Geno Ludwig catches up with Chewelah’s state championship wrestler Chel-C Bailey…
I remember my first experience with girls wrestling. I was coaching middle school wrestling and we were at Deer Park. The referee walked into our locker room and said he needed to talk to me and to our young man who was going to wrestle a girl. We walked over to a vacant corner of the locker room and he proceeded to lecture my wrestler on what he was going to do and what he was not going to do. His instructions went something like this:
“You’re going to go out there and win the match as quickly as you can. Do you understand? Pin her as fast as you can, but be very careful not to touch certain parts of her body and to not get into any explicit positions with her on the mat. You know what I mean, right?”
My eighth grader nodded his head. He had evidently paid attention during his sex education classes. The match went as intended. He pinned her in just a few seconds without getting into any visually awkward positions. The referee raised his hand while breathing an audible sigh of relief and the remainder of the evening’s agenda continued without a glitch.
That occurred back in the late 1990s when wrestling was supposed to be exclusively a boys’ sport. Since that time, however, girls have become highly competitive and accomplished on the mat. Beginning in 2008, the state tournament has included a division for girls. In 2010, Chewelah’s Chel-C Bailey won the 119-pound state championship, defeating Ricarda Garcia from Mt. Vernon.
I was curious about what it was like for Chel-C to be the lone girl on the Cougar wrestling team, so I sent her an email.
“Wrestling isn’t just a man’s sport,” Chel-C replied. “For me being the only girl on the team was a challenge. It can be awkward. You get treated differently. Boys at times don’t want to go with the “girl.” But when they know you’re serious and you show up every day, finish every practice, you compete at every meet and tournament, you kind of get the initiation and “earn” your spot on the team.
“But having to work every day with all the boys made me a tougher, better and all around wrestler. Boys definitely push the pace and not until getting to the college level and having female partners that were at the same level as me did I see how important it was for me practicing everyday with the boys. I wouldn’t be at the level I was at if I had practiced with a team of so-so girls. I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. ‘Iron sharpens iron’ as all my teammates on the fight team say, but I would use the same philosophy for wrestling.
“Coach Hogan had the 3 Ds of wrestling: Desire, Discipline and Determination. I’ve applied all those to wrestling, fighting, work and things I do day-to-day in everyday life. If you don’t have all three of those and don’t believe in yourself, you’re lacking the tools to be mentally tough and successful.
“Representing the Chewelah Cougars was awesome and something I still take pride in today very much. I’m not originally from Chewelah. I wasn’t a 12-year senior, the high school valedictorian, the mayor or teacher’s daughter, or really anything special. I kind of have a love-hate relationship with Chewelah. So, to be able to graduate out of Chewelah and say I left my mark with my name up on the board as being the first-ever wrestling female state champion and being able to contribute athletically is really a huge self-accomplishment and is very special to me. I did something no one else has done and I set the bar for others.”
After graduating from Jenkins High School, Chel-C wrestled for Yakima Valley College where she won the 112-pound NCWWA national collegiate championship and became an All-American. From there, she began her professional Mixed Martial Arts career, which she now balances with other goal-based activities. Chel-C currently lives in Hot Springs, Arkansas where she is still fulfilling her dreams. As her motto states, “Life is not about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.”
“Well, there is a lot currently going on with my life right now,” she continued. “I really wish to be a professional fighter in the UFC, but being a jockey is a childhood dream for me. My goal is to accomplish both. I have been an active off/on professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter. My professional record is 3-0. I train MMA in various gyms across the U.S. depending on which states I’ve moved to and from. Right now, I’m on my career path of working on becoming a professional horse racing jockey!
“I am currently a racehorse exercise rider at Oaklawn Racetrack. I ride for the Flying ‘F’ Stables. We have a horse that I get on and ride every morning that is training to run at a huge stakes race called the Smarty Jones, a $150,000 race, when the 2019 season starts on January 25. His name is Gray Attempt.”
Chel-C is also actively engaged in high school wrestling at Hot Springs.
“Right now I am currently helping coach, and training with the boys wrestling team at one of the local high schools here in Hot Springs, Arkansas called the Lakeside Rams,” she explained. “I sent the head coach an email and asked how I could get involved and help. He told me to come meet him at a home tournament. After meeting him, he told me to come to practice after school at 3:30, so I’m back involved with wrestling. I also help coach the youth and intermediate wrestling kids program at the school too. They were shocked at my level and ability of wrestling that a girl could be ‘good.’ So, I whoop-up on the boys and work with them at practice. You can’t stay too far away from something you love.
“I have heard through the grapevine that there are girls wrestling for the Cougars. That is so awesome to hear! I’m glad that they are doing well, continuing on and being successful.”
This season, the Cougars have four girls on their wrestling team who are following in Chel-C Bailey’s footsteps. They are Alyssa Walser, Kristen Erickson, Amber Glover and Italian exchange student Letizia Faro. They have competed in tournaments with the entire team and have traveled to tournaments exclusively for girls. Like Chel-C, they especially enjoy whooping-up on the boys.