Bring it on
College cheerleading a good outlet for some athletes
So many high school athletes talk about taking their game to the next level.
That next level includes cheerleading.
Colorado Mesa University cheerleading coach Athena Whaley currently has three Palisade High School graduates on her team. Two of them played football for the Bulldogs. She said she looks for three things when it comes to male cheerleaders.
“Athletic, strength and good grades,” she said. “If the male cheerleader is athletic, he can learn the fundamentals of cheerleading.”
The Maverick cheerleaders don’t get scholarship money, but the team travels to all road football games, plus regional tournaments when other CMU athletic teams qualify.
The CMU cheerleading team currently is preparing for next month’s nationals, where they will field a squad of 12 women and four men. All three of the Palisade grads are on the national team.
The regular team has nine guys and 17 girls.
Whaley, who has coached at CMU for 14 years, said most male cheerleaders are looking for a competitive outlet after high school.
“The majority of the male cheerleaders we get in college come from football, rugby, wrestling, who won’t be doing their sport of choice anymore,” she said.
They also enjoy still being part of a team.
Whaley coached at Palisade before moving to CMU, but she never coached a coed team before CMU.
She said she hasn’t had to actively recruit male cheerleaders for several years, and a lot of that has to do with the successful Palisade coed program coached by Tracy Arledge.
Whaley said this year, Central and Fruita Monument also had coed teams compete at state.
Connor Charlesworth, a former all-conference Palisade football player, is now cheering for CMU. Last year, he was on the Mavericks’ football team as a redshirt freshman. Whaley said he’s planning to give football another shot next year.
Another former Palisade football player and offensive lineman, Forest Trujillo, parlayed his high school cheerleading experience into a Division I scholarship with the University of Wyoming.
Whether it’s high school or college, the main role for male cheerleaders is using their strength to lift and throw the female cheerleaders, Whaley said.
Austin Terry, an all-conference defensive back for the Bulldogs this season, also competed with the Palisade cheerleading team at state this year. The 5-foot-5, 160-pounder is currently exploring possibilities of playing college football. But he said cheerleading is his backup plan.
“The market for guys in cheerleading is quite high,” he said.
Terry has tumbling experience and can do back flips and front flips. Whaley said gymnastics is a good skill to have, but it’s not something she looks for when recruiting male cheerleaders.
“Boys can learn tumbling so much quicker because they can jump,” she said. “But it’s a plus if they can do it.”
The coach also said once male cheerleaders get into college, there is no teasing.
“They are just part of a team,” she said.