BEAR RIVER HIGH – By Cari Doutre, Headliner Publisher, January 15, 2023
It’s been said that wrestling is not just a sport but “a way of looking at everything in a different way, a push through all the sweat, every black eye, every drop of blood, each labored breath by practice’s end, all effectively bandaged by potential victory at the end of each match.”
The courage to continue is what counts. And nobody knows that better than Bretlee Potter.
Bretlee, a senior at Bear River High and a member of the girls’ wrestling team, has been wrestling since 2020 when girls’ wrestling officially became a sanctioned sport by the Utah High School Activities Association. She was a member of the first ever girls’ wrestling team at Bear River High and has helped paved the way for generations of girls who now have the option to compete on the high school wrestling mat in their own sanctioned sport.
She has also been instrumental in helping build the girls’ wrestling program at BR to what it is now – a thriving sport and a very successful newer program.
Now, in her last year competing on the high school wrestling mat, Bretlee is focused on accomplishing the goals she set for herself and for her team. She’s also dominating the competition along the way.
But Bretlee’s success on the mat this season didn’t happen overnight. It’s taken years of hard work to get to where she is now and there’s no such thing as an off-season for her.
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Wrestling isn’t just a three-month sport for her. When she’s not wrestling as a member of the girls’ wrestling team, Bretlee’s busy traveling and competing in freestyle and Greco tournaments throughout Utah and beyond.
That hard work and dedication didn’t go unnoticed either. Bretlee was one of five wrestlers on the Bear River girls’ wrestling team selected to participate in the 2023 Ross Brunson All-Star Duals, something she’s been working hard to achieve for some time.
“I was pretty excited,” Bretlee said when she heard she was selected.
“I knew I was doing well throughout the season and I really wanted to go last year because I beat the All-Star girl. So, being able to achieve one of my goals was pretty exciting,” she added.
Not only did she accomplish her goal of being selected to compete, but she also brought home the win, defeating her opponent Maitae Cardenas from Canyon View High (Fall 3:52) in her All-Stars match.
“I was ready to go out and wrestle and make it my match. I’m going to wrestle my match, not her match. I’m going to control the whole thing,” Bretlee said.
And that she did.
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Despite all the success that she’s had on the mat, wrestling isn’t without challenges for Bretlee. She faces a major disadvantage in the sport every time she steps out onto the mat because she’s much smaller than her opponents.
At least 30 pounds to be exact. But Bretlee doesn’t let that affect her or her ability to succeed on the wrestling mat. She uses it as an advantage instead.
“I’m faster than them. I’m stronger than them usually. I can usually throw my weight around and make me feel heavier than I am,” she said.
Her strategy is working, too.
With several weeks left in the season, Bretlee has a current overall record of 24-3, dominating in her matches at team duals and at tournaments, as well, while collecting a lot of medals along the way. She’s a frequent occupant on the winner’s podium this year with the following finishes:
1st place – L.I.T. Varsity Girls Tournament (December 3, 2022)
1st place – 2023 Ross Brunson Utah All-Star Duals (January 10, 2023)
2nd place – MC Filly Invitational (January 7, 2023)
3rd place – Rockwell Rumble (January 14, 2023)
Bretlee hasn’t been alone in this journey either. Her family has been her biggest supporters. Her parents, Colton and Eljin Potter, are there with her every step of the way and are actively involved with the girls’ high school wrestling program.
Bretlee’s grandmother, Shelli Bickmore, or "Mams" as Bretlee calls her, is also cheering her on and is often the one to get the first hug or the first phone call after a match.
Her younger sister, 11-year-old Kyzie, is there for almost all of Bretlee’s matches and also makes custom girls’ wrestling team earrings and hair bows to help hype up team spirit and school pride.
And then there’s Bretlee’s twin sister, Crislyn. Also a 3-year member of the girls’ wrestling team, Crislyn has been by Bretlee’s side the entire way. And vice versa. They share more than just a sisterly bond and often participate in each other’s special hype up traditions right before a match – slapping each other.
That’s right, they slap each other. You just can’t argue or try to change up a wrestler’s hype up methods. It is what it is.
And it’s all worth it, too.
“As soon as you step on the line everything goes away. Anything that hurts is gone. You don’t hear anything until you look at your coaches,” Bretlee said.
It might not be an easy sport to love and to succeed in but for Bretlee wrestling is more than just a sport. To her, wrestling is about overcoming hardships, persevering until the end and proving to herself, and others, that girls can wrestle, too.