Three Woodland Park Girls to Wrestle at National Level

Local Coach Brings Grapplers to Junior Championships in North Dakota

Trevor Phipps and Jennifer Rodriguez

Many high school sports fans only notice their star athletes during their respective seasons, and don’t see the massive amount of preparation work done in other parts of the year.

For most sports, the actual playing season represents only a small part of their effort, with many adopting a rigorous training schedule year-round.

That is definitely the case with high school wrestling program in Woodland Park, as many local grapplers join club teams and are quite active during the off-season period. This year, three local female wrestlers earned the chance to represent their city and state at the 2024 U.S. Marine Corps Junior National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota on July 12.

In previous years, girls who were interested in the sport of wrestling either had to sit and watch, or wrestle against boys their same size. But in 2021, this scenario changed drastically at the state level, as the sport of wrestling became available for girls to compete against other girls.

This paved the way for many pre-high school wrestling programs for interested women grapplers.

Dustin Rodriguez, the former high school girls’ wrestling coach, heads the Woodland Park Junior Wrestling club that starts athletes in the sport at an earlier age. Rodriguez also helps train the athletes during the off-season period.

This additional training has resulted in much success and is now getting showcased at the national stage level.

“On July 10th HS Seniors Lindsay Henggeler, Vanessa Nguyen, and Haddy Waak will be headed to North Dakota to represent Colorado in the largest and most prestigious youth wrestling tournament in the country,” Rodriguez said. “This is a huge deal for our community and the continued success of WP’s wrestling programs as a whole. Myself and these three young ladies want to thank our community for helping them make this possible. Through the generous donations from within the community, these girls were able to raise enough money to help pay for their trip.”

Former WP Female Wrestling Coach Gaining National Recognition

Coach Rodriguez has been selected as one of the few coaches to hopefully lead Colorado’s female wrestlers to victory at the Junior National Championships in North Dakota.

Rodriguez, who began his coaching career 15 years ago, coached the last nine years in Woodland Park. In addition, he is the founder and head coach of the local Woodland Park Jr. Wrestling Club and was the high school girls’ wrestling head skipper for the past three years.

Rodriguez resigned as the head coach at the end of the 2023-2024 season. Still, he has left a mark in the wrestling history books in Woodland Park.

He led WP’s first female wrestler, Trinity Diamond, to become the first female to win a league championship, and the first female wrestler to qualify for the state championship tournament four times. Trinity was able to continue her wrestling career with a scholarship to a top-rated school at Hastings College in Nebraska.

The coach was also instrumental in helping Giana Roskam achieve a full ride scholarship to Trinidad State College for Giana to wrestle at the collegiate level. In addition, Rodriguez made his coaching mark again, when local wrestler Arial Johns became the first grappler from WP to make the Colorado US Nationals Team in 2022. Johns went on to represent the community and state in North Dakota during the U.S. Marine Corps Junior National Championships.

Arial additionally went on to become the first WPHS female wrestler to place at the 2024 CHSAA State Wrestling Championships during which she took 5th in the girls’ 5A. Rodriguez also guided his 2023  girls’ team to a 2nd place team victory at the 2023 CUSAW Freshman/Sophomore State Championships.

This year, Rodriguez will become one of the national coaches sitting in the corner of long-time, high school female wrestlers Lindsay Henggeler, Vanessa Nguyen, and Haddy Waak at the national tournament in Fargo. They will gain additional support from the Betterman Elite, Wrestling Academy head coaches Joe and Deanna Betterman. Rodriguez has been a part of the Betterman Elite coaching staff since April.

Lindsay, Vanessa, and Haddy, who all qualified for the national championships in July, are all incoming seniors. They have already received college scholarships to compete in and out of the state of Colorado. Rodriguez gives a huge amount of credit to Betterman Elite and their program for giving grapplers from his high school club  the extra coaching and support they need to believe in themselves and reach the next level.

In addition, Rodriguez also would like to thank Assistant Coach Chad Douglas and Strength Coach Shannon Roskam. “Without them, none of this would be possible and I am very blessed to have them on my side,” the coach said.