BELOIT—Matt Ries says high school wrestling in Wisconsin received a big boost last week when the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association decided to add a girls division to the state wrestling tournament series.
Starting with the 2021-22 wrestling season, a girls-only individual tournament will be held. Boys and girls will be able to wrestle one another during the regular season, but the postseason will be gender exclusive.
Ries had four girls in his Beloit Turner wrestling program last season and appreciates that he’ll have another recruiting tool when he looks to add more.
“In our Beloit Area Youth Wrestling Club we have had quite a few girls in the past, but we’ve lost a lot of them because they don’t see a future in it,” Ries said. “When they get to high school, they can generally only wrestle against guys and that can be frustrating. Now when we’re out recruiting the halls we’ll be able to tell them you won’t have to wrestle just boys. We’re going to take care of you at the end of the season with their own tournament. I think that will help grow the sport.”
The Wisconsin Wrestling Coaches Association had tried to do that on its own, offering a postseason girls tournament not WIAA-related. Two of Turner’s four girls placed in that last season.
“The coaches association held that in Wausau,” Ries said. “The association paid for the referees, the venue and the medals.”
He’s glad the WIAA is stepping up.
“The more wrestlers in the room, the better your program is,” Ries said. “Last season at Edgerton we won our dual meet because one of our girls we were able to put to take a forfeit at 152 and that bumped our lineup to win that match by a point. It was huge to have her in the room. We won that match because she made weight.”
For girls wrestling to be added as its own sport it would have to have to meet the WIAA bylaw of 5 percent participation by member schools, or somewhere around 25 schools.
Ries sees that as also a possibility somewhere down the line.
“There are 26 other states who have a girls-only state wrestling tournament,” he said. “I think there are seven who have girls programs. I could see that here. Wisconsin has a rich tradition of wrestling for girls. There are females from Wisconsin wrestling internationally.”
Beloit Memorial Coach Joe Clothier was unavailable for comment, but his team has also had females on its roster.