As she was growing up, Huntington Beach High senior Chloe Belman did a lot of things that separated her from being the typical teenage girl.
She played four years of football, including two seasons as a left tackle and strong safety for Lake Isabella Kern Valley.
By the time her sophomore football season had ended, Belman had become so desensitized to the attention that came with engaging in traditionally male activities that she decided to join another.
The winter came in her second year at Kern Valley. Belman wanted to stay busy with football out of the picture.
Her father, Dana, had reached the CIF State wrestling championship meet when he attended high school at Lakewood. He and her mother, Breezy, had always encouraged her to try wrestling, but one thing that Belman wanted no part of was the uniform.
"I was like, 'There's no way I'm wearing that singlet,'" Belman remembered. "'I'm not putting that head thing on, so I'm not doing it.'"
That stubbornness only lasted until she found herself around the sport. One day, Belman walked into the wrestling room at Kern Valley, and she decided on the spot that it was the sport for her.
"The first time I walked in the room and I saw someone slam someone down, I was like, 'Yes, I'm going to do this,'" she said.
Belman was the only girl on the wrestling team at Kern Valley in her sophomore year. She has attended three different high schools in three years. At the last two – Bakersfield Liberty and Huntington Beach – Belman became the first to join the wrestling program in the schools' histories.
She arrived at summer camp with the Oilers as the lone girl again. During offseason training, she was spotted running on the track by Breanne Raya.
Raya, a freshman, had planned to join the wrestling team, but the presence of Belman made her that much more excited to be a part of the program.
Belman had qualified for the state meet at Liberty during her junior year. Raya said that most of her live training sessions were almost exclusively held with Belman.
The first-year wrestler took her lumps against the more experienced Belman, but by the end of the year, Raya was surprising herself. She fell one match short of qualifying for state at the CIF Southern Section girls' wrestling championships last Saturday at Eastvale Roosevelt High.
"Wrestling her every day, I learned some of her habits," Raya said of Belman. "I learned how to wrestle a bit more like her, and I think that really improved how I wrestled.
"I learned how to prepare for pressure. Chloe can be really aggressive at times. I felt myself having to push harder just to keep up with her."
Huntington Beach also had two more girls join the team as first-time wrestlers this year in freshman Grace Doering and senior Camilla Valenzuela.
With the Oilers, Belman got exactly what she was hoping for. She wanted others to take the leap in joining the male-dominated sport.
"We rise by lifting others," Belman said. "I live by that. Coaching the girls, or even some of the boys on the team, it made me feel so much better about myself than just winning a tournament on my own."
Oilers coach John Morgan says that Belman was a transformative figure within the program. Morgan does not advocate gender stereotypes, but he does believe that the notion that males are masculine made Belman's impact that much more significant.
"It's great for me because girls aren't looked at as tough or strong, whatever boys always want to put the implications in," Morgan said. "That's not true. Sex does not determine anything when it comes to that.
"It was great that I was always able to use Chloe as an example to all the boys on how to work hard. They couldn't make an excuse because in their mind, she was a girl. They had to put forth as much effort as she did, and that really helped the team because she was a great role model."
Belman is headed to the state meet in back-to-back years after placing third in the 143-pound division of the CIF Southern Section girls' wrestling championships at Roosevelt High last Saturday. She went 5-1 in the tournament, recording five pins.
"I realized last week that nothing is farfetched," Belman said of her chances to do well at state. "When I came to terms with that, I was like, 'Oh my gosh. I might actually be able to go far with this.'"
Born: Dec. 30, 1999
Height: 5 feet 3
Weight: 143 pounds
Coach: John Morgan
Favorite food: Tacos
Favorite movie: "50 First Dates"
Favorite athletic moment: In the first dual meet of the season for Huntington Beach's wrestling squad, all four girls on the team won their match against Ocean View.
Week in review: Belman placed third in the 143-pound division of the CIF Southern Section girls' wrestling championships last Saturday at Eastvale Roosevelt High. The senior transfer went 5-1, qualifying for her second straight CIF State-meet appearance.