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Wisconsin considers proposal for girls wrestling division

Girls wanting to wrestle in high school in the state of Wisconsin may soon have a division of their own, as a proposal is under development to create a separate girls division with opportunities to win a state title.

An ad hoc committee comprised of coaches and administrators -- along with the Wisconsin Wrestling Coaches Association (WWCA), and the Wisconsin Wrestling Federation -- are crafting a proposal that then would go to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA), the Wisconsin State Journal of Madison reported Thursday.

"Girls wrestling is taking off all over the country with nearly 20 states sanctioning a girls division," according to Stoughton athletic director Mel Dow, a proponent of expanding wrestling opportunities for girls in Wisconsin. "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. 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."

Right now, the proposal would add a separate, fourth division within the current wrestling season… provide an additional level for schools that offer wrestling (a new girls level to join existing varsity, varsity reserve, and junior varsity)… provide opportunity for females to compete for an individual state title… permit girls to practice with the existing team (without need to establish a separate program with its own coach)… and allow girls to choose to compete in regular-season events or girls-only events.

According to the proposal as outlined in the Wisconsin State Journal article, girls would practice with the boys, teams could use the girls in regular-season duals and teams could use females during regional and team sectional events. A girl who qualifies for individual sectionals would have to choose between competing in the boys' sectional tournament or wrestling in the female state tournament.

The number of high school girls participating in wrestling within the state of Wisconsin is growing quickly. According to statistics supplied by Stoughton's Dow, in 2018-19, 127 of 333 schools (38%) in Wisconsin had a female wrestler on the roster, with a total of 248 females who wrestled in the state last school year. So far in the 2019-20 school year, 143 of 336 schools (43%) have a female wrestler on the roster and 325 females have competed overall.

Girls' wrestling also continues to see incredible growth beyond Wisconsin. Across the nation, this past school year, 4,562 more girls participated in high school wrestling than in the previous academic year -- a 27% increase in just one year. (21,124 girls wrestled in high school in the 2018-19 school year compared to 16,562 in 2017-18.) By InterMat's count, 20 states have already officially sanctioned girls' high school wrestling programs.

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