasn’t until after she left that they had the girls states, but honestly, it was treated more like a pee-wee tournament. Since then, they’ve brought more prestige to that tournament, to the point where it actually means something to these girls to win it. I think the more recognition they get, the better it is for that sport.”


Mt. Blue has 10 girl wrestlers on the team, tops among central Maine programs. The Cougars are coached by Mike Hansen, who is in his second year leading the program, but has coached many of his wrestlers through the middle school program.

“It all started back when (Foster) was in seventh grade and Logan (Bowman), Grace (Allen) and Brooklyn (Webber) were all fifth-graders at the middle school level,” Hansen said. “I had no new fifth grade boys come in; I just had these little fifth grade girls come in. … That same year, I had four girls just join the team. Our girls’ middle school program was good. They were beating boys up (on the mat) and doing really good.


Some of the female members of Mt. Blue’s wrestling team focus on the instructions given by coach Mike Hansen during a Mt. Blue High School wrestling practice Monday at the school in Farmington. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“We all know that puberty hits males and females differently, and (the success) was going to change for them someday,” Hansen continued. “For the average girl, coming into a sport like softball, you go out and field a team of softball players who play against their peers, same age, same sex. It’s safe, it’s fun and it’s fair. The girls just didn’t have that (in wrestling). When I had these girls coming through my middle school program, I was going, ‘man, I wish there was more opportunities.’ I found that there was, but they were all in other states.”

Hanson added he often took his team to out-of-state tournaments, which helped raised interest in the sport.

“Other girls saw that I was willing to travel to other girls tournaments,” Hansen said. “By doing that, other girls went, ‘Well, I want to go. I want to see how I do against the girls, because right now I go 5-10 against the boys.’ We took them to New Englands, they had a girls tournament and we won the whole thing. It continued to grow from there.”

“When we walk into a tournament, we just stand out, because our team is so big,” said Foster, a senior. “But we’re all like sisters. I’ve been wrestling with four of the girls on the team since I was in seventh grade.”

Foster returns to the girls championship on Tuesday in the 165-pound class. Webber (107 pounds) was a runner-up last year in her class. She’s also won tournaments this season at 114 pounds. Garland has also won tournaments in the 100-pound class. Sophomore Logan Smith (107) and senior Kellsie Buzzell (185) are contenders in their respective weight classes as well.

“(Wrestling at states) makes the girls realize that it’s a big accomplishment,” Garland said. “It’s a great way to show they can be proud of themselves for (succeeding) in a sport that’s difficult.”



Prior to this season, there had never been a regular season tournament exclusively for girl wrestlers. That all changed on Feb. 3 with the Skowhegan Girls Tournament, which drew 60 wrestlers.

Other tournaments — including The Franklin Savings Bank Classic at Mountain Valley High in Rumford on Dec. 16 and the Noble Invitational in North Berwick on Dec. 27 — had a boys and girls championship bracket.

Noble wrestling coach Kevin Gray is seen in 2018. Portland Press Herald file

Noble brought out a mat light for both the girls and boys championship matches, adding to the atmosphere.

“It was a great opportunity to host that and have such great numbers,” Noble head coach Kevin Gray said. “We didn’t really know what the numbers were going to be like. We had close to 60-65 entries just in our tournament, which was huge. We discussed how we were going to mingle this into our finals. Should we run it on its own? Should we not? We talked to the coaches and we followed some of the same programming as the nationals, where they intermix the women’s and men’s (finals), so we just decided we were going to do that, put them under the light. They deserve it, and (the light) is one of the key attractors of our tournament. The crowd was in it and it was really a great experience for everyone.”

Skowhegan sophomore Sophie Noyes, a girls state championship contender, was thrilled for the opportunity to have a girls tournament in her home gym.


“It’s awesome, and it’s a good (scouting opportunity) for girls states,” Noyes said. “You don’t see that many girls during the regular season. It’s nice to have that so you can see who you’re going to be up against in the postseason.”

For some wrestlers, there is also the comfort of wrestling against their own gender. For years, wrestling has been a co-ed sport, with girls competing against boys of the same weight class.

Mt. Blue wrestling team member Brooklynn Webber, facing, takes down teammate Keira Adams while working through the Mt. Blue High School wrestling practice Monday at the school in Farmington. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“Boys and girls anatomies are obviously not the same,” said Webber, a Mt. Blue wrestler. “Boys hit puberty and get their muscles, just because. In middle school, I did pretty well. When I got to high school, I’m losing to guys who, their technique isn’t as good as mine, but their muscles end up overpowering me and I lose those matches. I get down on myself, but then I remember that, it’s different. When I get these opportunities (to wrestle girls), I get so happy.”

“I think one of the things you hear from the other girl wrestlers is, they don’t want to wrestle with the boys, they want to compete against girls,” Skowhegan head coach Tenney Noyes added. “There’s youth tournaments doing it (now). They’re feeling more comfortable with it, knowing they can get more head-to-heads against girls, and that’s what they enjoy.”

Sophie Noyes said she believes the opportunity to see girls wrestle against girls can boost participation numbers.

“I think social media also plays a big role,” she said. “Girls just being able to see girls wrestling. Having girls see that (coverage), I think, will attract more people.”



Ripley’s historic 2022-23 season has had an undeniable impact on girls wrestling in Maine.

Ripley on Saturday was chasing her second consecutive open Class B title, this time in the 113-pound class. Ripley beat Keygan Boucher of Mountain Valley for the Class B South title.

Ripley also competed at last year’s girls championship, beating Webber for the 107-pound title.

Oceanside wrestler Phoenix Martinez, back to, grapples with Maddie Ripley during a practice on Dec. 6 in South Elementary School in Rockland. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

“I think (the growth) is really good,” Ripley said. “It’s kind of surprising that it doubled over a year. It’s way different. I have been seeing a lot more girls recently at all the tournaments.”

Though Ripley’s breakthrough title is only a year old, she has had success throughout her entire high school career. Her fellow competitors say girl wrestlers of all ages are paying attention.


“I think she has had a big impact on the younger girls looking up to her,” Sophie Noyes said. “Going to tournaments and, there’s always little girls there wearing ‘Ripley’ T-shirts or something. Last year at (the New England qualifier), there was a little girl in a singlet, running around (the gym) just to watch Maddie wrestle.”

Ripley said she wasn’t aware of the impact her success has had on her peers.

“It feels pretty good,” Ripley said. “It’s kind of surprising, I didn’t think I had that much of an impact on (girls) joining.”


There is belief among many coaches that girls wrestling will be a standalone sports offered by the Maine Principals’ Association, perhaps as soon as next season.

Gray, the Noble coach, said he’s been working with his school district to potentially hire a girls head coach, in the hopes of fielding its own standalone varsity program.


“To have a specific tournament and a hopeful league coming in the next few years here, to be able to set up dual meets against other teams that have just girls, that’s huge,” Gray said.

Hansen has already put the work in within Mt. Blue’s district, Regional School Unit 9, to have his team become the first recognized girls wrestling varsity program in Maine.

Hansen said he’s discussed the matter with the RSU 9 board of directors.

“They have their own uniforms, the transportation is the same, it’s the same bus to the same tournaments,” he said. “We’ve shown it all year long. The girls are here, the numbers are here. It’s time to move with the appropriate haste.”

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