Photo/David Peterson, Minnesota/USA Wrestling
The oldest and greatest sport is seeing greater participation numbers at the high school level, especially among females.
The number of individuals participating in high school wrestling grew in the past year, with increased numbers of both boys and girls involved in the sport for 2017-18 compared to the previous school year.
The statistics were tabulated by the National Federation of State High School Associations for its annual High School Athletics Participation Survey, presented in a news release.
According to the NFHS, a total of 262,126 student-athletes participated in high school wrestling in the U.S. -- 245,564 boys, and 16,562 girls -- for the 2017-18 school year.
These statistics reflect an increase in participation levels for both boys and girls in high school wrestling over the previous school year. During the 2016-17 academic year, a total of 259,391 high school students wrestled nationwide -- 14,587 girls, and 244,804 boys. That translates into an overall increase of 2,735 more athletes involved in wrestling this year vs. last year, with 760 more boys and 1,975 more girls taking to the mat.
The number of schools with boys and girls participating in wrestling has also grown this year vs. last. During the 2017-18 school year, 2,351 schools had at least one girl wrestler while 10,775 schools had at least one boy wrestler ... compared to 2,091 schools with girl wrestlers and 10,629 schools with boys in wrestling for the 2016-17 school year.
Boys' wrestling remains seventh in terms of the total number of participants nationwide at the high school level.
Girls' wrestling is seeing tremendous growth at the high school level. During calendar year 2018, six states have announced the addition of separate state wrestling championships for girls for the 2018-19 school year: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Oregon. These are in addition to the six states which already have separate state championship competition for girls: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Tennessee, Texas and Washington State.
Growth rates for high school wrestling are especially impressive when one looks back nearly 50 years. According to statistics compiled by the NHSF for the 1969-70 school year, 228,681 boys wrestled in high school back then ... with 6,870 schools offering the sport. There were no girls involved in wrestling back then.
Overall participation rates for all high school sports has increased for the 29th consecutive year, according to the NHSF. However, some individual sports -- such as boys' 11-man football -- have experienced some reduced numbers in recent years.