Girls to get their own wrestling tournament in 2021-22 season
WIAA BOARD OF CONTROL
Wisconsin is joining the list of states that sponsor an individual girls wrestling postseason tournament.
On Wednesday, June 24, the WIAA’s Board of Control took the historic action of approving the individual tournament starting in the 2021-22 school year. Girls wrestling won’t yet be recognized as a WIAAsanctioned team sport, but the door is open for that to happen if enough schools or cooperative teams are formed.
Girls currently are allowed to wrestle with boys teams. In 2021-22, participating girls will continue to wrestle with boys teams during the regular season. Once postseason begins, if a school or co-op chooses to join the girls tournament series, its female wrestler(s) would compete in their separate tournament.
Programs that choose not to participate in the girls program must allow female wrestlers to keep competing with the boys through their tournament series.
The Wisconsin Wrestling Coaches Association and Wisconsin Wrestling Federation were key supporters of the move. It was reported prior to last week’s board meeting that 120 school superintendents around the state had pledged their support. About 325 females are reported to have competed with WIAA wrestling teams in the 2019-20 season with 143 of 336 teams having at least one female wrestler. Two schools, Holmen and Milwaukee Reagan, had double-digit numbers of females.
The National Federation of High Schools reported last August that 21,124 girls participated in high school wrestling nationwide in 2018-19. Wisconsin is now the 27th state to offer some form of girls wrestling tournament. South Dakota and Illinois also approved 2021-22 championships within the last month.
“I know my superintendent asked me when the question was going around and I said, ‘why not?’” said Greg Sonnentag, head coach of the Cornell-Gilman-Lake Holcombe wrestling team that had two freshman girls on the roster last winter. “I get that the numbers aren’t great and might not be for a few seasons. For the work they put in, why not give them a chance to wrestle for the state championship? It will be a chance for a little more recognition for them. We have college wrestling for females, we have Olympians, so why not?”
Medford head coach Brandon Marcis agreed.
“I think it’s a great thing,” he said. “It’s going to give the girls more opportunities than they already have in wrestling. We have girls in Medford that will definitely benefit from this. I don’t see how it can hurt, that’s for sure.”
Medford is likely to add a girl to its wrestling roster in freshman Rachel Sova, who won a Wisconsin Wrestling Federation Kids Folkstyle state title in 2019, capping a run of five straight top-five or better finishes and was part of Wisconsin’s first-ever girls national dual team last summer.
“She’s had a lot of success wrestling in the girls division and she’s done a lot of freestyle and Greco wrestling and was on that national team,” Marcis said. It’s super for her and for us to have an athlete like her. It’s just more opportunity.
Wrestling has always been a male dominated sport, and it kinda still is, but I think some of those stereotypes have gone away. It’s definitely more appealing to some girls the fact there’s a separate girls division. It’s good.”
In the case of the Cornell-Gilman-Lake Holcombe Wolfpack, Sonnentag said Kalley Krizan and Ali Blodgett, who most-commonly filled spots in the 138to 145-pound range, started wrestling in eighth grade. With most teams in the Lakeland Conference unable to field full rosters, they were able to pick up points with some forfeits last winter and gained some valuable experience in some tough matches against the boys.
A chance to match up with females in the post-season could be a motivating factor by their junior years.
“It was challenging obviously,” he said. “There was a learning curve. Both were freshman. I think they both enjoyed it and plan to continue in the sport as far as I know.”
As interest grows, schools, or groups of schools, are encouraged to form girlsonly teams. The goal is to get to 16 girlsonly teams for the WIAA to sanction girls wrestling as a team sport and create its own season and post-season tournament structure.
“We may even see more girls continue to wrestle here in Medford,” Marcis said. “Typically a lot of girls that we’ve had in the youth program, by the time they get to high school, a lot of them go a different direction. This might help retain some of that, which will only make our room better.”
“The only downfall I see is when we get those few girls that compete well with the boys,” Sonnentag said. “It was always a neat thing at state to see those girls competing at the state level with the guys. You probably won’t have the Macey Kiltys and Alyssa Lampes finishing second at the state championships happening anymore.”
Lampe, who wrestled for Tomahawk, was second in the 2006 Division 2 103-pound state tournament. Kilty was second for Stratford at 106 pounds in Division 3 in 2016.
In other wrestling-related Board of Control action, Trackwrestling.com will be used to randomly place sectional champions on the state individual tournament brackets in all divisions with the second- and third-place sectional finishers placed on the opposite half of the bracket beginning in 2021. In addition, the start time for the finals of the team sectional tournament for Divisions 2 and 3 will be 20 minutes following the completion of the semifinals or earlier if both coaches agree.