Blackfoot senior wins at first state sanctioned girls wrestling tournament

Jordon Beesley/Idaho State Journal Lana Hunt, 17, is currently the only female wrestler at Blackfoot High School, but she says the sport is starting to catch on among other girls in the state. More than 40 participated in the Jaybird Memorial Wrestling Tournament in Nampa over the weekend. The event was the first girls wrestling tournament to be sanctioned by the Idaho High School Activities Association.

Jordon Beesley/Idaho State Journal
Lana Hunt, 17, is currently the only female wrestler at Blackfoot High School, but she says the sport is starting to catch on among other girls in the state. More than 40 participated in the Jaybird Memorial Wrestling Tournament in Nampa over the weekend. The event was the first girls wrestling tournament to be sanctioned by the Idaho High School Activities Association.

By Kendra Evensen, kevensen@journalnet.com

A Blackfoot High School wrestler not only took the title for the 101-pound weight class during the Jaybird Memorial Wrestling Tournament in Nampa over the weekend, but she helped to make history.

Lana Hunt participated in the first girls wrestling tournament to be sanctioned by the Idaho High School Activities Association.

“It was amazing. For years I’ve never really competed against girls,” Hunt said, but added that more females are starting to get involved in the sport. “It’s just good to know that it’s growing.”

Todd Cady, the wrestling coach who created the event held at Columbia High School on Saturday, told the Idaho Statesmen that more than 100 girls are certified to wrestle in the state right now compared to roughly 30 or 40 a year ago.

More than 40 girls participated in Saturday’s tournament.

Hunt, who is currently the only female wrestler at Blackfoot High School, was able to compete against three other girls in her weight class during the event.

“It was nice to be able to compete against other girls. (When I) compete against guys I’m (often) outmuscled so I can’t do the moves I want to work on,” she said, adding that competing in the tournament gave her an opportunity to strengthen some of those moves.

And she did well enough to win in her weight class.

“It felt pretty cool,” she said.

As part of the event, Hunt also had a chance to participate in a wrestling clinic featuring Katherine Shai (Fulp-Allen), who ranked third in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in both 2012 and 2016, according to www.teamusa.org.

“It was cool that I got to learn some moves from her,” Hunt said.

Hunt, who has been wrestling for five years, said she fell in love with the sport while watching her older brother, Lane Hunt, compete.

“I wanted to be like my big brother,” she said.

But she also enjoys competing in the sport, which she says pushes her to work hard to to improve and overcome the mental challenges of wrestling. She says the sport has also helped her to build more confidence.

The high school senior, who wants to pursue college wrestling, says Saturday’s tournament was a great opportunity for girls and she hopes the event will continue in the future.

“It makes me feel really hopeful that the sport is growing and being more accepted,” she said, adding that girls are starting to become more confident when it comes to participating in a sport they enjoy.

Cady started the Jaybird Memorial Wrestling Tournament this year to honor Nampa resident Jay Lanningham, a wrestling enthusiast and supporter, who died in a crash near McCammon in June. He had taken his granddaughter to Eastern Idaho so she could compete in a wrestling tournament, according to USA Idaho Wrestling’s Facebook page.

The Idaho Statesman reports that Lanningham’s granddaughter, Payton Lanningham, was one of the girls who competed in Saturday’s event.