Girls wrestling takes its spot inside the Tacoma Dome
By CASEY OLSON
Federal Way Mirror Sports editor
December 16, 2008 · Updated 12:19 PM
Girls wrestling in the state of Washington is here to stay.
No longer is the sport a novelty act that takes place in the basement of frat houses using a kiddie pool and cherry Jell-O.
Washington is currently one of only three states in the nation to offer a separate state tournament for high school girls. The other two are Texas and Hawaii.
But even with the limited number of sanctioned state tournaments, girls wrestling is becoming increasingly popular across the country. Nationwide, about 5,000 high school girls wrestled in 2007, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. And that is nearly five times as many girls as a decade ago.
Federal Way High School currently has the most girl wrestlers in the district. The Eagles and first-year head coach Travis Mango feature four girls, who will be competing during the regular season in hopes of qualifying for the 2009 Girls State Wrestling Championships inside the Tacoma Dome.
The tournament will take place at the same time as the Mat Classic, the boys equivalent, and this will be the third time an official girls state tournament will be held inside the Dome. The inaugural tournament took place in 2007 and the Federal Way School District is still looking for its first girl qualifier, although three — Jefferson’s Danielle Cushen and Stefani Garibay and Federal Way’s Christina Wong — wrestled in the inaugural girls wrestling invitational tournament back in 2004. The first invitational, an exhibition featuring groups of four wrestlers, drew 68 girls from 48 schools in 2004, as compared to last year, when close to 500 girls turned out at well over 100 schools in Washington.
“(Completely separating girls and boys wrestling) is our ultimate goal, but it is a balancing act,” Jim Meyerhoff, WIAA assistant executive director, told the National Federation of State High School Associations. “If you cut off the regular-season participation against boys too soon, then you will restrict the growth of girls wrestling.”
Washington does not yet have enough participation in girls wrestling to account for creating a separate girls division during the regular season, even though half of the WIAA schools with wrestling have female wrestlers. But the state does have all-girl tournaments set for every weekend of the season.
“As a model, it’s been very successful,” Meyerhoff said. “Girls wrestling has brought more excitement and enthusiasm to high school wrestling in Washington. There are always a few parents and coaches who wish it would go away, but we are way past that point now.”
The participation at the high school level is also being assisted by several colleges now offering women’s wrestling as a varsity sport, as well as the Olympics making it an official medal sport.
Yakima Valley Community College became the first school in Washington to offer women’s wrestling this year. Yakima is the 11th college in the nation to offer varsity women’s wrestling.Contact Federal Way Mirror Sports editor Casey Olson at email@example.com or (253) 925-5565 ext. 5056.