"We don't have male or female wrestlers. Just wrestlers."
The crowd of two thousand or so fans sprang to their feet and screamed when the referee whistled announcing the end of the final of the Alaska high school wrestling championships. The champion with bleeding nose raised her hands. Every year, state freestyle wrestling champions are determined but the 2006 winner in the category of 103lbs is far from ordinary. In the stubborn struggle, Michaela Hutchison, a Skyview sophomore, beat Aaron Boss, a Colony High sophomore.
The Chugiak High gym was deafening. Everyone in attendance knew they had seen something exceptional - the first girl won a high school state wrestling championship while competing against boys.
Hutchison and Boss were clearly the best 103-pound wrestlers in the state this season. Hutchison finished with a 41-4 record and 33 pins, one short of the state record. Boss is a defending Greco Roman and freestyle state champion. Ranked No. 2 most of the season behind Hutchison, Boss finished 31-5. Two of those losses were against Hutchison.
Hutchison comes from a family of champions. Older brothers Zeb and Eli are state champions. Older sister Melina became the first girl in Alaska to place at the state tournament (third in 2000).
Eli ended his high school career as arguably the best high school wrestler ever in Alaska. He never lost to an Alaska opponent. He won four straight state titles and a national tournament championship.
There is a mat in the Hutchison household where Eli and Michaela grapple. Think she learned a thing or two going up against big bro?
Michaela Hutchison has always seemed to shy away from talk about her being a girl in a sport dominated by boys. It's never seemed a big deal to her. In most cases, it's not a big deal to the boys she wrestles - and usually beats. She just wants to be known as a wrestler. So does Boss. He had no qualms about "losing to a girl." "I don't look at it as I lost to a girl," Boss said. "I look at it as I lost to a wrestler."
That statement, and the respect it professes, means almost as much to the state of girls' wrestling as Hutchison's win.
Colony High coach Fred McKenney said gender is not an issue on the mat. "We don't have male or female wrestlers," he said. "Just wrestlers. She is a tough little wrestler. I'd like to have her on my team."
Boss said he has not received any negative reaction from fellow students. You can imagine the cruel comments a high school kid might make. Whoever might make such a comment, or even think it, should understand something: Hutchison would probably beat you on the mat. So would Boss.
Hutchison's win may open the door for more girls to compete in wrestling. Perhaps it will spur Alaska to join Texas and Hawaii in sanctioning girls-only wrestling as a varsity sport.
Michaela Hutchison rarely watches television. "We own a TV, but we don't have any channels that work," she said. "Besides, I don't really watch TV." But her historic wrestling win could land Hutchison on some of the biggest shows on the tube.
Hutchison's win has been mentioned across the country on Web sites and newscasts. David Letterman and Jay Leno each want Hutchison, the nation's first girl wrestler to win a high school state championship against boys, as a guest.
Hutchison was a guest on a Los Angeles County radio show; Paul Harvey mentioned her in his news broadcast; O, The Oprah Magazine and ELLE girl Magazine each said it wanted to write her story; and MSNBC and ESPN put her one of their newscasts.
How does Hutchison, a soft-spoken sophomore, react to all of this attention?
"I don't know," said the 16-year-old. "My parents would be the ones to make all the decisions."
Hutchison's story was so popular, it might go Hollywood. A man named Wayne Boyd called the Daily News from Palm Springs, Calif., on Tuesday, asking for more information on Hutchison because her story matches a movie he wrote in the 1980s. The movie, which never made it to the big screen, was about a 103-pound high school girl who won the first state title wrestling against boys, he said.
Episodes of the final match between Hutchison and Boss