DALLAS — Angie Sletten knows what it’s like to be the only girl in the room.
When she joined Dallas High School’s wrestling team, she was the only female wrestler. When she graduated in 2016, she was still the only female wrestler.
Although that fact never seemed to discourage her, it definitely posed some obstacles.
“It had its challenges, for sure,” Sletten said. “Being the only girl on the team in a sport that’s mostly a men’s sport, it took a while for my team to warm up to me.”
It was clear from the beginning Sletten was meant to be a wrestler: her sophomore year, she placed third in state in the 113 weight class. Her junior year, she placed third again, also at 113. Then, her senior year, she cut down to 106 and took second place in a close match where she lost by a caution point.
“I’m probably addicted to wrestling. I just really love it,” she said. “I love how individual it is. You either put in the work or you don’t. Even if you put in the work, you’re gonna lose, and it’s about how you handle those losses.”
Dallas Wrestling head coach Tony Olliff recognized Sletten’s talent on the mat and named her team captain her junior year. To this day she is only the second female wrestler he’s ever coached.
“At the time that Angie competed, female competitors were hard to come by,” Olliff said. “I would estimate one out of five or fewer of Angie’s opponents were female. At the time she wrestled, the sport was just getting a foothold for females in Oregon. So, we view Angie as something of a trailblazer here at DHS.”
“He never treated me any differently,” Sletten said. “The way it is with Olliff is, you either work hard or you don’t.”
And she is no stranger to hard work, especially off the mat. In high school, she barely scraped by with a 2.51 grade-point average, even though she was trying as hard as she could to pass her classes. Then, a week before graduation, she was diagnosed with a learning disability, allowing her to receive accommodations from her professors in college — things like audio tapes instead of textbooks and longer allotted test times.
Now she has a 3.99 GPA.
“I just think if you work hard you can do whatever you want,” she said.
After graduating, she spent two years wrestling at Warner Pacific College in Portland, and just recently was awarded a scholarship to wrestle at the University of Providence in Great Falls, Montana. Both colleges have established womens’ wrestling teams.
But it doesn’t matter to Sletten whether or not she’s wrestling a male or female.
“I just like to go out there and do my thing,” she said. “I just gotta wrestle my own game.”
Since 1994, the number of female wrestlers in high school has grown from 804 to 11,496, according to the National Wrestling Coaches Association website, nwcaonline.com. In 2004, female wrestling became a recognized Olympic sport.
But even with the rising numbers of female wrestlers, Sletten recognizes that getting into the sport as a female is intimidating, and she believes that’s one of the reasons why there aren’t more female wrestlers.
“I love (wrestling) and I wanna get more girls involved in it,” Sletten said. “I really hope that we get a girls team started (in Dallas). But we have to get more girls to want to. And there’s this stigma with being a girl wrestler, like, ‘oh you’re a boy now, you’re manly, you’re masculine.’ You can still have a feminine identity and be a good wrestler.”
Her passion for getting girls involved in wrestling is something that Sletten says she hopes to continue well after college.
“It’s hard to imagine a point in my life where I won’t be wrestling or won’t be involved in wrestling,” she said.
Sletten’s dedication to the sport is not something you see in young women her age; at 20 years old, she’s got a hunger to make her achievements possible for those who also want it, but don’t know how to get started.
“Your dream has to be greater than the pain,” she said.