Her day job has her looping from one side of Pueblo County to the other. One day she’ll be driving her squad car in the relative familiarity of Pueblo West, urban by any definition, the next, it’s a different world and rural Colorado in places like Avondale, Beulah and Boone. That’s just what you do when you’re a Sheriff’s Deputy in Pueblo County.
But once first-year deputy Alyssa Garcia’s shift is over, she’s no longer Deputy Garcia but Coach Garcia. And her team---fledgling as it is---is a potpourri of young women more comfortable in learning the art of the takedown, pin or decisions than sitting in the stands and cheering. Garcia is Pueblo’s first female wrestling coach.
“There’s four girls on the team right now,” Garcia said in a phone interview. Yes. It doesn’t sound like much. But remember, not long ago no one would have even imagined young women competing in a uniformly male sport. But Garcia’s not only competed but has achieved success.
While she doesn’t remember her first match, she can never forget her first day at wrestling practice. It was as an eighth-grader at Pueblo’s Cesar Chavez Academy. “After school, I walked into the wrestling room and you could hear a pin drop,” she said. But by season’s end, she had not only become part of the team, but an important part. She made it to the championship. It didn’t end well.
The last match to reach the finals, Garcia was cruising---against a male wrestler---when “I remember my shoulder popping out.” Calling upon wrestler’s grit, “I popped it back in. I had to ride (maintain control) the guy for ten more seconds.” In the championship, her injured shoulder didn’t hold up. “It prevented my best effort,” she said. But had she not been hurt, “I really think I could have taken first.”
Garcia got an early start in wrestling by tagging along with her father, Charles. He was a successful high school wrestler and later won his weight division at Junior Olympics. Marriage and family put wrestling on the backburner, but he remained involved and that meant teaching young Alyssa the same holds and techniques as he taught the boys.
This weekend, Garcia will be in Thornton for the third annual Colorado High School Girl’s Wrestling Finals. Her team will compete on Friday and Saturday night. She thinks she has at least one champion on the squad, ideally more.
When people find out wrestling is one of Garcia’s life’s passions, it’s surprising until they learn she’s also a pageant winner. A few years ago, she was Miss Pueblo at the State Fair. And the shock and awe don’t stop there. She’s also 4-1 as a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) competitor.
For the record, Garcia concedes MMA is not for the faint of heart. Want proof? “My first fight I ended up winning in 25 seconds. I broke the girl’s nose.” Those things happen when the idea is to hurt your opponent by socking, kicking, elbowing and doing whatever else gets your through the night. “The objective,” said Garcia, “is to win.”
While high school wrestling is a team sport, you’re competing in a one-on-one situation. But Garcia doesn’t see it that way. Team Garcia, her family, is totally supportive. “They’re biting their nails the whole time, but totally in my corner.”
This weekend’s girl’s wrestling finals wraps up the season. Boys, on the other hand, compete in tournaments all across the region or even country year-round. But Garcia is confident that parity is not that far away. “There are already female (wrestler) role models” at the high school level, including here in Colorado. Like Title IX changed the landscape for girls in more traditional sports, Garcia believes it will come to girls wrestling programs, too.
She may not be that far off. Who, after all, could have imagined a female NFL coach just a few years ago? We’ll be writing soon about another Puebloan who fills that bill. Kelsey Martinez is the Oakland Raiders new strength coach. Watch this space.