Girls across the country are pinning barriers and gender stereotypes one by one on the wrestling mat. Here is a cool fact that you may not be aware of: wrestling is now the fastest growing women’s sport in the nation. Girls participation in the sport is rising year after year. In 2018, about 16,000 girls wrestled at the high school level in the United States. That number soared to more than 21,000 by 2019 according to statistics from the National Wrestling Coaches association.
While female participation on high school wrestling teams is surging, male participation has been decreasing since 2009. Although female wrestlers at the high school level make up only 8% of wrestlers across the nation, their presence is still being heard.
Twenty states now have wrestling championships for girls. In the 2019, North Carolina’s first-ever girls wrestling state championship drew 87 girls from 55 high schools. The National Federation of State High Schools says the rise of girls in wrestling championships has had a positive influence on girls wanting to participate in the sport. As girls continue to take the mat, Sally Roberts, Executive Director of Wrestle Like a Girl, said the sport can do wonders for an athlete.
“Wrestling provides a path of educational, social and financial mobility for wrestlers. Wrestling supports kids staying in school, getting good grades and seeking opportunities.”
In addition to girls wrestling at the high school level, women’s wrestling has been an Olympic sport since 2004. While the sport has been recognized on the high school and Olympic level, the sport is competing to become prominent at the collegiate level. Currently out of the nearly 5,000 colleges nationwide, only 55 have women’s wrestling teams. As of now, the only team that competes at the NCAA I level is Presbyterian College in South Carolina. For the sport to grow at the collegiate level, the NCAA’s Committee on Women’s Athletics recommended women’s wrestling should be granted NCAA Emerging Sports Status. If women’s wrestling is awarded this status, the sport would join the NCAA program in August 2020.
With women around the nation heading to the mat to make their mark, let’s hope that the fastest growing female sport in the United States becomes a staple at colleges around the nation.
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