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The Pioneers of Idaho Girls Prep Wrestling: Mia Furman, Rocky Mountain
Al Fontes goes one-on-one with Rocky Mountain's standout grappler Mia Furman
Published: 5/27/2022 9:42:10 AM
Al Fontes
Contributing Writer

Wrestling is among the oldest sports in the world. Only running and sprinting share parallel timetables. The origins of wrestling go all the way back to 100-200 BC and the depiction of wrestling is also present in the famous cave paintings in Lascaux, France, dating back to the upper Paleolithic era around 15,000 years ago. Many historians believe that wrestling has been an Olympic sport since at least 704 BCE. Fast forward to the new millennium and the sport of wrestling remains extremely popular around the world, especially in Eastern Europe, the United States, Russia, and in the small population of the Republic of Dagestan (est. 3.1 million), which is located in Southern Russia’s Caucasus mountains near the Caspian Sea. For the past decade or so, there has been a surge in the popularity among women at the collegiate and Olympic levels, a trend that is now expanding at the grassroots of youth and high school competition for girls.

Presently, women’s wrestling is a major World and Olympic sport and is exponentially growing at the collegiate level. The National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) currently list 121 women’s programs total spanning the multiple divisions across the country (NCAA DI – 5, NCAA DII – 24, NCAA DIII – 36, NAIA – 42, and NJCAA – 14). This does not include the nearly 50 college level club programs offering wrestling in the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA) division. A positive leading indicator for growth at the Division I level is with the recent fielding of a women’s program at the University of Iowa, a top tier wrestling school in the Big 10 and nation. Based on Iowa’s precedent to grow wrestling at a top tier institution, it’s not difficult to surmise that other schools in the Big 10, as well as schools in rival DI conferences will follow suit and start new programs in the next several years. Perhaps we’ll possibly observe an increase from 5 programs today to 30 or 40 plus in the next decade or so. Only time will tell.

Furthermore, girl’s wrestling at the high school level is currently the fastest growing sport in the country. According to data from the National Federation of State High School Associations, the participant level reached 21,735 in 2019, a 70% increase since 2010 (participation rose 27% from 2018 to 2019). As of 2022, the participant numbers continue to move upward and are edging towards 30k at 29,791. Moreover, the NWCA has California leading the nation with 6,817 participants (pop. 39 million), followed by Texas (3,554/pop. ~30 million), Washington (2,240/pop. ~8 million), Missouri (1,425/6 million), and Georgia (1,055/pop. ~11 million) to round out the top 5 states.

In 2021, girl’s wrestling in the state of Idaho was fairly low in numbers per capita (pop. 1.98 million) compared to other states and still in its infancy, but with recent efforts to increase awareness and growth at the grassroots level is showing a gradual increase among high school participants. For example, in 2019, the first “unofficial” State Championships were held at Pocatello High School and had 60 participants. The following season, the numbers rose to 112 and in 2021 there were 130 participants representing 49 schools statewide. As of 2022, the numbers continue to move in an upward trajectory and have increased to 228 and climbing.

One of the leading indicators that action is being taken to grow girl’s wrestling in the Gem State is in 2022 the Idaho High School Activities Association (IHSAA) took a major step and officially sponsored a girl’s division. This action was initiated only a few years after the “unofficial” state tournament was introduced. Accordingly, girl’s wrestling has expanded its qualifying process to the state championships, which is now conducted via a District level qualifier tournament. At this year’s Idaho State Championships, the girls competed in the same venue as the boys in 10 weight groups (8-girl bracket) and there is momentous discussion to re-evaluate bracket sizes and number of weight groups for future championships. In light of girl’s wrestling being the fastest growing sport in the United States coupled by the efforts in Idaho, the competition level and growth in numbers in the Gem State is anticipated to increase exponentially in the years to come.

If we take into consideration that organized girl’s wrestling has only been around for a short period in Idaho, the Gem State is making significant strides creating more opportunity and, in the process, has produced several outstanding prep wrestlers that have not only made their mark on the state level, but also nationally. They include soon to be graduating seniors Lita Cruz (Minico), Frankie Graham (Minico), and Marissa Jimenez (Caldwell), each four-time state placers and All-Americans, as well as state champions Brooke Boyle (Thunder Ridge) and Liv Wieber (Eagle), a recent All-American in the Girl’s Showcase division at the US Open in Las Vegas. All true pioneers of girl’s wrestling in Idaho and abroad. Furthermore, In 2022, Lita Cruz became the first girl to win four state titles.

