In less than two weeks, the first-ever girls' state wrestling championships will take to the mats in Iowa.
The Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association (IWCOA) issued a statement Friday in conjunction with the Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) to announce the establishment of the inaugural state wrestling tournament exclusively for Iowa girls in grades 9-12 on Saturday, Jan. 19 at Waverly-Shell Rock High School in Waverly, Iowa -- the home of Wartburg College -- located just north of Waterloo.
The tournament will be conducted by the IWCOA, which will also serve as the event's presenting sponsor. All girls currently competing on wrestling teams sponsored by the Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) are eligible to compete. (For additional information on the event -- including who is eligible to compete -- check out the IWCOA/ISHAA joint statement posted at IAwrestle.com.)
Although the event has the support of two leading organizations governing high school wrestling within the state of Iowa, it bears some differences from the eight girls' wrestling championships announced in 2018 which will be taking to the mat for the first time in Feb. and March of this year ... as well as the existing championships for girl wrestlers in a half-dozen states.
For starters, this new Iowa girls tournament will be held separate from the long-established boys' state championships in terms of timing and location.
The boys' tournament will be held Feb. 14-16, 2019 -- nearly a month after the girls' tournament -- at the Wells Fargo Arena in downtown Des Moines, a two-hour drive from Waverly, site of this year's girl state tourney.
Girls' high school wrestling has experienced significant growth in recent years in Iowa ... and beyond.
Within the state of Iowa, 157 girls wrestled in high school during the 2018-19 school year. By contrast, just 93 girls participated in the sport during the 2017-18 school year, according to the IWCOA release. What's more, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported that "several teams in northeast Iowa have more than 10 girls participating including Waverly-Shell Rock, Osage and Charles City, with Denver head wrestling coach Chris Krueger tweeting Thursday that the Cyclones have had 14 girls sign up for wrestling."
Beyond Iowa, growth in girls' high school wrestling is a national phenomenon.
As InterMat reported in a recent feature on the growth of women's wrestling in 2018, during the 2017-18 school year, 16,562 girls wrestled at 2,351 schools around the country, according to the annual National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) participation survey. By contrast, 14,587 girls wrestled at the high school level during the 2016 17 academic year. That's a growth of nearly 2,000 additional female wrestlers at the prep level in just one year.
At the beginning of 2018, six states had separate state wrestling championships for girls: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Tennessee, Texas and Washington State. In the past year, eight additional states announced the establishment of a girls' state championships: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, and Oregon. These new events are slated to take place in February and March of 2019.