It only took one year for girls wrestling to move from an emerging sport to a fully sanctioned Nebraska School Activities Association activity.
As expected, the NSAA board of directors voted 8-0 at its May meeting Wednesday in Lincoln to bring girls wrestling into the fold, and will integrate their state championships into the boys state meet at CHI Health Center Omaha next February.
“From all the emails I’ve received, there’s a lot of people advocating for this, and they all have valid points. I’m a supporter,” said Thomas Lee, Omaha Northwest principal and District 2 board member. “Personally, it’s time to move forward.”
This past winter was the second year that the Nebraska Scholastic Wrestling Coaches Association had sponsored a girls state tournament in York. The February event had 64 schools and 178 participants this year, compared with 37 schools and 115 girls in 2020.
The bordering states of Colorado, South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas all have sanctioned high school girls wrestling.
Ron Higdon, NSAA assistant director in charge of wrestling, said at last month’s board meeting that the national high school federation would come out with girls weight classes this spring that Nebraska will use going forward. According to national high federation statistics, girls wrestling is the fastest-growing high school sport nationwide on a per-capita basis.
“We should be able to seamlessly integrate the girls into the state meet,” Higdon said.
Girls wrestling will start with one class, but that could expand in the years to come.
“I think the numbers (of girls participating) will really explode,” said Sutherland superintendent Dan Keyser, District 4 board member.
While sanctioning girls wrestling, however, doesn’t guarantee a complete elimination of boys wrestling girls. Schools that do not offer girls wrestling will still be forced to have individual girls interested in wrestling to compete on the boys team.
Because of that, Lincoln Public Schools athletic director Kathi Wieskamp, a District 1 board member, said the hard work of recruiting girls into the sport is important at this point to ensure schools have enough participants to offer two wrestling teams.
“I don’t want to say, ‘It’s in now, we’re good,’’’ Wieskamp said.
The NSAA board heard proposals to host the state baseball tournament beginning next spring from Lincoln and Papillion. The board, however, tabled any decision in order to visit Nebraska-Omaha’s new baseball facility, which was included in Papillion’s bid along with Werner Park.