It’s also important to note that prior to girls competing in their own division at the Idaho high school championships, early pioneers, such as Cierra Foster, Brelane Huber, and Anneliese DeAragon to name a few were putting our state on the map upon winning a series of national Freestyle championships at the Fargo Nationals in North Dakota. In Fargo last year, Idaho’s girls produced the most All-Americans at a single championships with four (2 in 16U/2 in Junior divisions). As of 2022, the state of Idaho is beginning to see representation at the women’s senior level with former Fargo National Champion Cierra Foster earning All-American honors at the US Open in Las Vegas this past month. An exceptional athlete at Post Falls High School, Foster was also the first female to win a 5A District title and placed third in the state in the boys’ division. Additionally, she earned Gold at the PAN AM Games (OW), and was the recipient of the Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award in 2017.

What is even more encouraging is we are beginning to observe measured growth at the grassroots level and there has been an emergence of young stars at the kids and middle school divisions placing at national level competitions. Currently, 34 states have sanctioned an official state championship for girls (68%). It is going to take some time and increased effort to grow girl’s wrestling in Idaho and possibly the Gem State will someday reach the competitive level that California, Washington, and other top performing states have nationally in the years to come.

From my perspective, we are witnessing the emergence of many true pioneers of girl’s wrestling in Idaho. These girls have set a great precedent and the bar is high for future generations to aspire to be someday. Moving forward, the “PIONEERS” series will focus on the up and coming underclassman, as well as next season’s upperclassman. My first “PIONEER” is Junior standout Mia Furman of Rocky Mountain High School in Meridian. Mia was first introduced to wrestling at a very young age and has not stopped competing since. Below is her story, list of high-level accolades, and answers to my Q&A interview.

MIA FURMAN – A TRUE PIONEER OF IDAHO GIRL’S PREP WRESTLING


Only a week from completing her Junior year at Rocky, Mia has had a successful journey thus far in her wrestling career and will return in 2023 as one of the top seniors to challenge for a second state title. An exceptional student at Rocky since her freshman year, Mia has made several regular and Principal Honor Roll lists and is a great role model among her peers, both on and off the mat. Her commitment to academic achievement and pursuit of winning state titles and All-American honors is evident with her achievements to date. Wrestling since an early age in elementary school, Mia has earned numerous medals and awards at local, state, regional, and national level competitions. Mia’s dedication to compete year round is evident with the long list of accolades she has earned to this point in both high school and international style (Freestyle/Greco) competitions.

“Mia is a fierce a competitor as there is in the country. She has proved she can compete with and beat the best in the country. Just a few weeks ago she beat a girl committed to the University of Iowa! She’s like a sponge, soaking up technique and consistently trains to get better.”

­- Guy Bullock, Head Coach, Rocky Mountain H.S.

 

The growth of girl’s wrestling at Rocky Mountain High School is steadily increasing each year and has had several girls place at the Idaho State Championships since the first unofficial state tournament in 2019. A devoted competitor on the mat and in the wrestling room, Mia is a 3x state medalist, winning a title in 2021, making two trips to the finals, and placing third this past season. Having set a strong precedent for future Rocky girls to strive for, Mia is focused on winning another state title her senior year and a fourth medal overall. On a statistical note, since 2019, only three Idaho wrestlers in the girls division have earned four state medals (Lita Cruz, Frankie Graham, and Marissa Jimenez) and Mia is one of eight to earn three state medals.

Also training and competing for the Suples Wrestling Club in Boise, Mia has traveled all over the country to compete against the best girls in the nation. To date, she has traveled to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. In the course of her wrestling journey, she has earned a total of six All-American honors and continues to attend regional and national level competitions. Amid all her local and state level competitions, Mia has earned All-American honors at the Reno Tournament of Champions, USAW High School National Recruiting Showcase (2x), National High School Coaches Association, Fargo, and more recently at the USMC US Open Championships in the Showcase division, where she came back from behind to defeat a top 10 nationally ranked wrestler in the bronze medal match.

