Statewide, girls wrestling turnout jumped to nearly 1,000, an eightfold increase from the year before. The surge startled organizers but continued a nationwide trend: As more states launch wrestling championships for girls, participation soars. It increased by more than 4,500 girls, or 28%, last season alone, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.
This winter, more than half of U.S. states will have a high school wrestling tournament for girls—either an official one, a pilot test or one run by a coaches’ association.
Girls are bolstering wrestling at a time when it and other high school sports are stagnating. They’re also reinvigorating a sport nearly bounced from the Olympics six years ago.
“It’s not a stretch to say the implementation of women’s wrestling, the non-restricted, full implementation of women’s wrestling in our sport, is the best thing that’s ever happened to us,” said Rich Bender, executive director of USA Wrestling, the sport’s governing body.