Girls Wrestling: Participation Continues To Surge articles, Matthias Cooper photo credit

When the International Olympic Committee announced in February of 2013 that they were considering eliminating wrestling from the Olympics after the 2016 games in Brazil, understandably there was a global uproar in the global wrestling community.

Fortunately due in part to the growing popularity of women’s wrestling, the committee decided to keep wrestling as long as the women became more of a focus.

A single Olympic weight class was removed each from the men’s freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling to add two more weights for the women, spurring a gender and sporting parity among the three disciplines with six each. article, wikimedia photo article, wikimedia photo

Wrestling at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro is scheduled to take place from 14 to 21 August at Hall 3 of the Olympic Training Center in Barra da Tijuca. It has been split into two disciplines, freestyle and Greco-Roman, which are further divided into different weight categories. Men compete in both disciplines whereas women only participate in the freestyle events, with 18 gold medals awarded. Wrestling has been contested at every modern Summer Olympic Games, except Paris 1900.

Around 344 wrestlers are expected to compete in 18 events. In September 2013, a new change to the rules and guidelines of the sport had been instituted and overhauled by the International Olympic Committee and FILA (now known as the United World Wrestling).[adToAppearHere]

In a May 8, 2013 article published in USA Today, Nenad Lalovic, the acting president of FILA, told The Associated Press “Women’s wrestling today is very spectacular. Very interesting to watch,” Lalovic said. “Why shouldn’t we be representative of women as well as men?”

His sentiments are in line with the growth of girls wrestling that has been surging for some time in America.

At the informative site, staff writer Gabriel Rizk shares, “In just three short years since girls wrestling became sanctioned as an official CIF sport, female-only programs have been springing up statewide and growing in size and strength at a rate that begs the question: Why weren’t girls given this opportunity sooner? article, wikimedia photo article, wikimedia photo

The introduction of girl’s teams and a separate CIF sectional and state postseason beginning in the 2012-13 school year has been a success both in terms of enhancing the competitive experience for established girl wrestlers and drawing neophytes to the sport.

According to data from the National High School Federation of Associations, high school girls wrestling has gained 2,553 new athletes since 2012, whereas it only grew by 3,664 throughout the previous decade.”

The site continues educating us of the facts that speak to this growth.

  • California, Oregon, Guam, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, Hawaii and Washington sponsor a state high school championship. It is also an official high school sport in New York City.
  • The National High School Federation of Associations reported that there are 1,158 girls wrestling teams nationwide and 9,904 girls participating in the sport. Both figures are more than double 2004 levels and the level of athlete participation had risen more than tenfold since 1994.
  • Women’s wrestling became an Olympic sport in 2002 and debuted at the 2004 games.
  • There are currently 24 collegiate varsity women’s wrestling programs nationwide.

The National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) brings more good news. article, wikimedia photo article, wikimedia photo

Their informative site provides us with more insight on this expansion.

  • Since 1994, the number of women who wrestle in high school has grown from 804 to over 9904. (Female participation Numbers – Total Female Participation graphs)
  • Women’s high wrestling participation numbers are higher than the NCAA sponsored sports of crew, fencing, skiing, and rifle and NCAA emerging sports of rugby, sand volleyball and equestrian.
  • NWCA conducts a 16-team National Dual Meet Championship in conjunction with the NWCA/Cliff Keen Collegiate National Duals
  • The NWCA in conjunction with USA Wrestling and Lock Haven University conducted the first of its kind CEO Leadership Academy for coaches of women’s teams.
  • NWCA has been instrumental in getting women’s wrestling added as a new sport a number of schools

Sources from all of the United States are confirming this phenomenon. article, wikimedia photo article, wikimedia photo

The media source and their writer Maureen Hayden relates, “The number of girls on high school wrestling teams jumped almost 20 percent in the 2010-11 school year – the biggest percentage gain in sports with the normally lowest female participation. (Number two was badminton, up 14 percent in girls’ participation; number three was weightlifting, up 11 percent.)

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, 7,351 girls wrestled competitively on their school teams in 2010-11. Five years ago, there were 4,975. Twenty-five years ago, there was one.[adToAppearHere]

“They’re legitimately interested in the sport,” said Mike Moyer, executive director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association. Not everybody can be 6-foot-8 and play on the basketball team. With wrestling, there’s a place for everybody.”

The National Federation of State High School Associations (nfhs) spoke to this wonderful growth in high school sports overall as well. “The number of participants in high school sports increased for the 25th consecutive year in 2013-14 with a record total of almost 7.8 million, according to the annual High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

Based on figures from the 51 NFHS member state high school associations, which includes the District of Columbia, sports participation for the 2013-14 school year reached an all-time high of 7,795,658 – an increase of 82,081 from the previous year. This one-year increase was the highest since 2009-10. article, wikimedia photo article, wikimedia photo

Girls participation increased for the 25th consecutive year with an additional 44,941 participants from 2012-13 and set an all-time record of 3,267,664. Boys participation eclipsed 4.5 million for the first time (4,527,994), breaking the mark of 4,494,406 in 2010-11.”

Female Competition International (FCI) is encouraged to see a cultural shift where girls and women’s wrestling is gaining credibility and interest. The future looks very bright and the coming Olympics promises to be more exciting with the expansion of women’s weight classes.

We also see the day when female wrestlers, contemporary dancers, cheerleaders and singers will perform at the same event in a regal Dojo. Excitement springs eternal.

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