RICHFIELD — While the high school wrestlers take to the mats at the Rockwell Rumble, a big youth wrestling event will take place in Richfield on Friday and Saturday in the Sevier Event Center. The Beehive Brawl brings together nearly 1,000 wrestlers from several states this year, ages 5 through 15. A unique twist to this year's event is that it will feature an all-girls wrestling tournament.
On top of that Katherine Shai, two-time alternate for the Olympic team and five-time national team member, will give a clinic prior to Friday's competition. Shai, formerly known as Katherine Fulp-Allen, comes from a distinguished wrestling family and is a true pioneer in female wrestling.
Shai's father Lee was a prominent wrestling coach in California and 3-time Olympian while her mother Joan Fulp was a fixture in the youth wrestling scene even being inducted into the California Wrestling Hall of Fame for her contributions to the sport.
Shai is a board member of the Wrestling Like a Girl organization and she, along with her parents, have promoted sanctioning girls high school wrestling at the state level. Currently, only six of 50 states sanction high school girls wrestling. Utah is not one of those states meaning that girls that want to wrestle must compete against the boys. Currently, approximately 100 girls are wrestling at the high school level in the Beehive State, and that number is increasing each year.
The number of female youth wrestlers is also increasing steadily in Utah and Beehive Brawl founder and tournament director Andy Unsicker felt it was time to try to have a tournament just for girls. But he also wanted to make it a truly memorable experience by inviting one of the top female wrestlers in United States' history in Shai to give a clinic. And wrestlers from both genders should benefit from the wrestling knowledge and motivational messages that Shai brings.
Unsicker is still worried about having enough female wrestlers to make a tournament viable, so he is still allowing interested girls to compete in the boys' tournament, much like he has done in past years since the Beehive Brawl's inception.
Some of the top girl wrestlers in the state have regularly competed in the Beehive Brawl including Hailey Cox of Maple Mountain, a national youth champion, and Sage Mortimer who placed second in the junior high super state tournament last year competing against approximately 20 other male competitors. Mortimer, a freshman at American Leadership Academy, has gained the third seed in the 98-pound division at the Rockwell Rumble.
However, it is the goal of many to sanction girls wrestling in Utah so girls can compete solely against other female wrestlers. This will require changing some stereotypes about females competing in contact sports and increasing the number of girl wrestlers to make the concept realistically viable.
Announcing for the clinic and introducing Shai will be Brian Preece, a former high school coach that has supported girls competing in wrestling. Mali Marticorena who attended West High in the early 1990s was the first female wrestler to compete in high school wrestling in Utah when Preece was an assistant wrestling coach at the school. Preece also coached the first female wrestler who participated on a Utah County program while the head coach at Provo High School.
Other pioneers in the sport include George Chappell, who had several girl wrestlers including his own daughter, Kate, while he was the head coach at North Sevier High School. Kate Chappell was one of the first female wrestlers to qualify for the state tournament.
Uintah's Candace Workman became the first female wrestler to place at the state tournament when she placed second in the 3A state tournament while wrestling at Uintah. Workman then went on to see success at the college, national and international level.
The Beehive Brawl has a significant economic impact on Sevier County and Richfield in particular as thousands of people head to this central Utah town for this event. It was one of the largest youth tournaments in the western United States and besides the wrestling, Unsicker brings a festive environment to the event.