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Girls wrestling gets a win in Pennsylvania — official oversight by the PIAA

A member of the high school girls wrestling team has her arm raised after winning a wrestling match.
Mark Stitzer
/
WPSU
Bald Eagle Area High School student Angie Grieb after winning a wrestling match during the "unofficial" girls' state championships on March 12, 2023.

Girls wrestling in Pennsylvania achieved a milestone Wednesday when the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association voted to sponsor the high school sport, in a move that's expected to attract more schools and students to the sport, along with increasing competition and scholarship opportunities for girls.

The unanimous decision by the PIAA board comes as the number of girls wrestling programs across the state has taken off, and it follows years of efforts by supporters who expect the popularity of girls wrestling to continue to grow.

“One of the things that I've always said ever since I've advocated for girls wrestling is don't let the number of girls on your boys’ team indicate the amount of interest that's there, because that's not the case. We have seen that when we provide opportunities for girls to compete against other girls, they will take advantage of that," said Jon Mitchell, the athletic director at McCaskey High School in the School District of Lancaster.

Mitchell has been working on the effort for years, including with the organization SanctionPA to get the PIAA sponsorship. That required having 100 schools approve programs. In 2020, McCaskey became the first PIAA school to approve a girls wrestling team.

Now that number is up to 111 schools in Pennsylvania, according to SanctionPA. That includes teams in Central Mountain in Clinton County; Bald Eagle, State College and Philipsburg-Osceola in Centre County; and Curwensville in Clearfield County.

Mitchell, a retired wrestling coach, said boys and girls can learn from the sport.

"I think the accountability that wrestling teaches because you're out there by yourself," he said. "The tremendous work ethic that's involved with wrestling. They're just positive characteristics that any boy or girl should learn.”

The PIAA oversight takes effect July 1, in time for the 2023-24 wrestling season. That’s expected to include a state championship for girls the same weekend as the boys PIAA championship in March 2024.

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Anne Danahy is a reporter at WPSU. She was a reporter for nearly 12 years at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania, where she earned a number of awards for her coverage of issues including the impact of natural gas development on communities.