Opening the Door for Others
Nearly 2,000 people were on hand at Chugiak High the night Michaela Hutchison made history by winning the 103-pound title at the 2006 state wrestling championships to become the nation’s first girl to win a state high school championship against boys.
The crowd was poised to witness history. It was a time before smartphones, and so flashbulbs popped and camcorders whirred as Hutchison took the mat for the championship bout against Colony’s Aaron Boss.
Hutchison was a Skyview High sophomore who was the top seed in her weight class. The match was scoreless until the final 16 seconds, when Hutchison scored a point with an escape.
With Hutchison and Boss locked in the middle of the mat, the crowd started counting down as the clock neared zero. When the buzzer sounded, cementing Hutchison’s 1-0 victory, fans roared.
According to the Anchorage Daily News account of the match, ‘’Hutchison didn’t show much reaction — she was more concerned with stopping her nose from bleeding.’’
The victory capped a 45-4 season for Hutchison, who earned 33 of her wins with pins. She went onto a successful college career at Oklahoma City University, where she was a four-time All-American and three-time national champion for the women’s team and an occasional fill-in for the men’s team.
In the immediate aftermath of Hutchison’s high school title, there were calls from late-night TV hosts and members of the national media.
“Midwest, East Coast, everyone was saying that they heard Alaska on the news,” Skyview coach Neldon Gardner said at the time. “People were always coming up to me at the grocery store and the post office.”
But perhaps more significant was the long-term impact of Hutchison’s triumph. Her victory opened doors for others. Four years later, in 2010, Hope Steffensen of Kenai became Alaska’s second girl to claim a state high school title while wrestling against boys. And eight years later, in 2014, there were so many girls wrestling at Alaska’s Class 1-2-3A level that they merited a state tournament of their own. — Beth Bragg