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Wisconsin Mulls Sanctioned HS Girls Wrestling Division

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As girls wrestling continues to gain traction across the country, some in Wisconsin are proposing the creation of a girls division with individual state tournament title opportunities.

“There is a push that would like to see gender equality for girls who wrestle,” Mel Dow, who is involved with an ad hoc committee drafting a proposal that then would go to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletics Association, told the Wisconsin State Journal. “Currently, we provide girls an opportunity to win a state title in individual sports like cross country, swimming, track and golf because it is nearly impossible for them to have a reasonable chance at a title competing against same-aged male athletes.”

Dow noted that nearly 20 states currently have a sanctioned girls wrestling division. 

“The WWCA has a proposal nearly complete that will allow for girls to join their schools wrestling team, train and compete against comparable opponents throughout the season and then have the opportunity to compete for a state title like the boys have been afforded for decades,” Dow said. “The current proposal does not impact the current structure of the boys individual state series and would provide for greater attendance at the WIAA team state event.”

Girls in Wisconsin can compete on the boys teams, but WIAA-sanctioned individual state titles are determined at the WIAA state tournament, which includes boys and any qualifying girls.

The proposal that Dow has been working on with the WWCA would “add a separate, fourth division within the current wrestling season; provide an additional level for schools that offer wrestling (varsity, varsity reserve, JV, now girls); provide opportunity for females to compete for an individual state title; permit practice with the regular team; and allow girls to compete at or in either regular-season events or girls-only events (fitting within the permitted number).” 

In 2018-19, 127 of 333 schools (38%) in Wisconsin had a female wrestler on the roster, with 248 female wrestlers overall. There are 325 female wrestlers so far in 2019-20, including at 143 of 336 schools (43%), according to statistics provided to the State Journal by Dow. More than 22,000 girls participated nationally in 2018-19, according to those statistics.

WIAA communications director Todd Clark told the State Journal that discussions about girls wrestling have taken place, including during open forum at WIAA fall area meetings when the WWCA made sure it was on the radar. But he said no recommendations have come from advisory committees and further discussion will be needed. That will include talking about weight classes, number of participants, number of schools sponsoring and separate or combined teams, he said. 

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