Wrestling Champ 4th in State

Rookie wrestler Rachael Butler ended up in fourth place at the state level after winning an impressive second-place ranking at the North Coast Section girls wrestling championships.

Rachael pinned the girl who defeated her at the regional championships and also defeated the section champions from both the San Diego and Southern California regions. The state championships were held in late February at Lemoore High School in Kings County.

Rachael was also honored recently as East Bay Athlete of the Week, honorable mention, by the Bay Area News Group.

Rachael went into the regional championships in Pittsburg in early February as the top female wrestler in Northern California. She pinned her way into the finals with a second-place score of 5 to 4, losing the top ranking by a mere one point.

Rachael, who started wrestling for Foothill in November, went into regionals as the top-ranked wrestler in the 146-pound division.

"I'm really excited," Rachael said before regionals. "It's a lot of pressure being a first-year, but it's a positive type of pressure. It makes me believe in myself. If they believe in me (to be ranked highly), then I can do it."

The sophomore athlete is new to the wrestling mat, but familiar with the sport because of the judo skills she's been honing since age 10.

"You use similar techniques in each sport," Rachael noted. "There's a lot of body contact in judo, so I'm used to the body-to-body contact as a girl."

Rachael, 15, competes against girls only at tournaments. She's been to three tournaments that featured matches for both boys and girls, plus a fourth tournament for girls only. She's won 14 matches and lost just one.

"I’m extremely proud of her, the way she’s taken from judo to wrestling and excelled," Coach Dennis Golcher said. "She’s had three first-place finishes and one second-place finish."

"It’s definitely rare for any first-time wrestler, especially a girl, to come out and excel and succeed the way she has," Golcher said. "She’ a judo champ, and the judo has definitely helped her. But there are differences between judo and high school wrestling. She’s had to learn those differences, and she’s picked that up fairly quickly."

Rachael took up wrestling because "it's just something different I wanted to try. I thought I might be good at it."

Rachael has Olympic dreams with judo. She recently traveled to Australia to compete in judo at the Youth Olympic Festival. Only nine American judo students took part in the event. She realizes, though, that wrestling could be the ticket to coveted college scholarships.

If Rachael ranks high at this weekend's Northern California tournament, she'll qualify to compete at the state level with roughly 40 of the state's best female wrestlers.

"I hope to make it to state, and I hope to get a medal at state," she said.

Golcher has faith in Rachael, the only female wrestler at Foothill.

"I believe she has a real good shot going in if she wrestles well and doesn’t make any mistakes," he said. "If she places in the top three, she will advance to the state championship."


Rachael wrestles in a match

Rachael after regionals with coaches Dennis Golcher (left) and Bennie Lafever

By Zoe Francis

Updated Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013