Girls wrestling in Oregon took another big step forward Monday.
The OSAA delegate assembly voted unanimously to adopt girls wrestling as a sanctioned sport, starting with the 2023-24 school year. It is the first sport the OSAA has added since softball in 1979.
“I think we always kind of saw this as the route,” OSAA executive director Peter Weber said. “This is kind of the natural evolution in our mind of the sport in Oregon.”
The girls division was added to OSAA wrestling in 2018-19 and has been part of the boys state championships. Going forward, girls wrestling will become its own entity but is likely to continue running its championships with the boys.
“Everything's going to look similar in the state as far as how tournaments are run and how schools are doing stuff,” said Hood River Valley athletic director Trent Kroll, who helped push for sanctioning. “What this does is it gives a little bit more equitable access for school districts to do more for a girls wrestling program.”
Kroll said it will help the sport build its own infrastructure.
“We're getting to the point where there are teams in Oregon with 20 or 30 women on them,” Kroll said. “So school districts are hiring separate girls wrestling coaches.
“Schools will be able to choose whether they have one or two coaches. Right now, with it just being a separate division within the sport, we can't even get a database of those wrestling coaches because we can only list one head coach.”
Central School District superintendent Jennifer Kubista, who made the motion for sanctioning Monday, said she appreciates how the wrestling community has advocated for girls.
“I give credit to the coaches who are opening their door to that,” Kubista said. “We've already seen the success of what's taken place, and this is just going to make clearer pathways to accomplish that in different schools.”
Kubista said sanctioning the sport will help create opportunities for women in coaching. She anticipates that some districts will be looking to add middle school programs for girls.
“It also helps on Title IX,” she said. “If you have schools that are potentially struggling with opportunities for girls, this is another pathway to that.”
The Oregon Wrestling Association held its first girls state championships in 2007, eventually moving the tournament to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, site of the boys tournament. The OSAA awarded its first state championship trophies for girls wrestling in 2019.
The sport has enjoyed immense growth in recent years. In the past year, girls wrestling participation in the U.S. increased 46 percent to 53,000. In Oregon, it went from 850 to 1,129.
In February, Kroll and Madras volunteer coach Scott Shannon brought a proposal to sanction girls wrestling to the OSAA executive board, which voted unanimously to support. The delegate assembly made it official by giving its approval Monday.
State associations are gradually making their own paths with girls wrestling.
“Right now, 38 states have state championships, and everybody has done it differently,” Kroll said. “There's not like a cookie-cutter way to do this.”