In summary, Mia has had an exceptional academic experience at Rocky thus far and continues to strive for academic excellence. Having one more year at Rocky, Mia has an interim goal of earning a Pharmacy Technician certificate to provide her job opportunities straight out of high school with a longer term goal of going to college and earning a degree in business with the intent of pursuing a career in forensics and criminal justice. A result of her dedication to be the best she could possibly be, both on and off the mat, is evident with her long list of accolades and academic achievements. Having been ranked in the top 25 nationally by USA Wrestling, Mia is determined to reach greater heights in the future years to come.

Presently, Mia is training and preparing for her second trip to the national championships in Fargo, North Dakota. More recently, I had the opportunity to interview Mia about her experiences at Rocky, academics, goals, and wrestling background. Below is my Q&A interview.

Q&A INTERVIEW WITH ROCKY’S MIA FURMAN



How long have you been involved with the sport of wrestling?

FURMAN – Around nine years. I began wrestling in the state of Washington.

Who introduced wrestling to you?

FURMAN – I discovered wrestling at our local recreational facility by reading a city recreation pamphlet. I Initially thought I was joining a Mixed Martial Arts program.

What life lessons have you learned from wrestling?

FURMAN – Discipline! I have to work hard to succeed, be committed to my goals, and even train when I don’t want to, both physically and mentally. Sacrifice and hard work pay off in the end.

Who inspired you to be where you are today?

FURMAN – My first wrestling coach in Washington. He inspired me to be the best I can be…I wouldn’t be wrestling today, if not for him.

What are your academic goals at Rocky Mountain?

FURMAN – To maintain an “A” average all four years.

What hobbies do you enjoy?

FURMAN – I enjoy hiking, river rafting, and the outdoors.

Who is your favorite college or Olympic level wrestler?

FURMAN – Jordan Burroughs, a 6x World & Olympic Champion.

What are your short and long term goals entering your senior season?

FURMAN – My short term goal is to work harder at practice. Long term, win another Idaho State High School Championship.

Do you have ambitions to compete at the collegiate or Olympic levels?

FURMAN – Yes, I want to compete at the collegiate level. More specifically, I have interests in Life University in Georgia or Colorado Mesa University.

Do you plan to coach or be involved with the sport of wrestling in some form or capacity in the future?

FURMAN – Yes, I want to become a referee (Folkstyle), as well as a coach at the high school level.

Girl’s wrestling is the fastest growing high school sport in the United States. What advice would you give a young girl showing interest in the sport?

FURMAN – Don’t let a person’s comment or opinion “perceptions” prevent you from trying the sport.

If provided the opportunity to make an impact to girl’s wrestling at the grassroots level, what do you suggest is necessary to increase participation?

FURMAN – Encourage girls at the high school level to be more involved at the grassroots level; club and middle school levels. Become role models for the next generation.

MIA FURMAN’S ACADEMIC AND ATHLETIC PROFILE

 

SCHOOL: Rocky Mountain High School, Meridian
GRADE: Class of 2023
WEIGHT: 138
CLUB: Suples WC

 ACADEMIC ACCOLADES

  • 3.5 GPA
  • Principal/Regular Honor Roll (2020, ’21, ‘22)

 WRESTLING ACCOLADES

  • USMC US Open Championships – All-American (Showcase Div.) ‘22
  • NHSCA High School Nationals – All-American ‘22
  • USAW HS Nationals Recruiting Showcase – 2x All-American ‘22
  • 3rd Idaho Girls State Championships ‘22
  • IHSSAA District III Championships – Finalist ‘22
  • Fargo Nationals Freestyle – All-American ‘21
  • Reno Tournament of Champions – All-American ‘21
  • Idaho Girls High School State Champion ‘21
  • USA Western States Championships – Champion ‘21
  • Rollie Lane Invitational Champion/2x finalist 2021 – ’22
  • Idaho State Champion – Greco-Roman ’21
  • 2nd Idaho Girls State Championships ‘20
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