It will be hard. Your opponents have an advantage. It will require a lot of work. There will be pain and people might say some mean things about you.

That isn't a great advertising campaign but Jordan Blair was sold when she first became a wrestler. 

"Girls face such an uphill climb in our sport," Bethel wrestling coach Jason McPhail said. "It requires them to be smarter, craftier, and less reliant on strength and more on skill."

McPhail said he has seen all of those traits in Blair, a freshman wrestler on his squad.

"She is special," he said. "Her work ethic and commitment to this sport are unlike many out there."

Blair said she has been up for the challenge since she first started wrestling. She played a lot of softball as a young athlete. She never really loved softball. But as soon as she tried wrestling, she knew she wanted to pursue it.

"The coaches saw some potential in me and they are working with me so much to make me better," Blair said. "I'm thankful for them. I didn't understand wrestling before, but I have fallen in love with it this year."

Blair said her goal is to be a state champion. That might sound out of reach for a 106-pound junior high girl, but Blair isn't scared to aim high.

At the conference tournament last weekend, Blair was matched against a Bridge Creek wrestler with a better record than hers. The first period didn't go her way. The male wrestler was using his strength to push Blair around and even bloodied her mouth trying to control her head. 

But in the second period, Blair got the upper hand. She used her technique to gain an advantage and finished the match with a pin halfway through the second period.

She lost in the next round, but she made her mark.

"Earlier this season, she placed second at the Okmulgee Junior High Tournament," McPhail said. "She put two boys in the consolation side on her way to the finals. She has won some open tournaments this season and is such a special kid. I believe she could be a real inspiration to many young female wrestlers."

Soon, the OSSAA is expected to add a girls' wrestling division for regional and state competitions.

Blair has mixed feelings about that. She understands that boys the same size tend to have an advantage in strength over a girl the same weight, but she isn't worried about it.

"I like the challenge of wrestling boys. It's a male-dominated sport and boys sometimes assume you are weak and won't be able to pin them," Blair said. "But I would also like to compete against only girls my size and see how I would do."

Blair wasn't the only girl at the Midwestern Conference Tournament and the sport is expanding among female participants.

"We have more girls wrestling now that any other time," McPhail said. He said Bethel's program was able to set up a locker room for the girls who wrestle there. He has seen other teams successfully integrate girls into their programs.

Blair said she looks up to several male wrestlers but she also admires Kailyn Ramos who wrestled at Prague before joining the Oklahoma City University female wrestling team.

"She is so positive but she can really take care of business," Blair said. "I just want to work hard like she has and have success like her."

Ramos said she had the chance to work with Blair at an OCU Wrestling camp and she was impressed with the young wrestler.

"I think she has the heart and dedication to get anywhere she wants to," Ramos said. "She works so hard and keeps focused when in the wrestling room. I think she is more than capable to get to the level I am at now and hopefully with the right training and drive she can get even higher."

Wrestling is a physically and mentally demanding sport. Its popularity among girls is growing. Girls like Blair will follow trailblazers like Ramos in making girls wrestling a more common choice for young female athletes.