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Greg Lee column - These girls don’t take a back seat to anybody in wrestling

Amanda Gilliam of North Central and Cierra Foster of Post Falls are through with what’s been the cliché of their sport.

They’re wrestlers and proud of it. They’re not trying to make a statement competing in what has predominantly been a male sport.

Foster, a junior, has been wrestling since she was six years old. And she got into the sport because her older brother was wrestling.

She makes no apology nor does she have to offer one.

“Wrestling is all I’ve been doing,” Foster said. “It’s way more than making a statement. It’s way more than sports to me. It’s a lifestyle.”

Foster wrestles in a state that doesn’t offer a state tournament for girls. Washington, on the other hand, has had a state tournament for girls since 2007.

So when Foster arrived at Post Falls as a freshman, she had no choice. She had to go head-to-head with the boys.

Foster made a name for herself that year, too. She became the first female to place at the boys state tournament. She took third at 106 pounds.

She tried to go against the boys as a sophomore but as she grew the boys were also growing.

“At 106 boys were strong but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle,” Foster said. “Now they’re too strong for me. I’ll get hurt because of their strength.”

So Foster had to find female competition this year. She’s been wrestling in girls tournaments in Washington.

She’ll wrestle in another girls tournament this weekend at the Dream Duals at the Spokane Convention Center. She’ll be with West Valley officially although WV can’t count her results.

Foster is 19-1 this winter, her lone loss coming at a tournament two weeks ago in Kelso when she fell 5-1 to Brooklyn Bartleson of Puyallup, who is ranked third at 125.

“Honestly, if we wrestled again I’d beat her,” Foster said.

Oh how Foster wished she was in a state that offered a state tournament. She said there are about 14 girls in Idaho currently wrestling.

“I think it’ll happen someday. It’s awesome that Washington has it,” Foster said. “Going to (girls) tournaments and experiencing the atmosphere, it’s different from the guys but I like it.”

Gilliam, a senior, was ranked second at 115 in the preseason rankings. She took third at state last year at 110.

She figured to challenge for a state title. But her final season was sidetracked.

NC coach Luke Leifer planned to wrestle Gilliam in a league-opening dual against Mead. Last year, wrestling against boys during the regular season, she was 4-4 in GSL duals.

But as NC was warming up, the Indians’ two heavyweights fell on Gilliam’s leg, breaking it.

“It was heartbreak when it happened,” she said. “I was super confident coming into the season. I was expecting to win a state title.”

Gilliam is hopeful she’ll be released by her doctor to wrestle starting next week. It’s cutting it close to district in early February.

“I think I can get back and place high at state and maybe be a state champ at the end of the day,” Gilliam said.

Gilliam has been working on the side, trying to build up her conditioning.

Leifer and Post Falls coach Pete Reardon are proud of their female wrestlers.

“She’d worked pretty hard over the summer and felt a lot stronger,” Leifer said. “This was going to be her year. She’s pretty driven. She’s been working hard since she got the boot off her leg.”

“Cierra started young and had a great foundation by the time she got to high school,” Reardon said. “I’d say if she were wrestling in Washington, she’d challenge for a state title.”

Both girls want to wrestle in college. There are fewer opportunities for them than there are for boys, but more and more colleges are adding the sport.

“I’m in love with wrestling,” said Foster, who carries a 3.9 grade-point average.

Foster has a recruiting trip lined up to Oklahoma City University. She’s also being recruited by Simon Fraser.

Gilliam, who started wrestling in eighth grade, is behind considering the injury she’s dealt with this season. But she’s sending out video to colleges.

“I had been my little brother’s drill partner for four years and I got tired of getting my butt kicked so I decided to fight back,” said Gilliam, who has a 3.4 GPA. “It’s been rough not wrestling this season.”

Foster and Gilliam want to use wrestling for bigger and better things. Foster wants to be either a biochemist or physical therapist. Gilliam hopes to be a psychologist.

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