Dallas Gott is the lone female wrestler at Wahkiakum High School. Her large expressive eyes, delicate features and petite frame are more reminiscent of a silent screen beauty than a high school athlete. Don’t let it fool you. They conceal the heart of a fierce competitor.
Crystal Davis is a Wa-Ki-Hi grad, softball coach and wrestling volunteer. She broke ground here, wrestling under Andy Wolf and Keith Burns for the Mules in the 90’s. Davis started volunteering with the youth wrestling program in 2003 when her son came of age. She first approached Dallas after seeing her compete on the high school softball field.
“Dallas has got a huge heart,” said Davis. If Dallas struggled one day, the next was “a new day, a new game. It was a different Dallas. It was a better Dallas, more determined. She was…not going to let one bad game interrupt her life. She worked hard to make sure the second game was going to be better. She had the drive. I told her, you have the heart, the dedication. Try wrestling. You’re the kind of people that I seek to come to wrestling. I wanted someone who was going to be there for themselves."
“I really love basketball, basketball is my passion, but Crystal wanted a girl wrestler," Dallas said. "[Crystal] saw… how I don’t like to lose and how I’m hard on myself. She asked me and I was like, I guess I’ll try it. Can’t hurt. I decided to join the team mainly because of what people were saying. It made me want to wrestle more. Watch me. I’m glad I did it.”
Matt Stacey is a recent transplant to the area and a local pastor. He is in his third year as coach for the wrestling team.
When asked for reasons to wrestle, he replied, “If you are looking for a good time or to have fun, this isn’t the sport for you. This isn’t easy and fun. Wrestling is hard. It’s very demanding physically and mentally. On the other hand if you are willing to stick with it,” he quotes legendary wrestler, Dan Gable, “'after wrestling, anything is easy’. If you can control yourself in environments as hostile as wrestling, then you can control yourself in any situation. You will have the skills necessary to work your way to the top. You are going to be able to excel where you need to. If you put your heart into wrestling it will get you there. There is so much self-control that goes into it. They have to make weight. It’s controlling your body, it’s controlling your diet, it’s controlling your mental process. There is no team to fall back on. You’re it.”
Since Gott joined the team, Davis remarked, “she has been a blessing with her attitude, everything about her. She works hard. She’s never done wrestling before. I had her come to the junior high and practice with us. She was worried about being that girl coming to practice not knowing anything. ‘Crystal,’ she said, ‘I’m just not comfortable in front of people, because I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t want to be a failure.’ So we met after practices. I spent a good hour to two hours three days a week after junior high practices to work one on one, so when she came into the high school, she was more confident.”
Davis’ daughter, Trinity, a junior high wrestler, comes to the high school to work with Dallas. She will be joining the Mules next year, bringing the team up to two.
“It’s not just a guy’s sport anymore, said Davis. “There is women’s state, women’s tournaments. This weekend the tournament we attended had maybe 150 females."
Davis would like to see a bigger program. She tries hard to recruit but she says, “I keep losing them to basketball.”
Gott acknowledges that she gets some flak from her female classmates. “Why are you wrestling?” they’ll ask. “That’s gross.” She notes a recent wrestling tournament. “There were over 250 girls. They asked, ‘where is your team?’ I’m the only one. I wish [my classmates) could see how big it’s gotten.”
It is hard for Gott to be the only girl.
“Trinity tries to come to most practices. The hard part is when you get to wrestle a boy and you’re winning and they take their anger out on you,” said Gott. “No one is close to my weight. I’m 106. Some of them will man up and say ‘I’ll wrestle you.’ That helps a lot. Some of the boys are supportive, some are like, ‘you’re a girl’.” The bus rides can be a little lonely too, as she is separated from the rest of the team. However, she has found some camaraderie and support from them as well. She speaks of her first match, her first loss whose sting was softened when all she “could hear was them screaming for me. That helps a lot, it made me feel good. The boys try hard to acknowledge I’m part of the team too. ”
“It really helps having Crystal in there, because Crystal was a ground breaker in our community and knows what it takes and is able to be hard on her because she’s a female and at the same time be able to help her," said Coach Stacey. "Having Trinity to work out with has been very good.”
“Wrestling, you can take out your anger; you don’t have to rely on anyone else for your points, Dallas said. "If I won, it’s all on me, if I lost, I could only blame myself. I wanted something where I could focus on just me. I like it a lot."
"It’s a lot of work. You don’t know running until you’re in the wrestling room. It’s uncomfortable to wrestle someone else, but you get past it after awhile, your adrenaline kicks in. When I’m in the down position and the person has to be on top of you, I just look at Crystal and zone out. I just look at her mouth when I need to and then I just know what to do. She and Coach Stacey and Keith Burns and Paul Johns are a lot of help.”
Ultimately it comes down to this for Dallas Gott. “Being able to say, I did that. I went out there and I pinned that guy with my moves and my body weight.”
“Dallas has been very very committed and stuck it out through some incredibly long weeks. When we first started the year,” said Coach Stacey, “she wasn’t academically eligible. She had every opportunity in the world to make excuses and quit. She didn’t so she has continued to battle and battle and grown incredibly as a wrestler. She’s very young, she’s got a lot of time left to learn. I’d say the future is very bright for her.”
If Dan Gable’s words are anything to go by, her future is very bright, indeed.
Above: Gott listens to Coach Crystal Davis. Photo by Diana Zimmerman.