Soroco freshman Bruggink making history on the mat

Lauryn Bruggink prepares for the championship match at the 2a Regionals

Lauryn Bruggink has been playing all kinds of sports since she was a very young girl. Playing on teams with boys is nothing new to her.

She is, however, something very new to high school wrestling.

The Soroco High School freshman heads into this weekend’s Colorado state wrestling championships as the second girl in Colorado prep history to qualify for state and the first to qualify in Class 2A.

Her coach likes to describe her success differently, though.

“She beats up a lot of boys,” Soroco coach Jay Whaley said.

She’s been strapping on her headgear since the first grade, and in her first postseason, she finished second at the Class 2A Regional 1 tournament.

Whaley said that’s the highest any girl has ever placed at a prep regional tournament — and she’s only a freshman.

The talented 15-year-old with a spot in the state tournament this weekend doesn’t see any problem with a girl in the sport of wrestling.

“She just views them as another opponent,” Lauryn’s mother, Geri Bruggink, said of the boys she wrestles. “And if they do give a negative reaction, she’s like, ‘well that’s their problem, not ours.’ ”

Some people have seen it as an issue. Whaley said several negative comments were posted online after a local newspaper wrote an article about her.

Bruggink has not seen that type of reaction on the mat, however.

She has yet to encounter a serious problem stemming from her gender. Just the opposite:
she’s developed many friendships and earned the respect of her opponents.

“When it comes to wrestling, all the Rangely boys and other teams (in the area), are just like my team,” Bruggink said. “They treat me like I’m family…they’ve got a lot of respect for me and
I’ve got a lot of respect for them.”

The freshman’s career almost didn’t happen. It wasn’t until last year that she decided wrestling would take precedence over basketball, a sport that might be more socially acceptable for a high school girl.

Her decision excited her father, Travis Bruggink, a two-time Soroco state champion and Soroco’s assistant coach.

Lauryn, though, is quick to point out she would not have disappointed him had she chosen not to wrestle.

“He never pushed me toward wrestling,” Bruggink said. “He would be fine with me playing basketball. Whatever I’m doing, they’re always supporting me, no matter what.”

Her mother suspected she would stick to wrestling long before last year’s decision.

“A long time ago, there was a kid that we took to state named Josh Iacovetto,” Geri Bruggink said. “He turned around after he won a state championship when she was really young, and he looked at her and said, ‘Lauryn, you’re going to be the first girl state champion,’ and that just stuck.”

Bruggink got her first taste of what it was like to wrestle another girl before the season started when she traveled to Colorado Springs and spent time with women training for the Olympics.

Her face glowed with enthusiasm as she talked about the experience.

She said the opportunity to train for the Olympics would be amazing, but she’s aware she needs to put in a lot of hard work before she reaches that point.

Like most 15-year-olds, she is unsure about where the future will take her. For right now, she’s focused on the task in front of her: the state tournament, which begins Thursday at the Pepsi Center.

Bruggink, who is 14-11 this season, wrestles Steven Velasquez of Center (27-10) in one of the first matches of the tournament when the Class 2A and Class 3A teams open the first session at 3 p.m.

“That would be the ultimate goal, to be honest with you,” Bruggink said of winning a state title during her career. “If I could stay at 103s and keep working for it… That’s the dream.”


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