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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Cherokee Woman Wins NAIA Wrestling Title
by Will Chavez - Senior Reporter Cherokee Phoenix

ST. LOUIS – Montana Drum has competed on a wrestling mat for most of her 20 years and now is a champion wrestler for the Missouri Baptist University Spartans in St. Louis.

Montana Drum, left, has been competing on a wrestling mat for most of her 20 years and now is a champion wrestler for the Missouri Baptist University Spartans in St. Louis. The Cherokee Nation citizen from Neosho, Missouri, has a 17-6 record this year and won the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics National Championship in March. (courtesy photo)

The sophomore from Neosho, Missouri, has a 17-6 record this year and won a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national championship in March.

The Cherokee Nation citizen said she developed an interest in wrestling when she was 4, tagging along with her older brother who wrestled and her father who was a wrestling coach.

Montana Drum

“We went to a lot of tournaments, and I really like being around there. My dad kind of picked up on that and he asked me jokingly ‘you want to wrestle?’ and I took off toward the mat thinking he was meaning then. I was only about 4 years old. He joked and said, ‘next year you can when you turn 5.’ My mom was like ‘nope,’” she said. “They didn’t think I would remember the next year, and I asked once I turned 5. They had promised me, so they ended up putting me in, and I’ve been wrestling since.”

However, she had to wrestle boys, even throughout high school, which she said makes her appreciate competing against only women in college because wrestling boys was “really tough.”

She lettered in wrestling two years in high school, and her team won the Class III boys wrestling title three of the four years she was on the team. She was the first girl in Missouri history to compete in Class III boys wrestling and win a district championship.

“I was on the state team my junior year, and I won boys’ districts...and that qualified me for state. I didn’t place there, but I got to wrestle in the boys tournament,” she said. “It got to the point where I had to realize I’m a girl in a boy’s sport. It made me a whole lot better on and off the mat, and it made me stronger knowing I could do something the boys could do. I made a lot of boys cry and a lot of boys made me cry, but it’s always been fun.”

She wrestled at 106 pounds in high school. In March, she wrestled at 127.9 pounds in the ASICS Women’s University National Championships in Oklahoma City and won an NAIA national title.

In the tournament, Drum wrestled her freshman teammate Erica Mihalca for the championship. After a tough match, Drum eventually pulled away and won by a 15-8 decision.

Drum said there are about 21 colleges that offer women’s wrestling. All of the women’s wrestling teams in the country belong to the Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association, which was formed in 2008 and is the governing body for all collegiate women’s wrestling programs at NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA institutions.

The WCWA competes in the Olympic discipline of freestyle wrestling, which allows competitors to be on their feet more. The women’s matches are two periods of three minutes. Drum said matches go by faster and more points are scored in freestyle wrestling than folk style or men’s collegiate wrestling where wrestlers usually lie on a mat trying to pin their opponent’s shoulders for a win.

Each winter the WCWA holds a tournament. In 2014, Drum place fifth in the tournament and this past February placed sixth. She said her competitors were well prepared and “determined.”

“The girls that wrestle are very, very tough. You get all different types of girls from all different places of the country,” she said. “We’re nowhere near what the boys have now, but I think it’s a rapidly growing sport and it’s going to continue to grow because it’s really fun. Seeing women do what the men have done is quite an accomplishment for women.”

Drum said she does a lot of conditioning such as sprints and running to stay fit for her matches. She is also mindful of what she puts in her body.

“It’s not just what we are able to do in the practice room, it’s what you do on your off time, too. If you’re going out and putting bad things in your body that you shouldn’t be, you’re not going to wrestle well and you’re not going to perform well,” she said. “You have to live the wrestling lifestyle...or you’re not going to feel good when you step on the mat.”

She is studying exercise science at MBU, and after she obtains her bachelor’s degree she wants to continue her education by studying physical therapy. Academics are important to her, she said, and she’s not one “to go out and party.” She understands she needs to stay fit to wrestle and to do well with her studies.

“My family is not well off, and I knew at a young age that I needed to keep my grades up and get somewhere to better myself and come back and help my family someday, so that’s what I’m trying to do,” she said.

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