MSU Athletics, Diversity Council to hold special luncheon celebrating Women's History Month and the Historic First Year of the Women's Wrestling Program

MINOT, N.D. – A myriad of milestones have paved the road to women's history month, many in the world of sports.

Milestones like the passage of Title IX in 1972, or 1973's exhibition contest on the tennis court as Billie Jean King rolled to a three-set victory over boisterous Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes."

A more recent milestone is the creation of the WNBA in 1997, which continues to thrive today but wasn't the first professional sports league for women as the 1992 movie "A League of Their Own" highlighted the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League formed in 1943, although it didn't have the longevity of the WNBA.

While there have been numerous milestone moments in women's sports throughout the years and on various stages, Minot State placed itself on that list of milestones this past year as the Beavers became the first NCAA women's wrestling program in North Dakota.

On Wednesday, March 22, at noon, Minot State Athletics and the Minot State Diversity Council will hold a special luncheon celebrating "Women's History Month and the Historic First Year of the Women's Wrestling Program" in the Minot State Dome's first-floor lobby. The celebration luncheon is free to the public.


Led by head coach Brittney Mitchem, the first-year Beavers hit the mats for their first-ever competition on November 5, 2022, in a tournament hosted by Colorado Mesa, and during its five-month season Minot State racked up a variety of other program firsts.

"It's such a special thing to build history and establish this program, and to push women's wrestling forward," Mitchem said.

"I'm thankful that everyone trusted in me as a leader for this program," added Mitchem, who brought experience both as a two-time All-American wrestler herself and three years of experience as a women's collegiate wrestling head coach with her to Minot. I am so proud of the team for just jumping in and figuring things out together.

"This year has brought a lot of learning opportunities, but I'm proud of the team for overcoming some bumps in the road. As all true freshmen on the mat, being away from home for the first time, and asking to get along with a whole new group of people; I'd say they have crushed it!"

The results certainly confirm that the Beavers crushed it as Minot State sent nine different wrestlers out onto the mats this season.

Among the milestones recorded by that group of true freshmen:

  • Annika Gotlieb earned win No. 1 in the program's history with a 17-8 technical fall victory in her first match at the Maverick Open tournament on Nov. 5, 2022.
  • Gotlieb recorded the first win by pin in 1 minute, 24 seconds of her third collegiate match at the Maverick Open tournament on Nov. 5, 2022.
  • Minot State hosted Chadron State (Neb.) on Nov. 18, 2022, in the first home dual. Chadron State won, 42-5.
  • Minot State won its first dual match 15-5 over Wayland Baptist (Texas) at the York Duals in Nebraska on Jan. 13.
  • Angelina Garcia advanced to first tournament title match in 235-pound bracket at the York Open on Jan. 14. Garcia finished second.
  • Nina Sandoval won the consolation championship (third place) at NCWWC Region V tournament on Feb. 19, at 155 pounds with a win by pin, the Beavers highest finish at the Region V tournament in the team's first-ever appearance.
  • Jazmin Gorder (123), Annika Gotlieb (130), and Nina Sandoval (155) all qualified for the NCWWC National Championship, the first three Minot State wrestlers to earn berths to Nationals.
  • Jazmin Gorder won by pin in her first match at the NCWWC National Championships on March 3, the first win and first pin for Minot State at Nationals.

The hard work the Beavers put in on the mat in their first season also helped all women's collegiate wrestlers achieve one more milestone this season as the NCAA announced earlier this month that with more than 40 teams at all levels competing in women's wrestling, the sport will be considered for an NCAA National Championship. NCAA women's wrestling teams, like Minot State, currently compete in the National Collegiate Women's Wrestling Championship (NCWWC).


Two of Minot State's team of women's wrestlers took time following Nationals to reflect on a first year filled with milestone moments and challenges the team overcame.

"As a member of this first-year program, it came with many difficulties," said Gorder, a nursing major from Poplar, Montana. "Coming in as a true freshman, most of the team was unsure of what to expect. We did not have upper-class teammates to lead the way or give words of advice. We anticipated what our competition would be like and learned to adjust to collegiate wrestling.”

"My personal struggle was shifting from folkstyle wrestling to freestyle wrestling," she added. "In the beginning it was a bit rough, but after a few months I began to adjust and everything ran more smoothly.

"As the foundation of a program, we set standards high for ourselves and gave it our all as student-athletes," Gorder said.


Sandoval, a medical laboratory science major from Gilbert, Arizona who set single-season milestones for wins with 29 and pins with 18 this year, adds: "This season was very exciting because it was, in a way, mysterious. None of us knew what to expect. Most people fear the unexpected, but as a team I think it's fair to say we took the opportunity head on and made the most of this season."

Sandoval adds that being part of the first women's wrestling team at Minot State, and first NCAA women's wrestling program in North Dakota, doesn't necessarily feel special.

"It's something I know that I have worked for an earned," she said. "What does feel special, however, is being in a position where I can give back to the wrestling community, especially young girls. I like knowing that I can encourage them to follow in our footsteps, whether it be through words of encouragement or volunteering locally to help some of the girls wrestling teams out." 

Equally special at a school like Minot State, which is situated on Native American ancestral lands, is the fact that both Gorder and Sandoval also honor their own Native American heritage with their efforts as ground-breaking Beaver student-athletes.

"To be gifted with the opportunity to represent my reservation as a collegiate wrestler is simply special enough itself to me," said Gorder, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. "I hope to motivate others to continue pursuing what they love."

She found that love for wrestling in middle school after realizing "I had no talent as a basketball player."

Learning more about her sport, as well, helped her to relax and become a talented performer on the mats who achieved greatness this past season as one of the first Beaver women to qualify for nationals.

"It was a thrilling experience to qualify and wrestle in the national tournament," she said. "Winning a match was the cherry on top for my first-year experience. Competing at a national tournament has shown me a new view of competition, which was extremely competitive. Overall, it was an amazing experience."

As for Sandoval, whose father is Puerto Rican and mother is Natoaganeg, part of the Eel Ground First Nation in New Brunswick, Canada, she adds of representing her heritage: "I think that it's an awesome experience. … I grew up in Arizona but would visit the reservation to visit with family, enjoy pow wow, and more.”

"Minot State also provides a lot of opportunities and support to Native American students," Sandoval said. "I am apart of Native American club here on campus and Annette (Mennem, MSU Native American Center Director) does an awesome job at making sure native students know about resources, scholarships and opportunities that are available to them."

Always a fan of combat sports, Sandoval started wrestling to be part of that competitive community and to celebrate and enjoy the camaraderie of the sport.

As for being one of the first Minot State women to advance to Nationals, she adds: "I was anxious. Anxious to me is the best feeling to be when wrestling because it's a combination of excitement and being nervous. Many people find being nervous is a bad thing in competing, I was always taught that all it means is that you care and that's a good thing."

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 03/21/23   

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