FARMINGTON — Destiny Bailey has accomplished something no other female wrestler in New Mexico has ever done.
Bailey, an incoming sophomore at Piedra Vista High School, earned All-American honors at the 2016 USA Wrestling Cadet Women's National Championships last month in Fargo, N.D.
“It’s a very big deal. I think to be the first to do anything is something to be spoken about,” said Levi Stout, who helps train Bailey outside of the high school season. “To be the first girl to earn All-American status in Fargo is pretty special.”
Bailey earned the honor after placing eighth in the 143-pound weight class, one class higher than she normally competes at. Bailey said when she left Farmington for Fargo, she was at her regular competition weight of 132, but when she weighed in for the tourney, she was two pounds over the limit and was forced to move up to 143.
With the move up in weight and facing the top competition in the country, Bailey said she surprised herself by finishing on the podium.
“I did not think I was going to place. I thought it would just be a good experience for this year so I could see what it’s like and how tough of a tournament it is,” said the 15-year-old. “I thought it would show me how much harder I would have to work so I could place next year. Now, the goal is to place higher next year.”
There were 23 competitors in Bailey’s bracket. After a first-round bye, Bailey fell to New York’s Hailey Finn, getting pinned in 1:33.
The loss moved Bailey into the consolation bracket, where she picked up back-to-back first-period pins. She first rolled through California’s Marlene Salinas in 55 seconds, then stopped New York’s Kendra Cheers in 1:37. In her next match, Bailey was bested 12-2 by Pennsylvania’s Jillian Bruno to set up the seventh-place match with Texas’ Adelyhda Perez. In the match, Bailey suffered a 10-0 technical fall loss.
After wrapping up the National Championships on July 16, Bailey competed at the 2016 USAW Women`s Freestyle National Duals, also in Fargo, on July 20 as part of the Washington, Idaho and Alaska draw team that placed sixth. At that tournament, Bailey went 3-2 while bouncing back and forth from the 130-pound weight class to the 139-pound class in order to get the most matches possible.
“I wrestled so many matches they all kind of blur together,” Bailey said.
Bailey started wrestling at the age of 3 when she began grappling with her older siblings, but she said she didn’t start taking the sport seriously until she entered junior high. Since then, she has gone all over the country to compete in tournaments and camps from New York to Atlanta to Las Vegas, Nev.
In New Mexico, she struggles to find other female wrestlers who can challenge her, so she relies on competition with her male counterparts to improve her skills. Bailey and Stout both said that competing primarily against boys has made her a better wrestler. Boys are typically stronger and quicker, and they definitely don’t take it easy on her.
“I’d rather wrestle guys than girls,” Bailey said. “When you’re going against girls, they’re more your level and strength. It’s more competitive against guys, and guys are crazy when they wrestle.”
Bailey said the trip to the national tournament, which featured 202 female wrestlers across 11 weight classes, helped open her eyes to the grandness of the sport and how it might help her in the future. She aspires to wrestle at the college level, and her performance in Fargo helped put her on the path to doing so.
And her status as an All-American might be enough to inspire girls around the state to step forward and challenge the boys.
“You just have to go out there and try. There are a lot of girls who say, ‘I don’t want to go out there and have to wrestle guys,’” Bailey said. “But it’s not that bad. It’s actually pretty easy.”
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.