BUTTE — Back in 2020, then sophomore Hayla Hoffman's sister had to convince her to come to an open mat session at Butte High as the Bulldogs began the process of putting together their first-ever sanctioned girls wrestling team.
There was some initial trepidation, but after some reassurance from the coaches she settled in and realized this sport was for her.
"After the first practice, I was so excited to go to the next one," Hoffman said. "We were learning a lot and going at a really fast pace and I loved it."
Fast forward three seasons and Hoffman and fellow senior wrestler Kaylee LaPier were signing letters of intent with Dickinson State University where the two will again be part of a first-year wrestling program, this one under Tyson Springer who was tabbed as the Blue Hawks' first women's wrestling coach in January.
Butte High wrestlers Hayla Hoffman and Kaylee LaPier signing with Dickinson State. Both were part of the Bulldogs inaugural wrestling team and will now be part of the Blue Hawks first ever women's wrestling program. #mtscores pic.twitter.com/Y9Cb5iQHQX— Luke Shelton (@lukeshelton_mtn) April 3, 2023
Hoffman and LaPier are now the first two girls to receive collegiate wrestling scholarships.
"A lot of hours in the wrestling room," said LaPier as she recounted all the effort that preceded her signing with DSU on Monday afternoon. "Countless weekends and countless days just working, sweating. Giving everything I had to get to this moment."
After not placing in her first two trips to the state tournament as a sophomore and junior, LaPier concluded her high school career on a high note, taking fifth place at 107 pounds.
Hoffman brought home hardware all three season: second as a sophomore and third as both a junior and senior. She found plenty of success with a new program and is now looking to do the same as a college athlete.
"It's a new program and I always like being the first cause then we set the pace and tone for the rest of the incoming teams," Hoffman said. "I'm just really excited to be part of a new program and setting everything up."
Hoffman and LaPier will now look to be part of the process of taking a brand new team and turning it into an established program. Considering what the two did as high school wrestlers, they should be up to the challenge.
"When we first started we only had eight girls and now we have close to 20," said LaPier. "It's honestly breathtaking to even think that we came that far. Cause I didn't think we'd come that far. We went from a little group of girls who had no idea what we were doing and now we're just growing and we're making history and we're winning tournaments and getting better."