Having wrestled the big boys for two years, Dysart’s Samantha Trantham entered the first season of state sanctioned girls wrestling in 2018-19 full of confidence.
Maybe a little too much confidence. She finished with an 8-2 record and some standout performances, but a loss in the first round of the sectional tournament left Trantham out of the inaugural state girls wrestling championships.
“There are so many girls that did not want to tie up with her. Compared to last year, she’s much more dangerous. Her head is on better this year. Last year was all cockiness. She got a big head and it was my fault that I let it get that big,” Dysart assistant wrestling coach Luis Camacho said.
As Camacho noted, Trantham entered her senior year humbled and determined. The result has been dominance of the heavyweight division.
She qualified for state with ease this season, compiling an 10-2 record and pinning both her sectional opponents in less than a minute. The state meet is Feb. 14-15 at the Findlay Toyota Center in Prescott Valley — and the one girl to beat No. 2 seed Trantham this year will not be there.
“(Last year) makes me crave first place even more,” Trantham said. “There’s going to be new girls to wrestle. But I can adjust and take them down.”
Like many heavyweight boys wrestlers, football led Trantham to the mats. Her older brother, Charles, played football and Samantha decided to try out on the offensive and defensive lines.
“I wanted to stay in shape for football and within a week I loved it. It was more physical and hands-on,” Trantham said.
Luis and Omar Camacho coached Trantham like one of the boys wrestlers. The school had girl wrestlers when Luis Camacho was a student there, which helped.
She wrestled most of her matches at the 220-pound boys division.
“When I started wrestling guys I was terrified. In my first match I tried and I got pinned in the first minute. From there, that made we want to do it even more and beat these guys,” Trantham said.
Ben Bloom is the Dysart head coach but the Camacho brothers concentrate on teaching bigger weight boys and girls when and how to throw and be patient.
Trantham also worked with 2019 Division III state champion David Leasau on throws and using upper body strength.
“The first two years of her wrestling career here were pretty much, ‘Hey, you’re going to wrestle guys, no ifs ands or buts about it,’ At that point we did see success for girls at the varsity level,” Camacho said.
It remained tough for her to find a match in the first year of girls wrestling in the state.
Bloom said the Demons ended up putting her on the JV boys list just to make sure she would have a match. The rare other team that had a heavyweight girl would match her up with Trantham.
“Last year it was hit or miss, you would send her to a multi and maybe get one match. Then you’d have three meets in a row and not get any,” Bloom said.
After losing in the first round at sectionals, Trantham won the consolation bracket.
“It opened my mind and showed me what I can do way better,” Trantham said.
This year she is having more success even though there is more competition. Girls wrestling is catching on in Arizona.
Bloom said the Demons started with six girl wrestlers and three finished. Meets and invitationals are more filled out.
“In our district there’s a lot of girls at all the teams. Girls at the elementary school are showing more interest,” Bloom said.
Trantham said she has noticed this groundswell. She placed first in a tournament at Verrado High School.
Now she knows fellow pioneers including Yailin Soto of Scottsdale Coronado, her section finals opponent.
“I get to have more matches, have more fun and meet more people,” Trantham said. “One of the cool thing was the girl I wrestled at sectionals for the title was a girl I met earlier this year. I had fun wrestling with her and we’re going to state together.”
For the first time she got to be atop the podium.
“The best part was walking out of the hallway with the champion walk,” Trantham said.
The coach who has pushed her all the way believes Trantham is ready for a final turn in the center of the medal stand.
“I’ve yelled at her multiple times to where I’ve had parents from other schools going to me and saying, ‘Hey, you don’t need to be so rough with her,’ I would say, ‘No, that’s how she responds,” Camacho said. “I’ve gotten so excited to see how much growth in her this year.”
Trantham said she is looking into nearby Ottawa Arizona for college. And she will see what wrestling opportunities are out there after the state meet.
She said she plans to work as a correctional officer and will study on that degree course when she heads to college.