Last week, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) announced it would be hosting a separate state tournament for high school girls in the state, beginning in the 2021-2022 school year. Prior to this just-approved state championship, Illinois girls who wanted to wrestle for a state title had to compete against boys at the state championships at the University of Illinois' State Farm Center (the iconic concrete-dome facility built on the edge of the U of I campus in 1963).
This just-announced IHSA state wrestling championship officially sanctioned for girls -- slated to take the mats for the first time in 2021-2022 -- is expected to eventually replace the separate, non-sanctioned girls state tournament that was first conducted by the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association (IWCOA) starting in 2017.
"It's about time, I did not think Illinois would lag so behind," Coal City wrestling coach Mark Masters said. "I was really surprised I know our Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association really pushed for the IHSA to get this done ASAP."
Girls wrestling has grown tremendously throughout the nation over the past decade or so, and Illinois is no exception.
"It's definitely exciting for the opportunity to have something at the end of the season that's sanctioned just like the other sports in the IHSA," Central wrestling coach Travis Williams told the Daily Journal. "I'd say within the last ten years there's been a huge change and shift in the acceptance of girls wrestling. I think its filtered down from the Olympic and International level to the college level and now we are starting to see it as another option for girls and it's not the stigma that it might have been 10 years ago."
In terms of girls participation levels in wrestling, the growth is tremendous throughout the entire nation ... and within Illinois. According to the IHSA meeting minutes from last Monday's meeting, the number of girl's participation in wrestling in Illinois has nearly doubled in the past year, going from 424 two years ago to 837 in 2019-2020. That kind of growth is typical throughout the entire nation. In fact, as recently as the beginning of 2018, only a half-dozen states had separate, sanctioned wrestling programs throughout the entire nation. Now, with this latest announcement, states which have officially sanctioned girls wrestling include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Washington.