The number of Wisconsin high school girls participating in wrestling has been on the upswing in recent years with many having success on all-boys teams.
That will change starting with the 2020-21 school year as the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) late last month approved the sanctioning of girls wrestling as a winter sport. The girls would also have their own state tournament separate from the boys.
Karl Voeck, co-head coach of the Monona Grove/McFarland wrestling co-op, said this will provide opportunities to female athletes who may feel they don’t have the capabilities to play other girls winter sports such as basketball, gymnastics and hockey.
“There are many girls out there that compete in similar sports outside of school, such as karate and jujitsu, which are very interchangeable with wrestling,” Voeck said. “Now they have an opportunity to wrestle and wrestle against the same gender at a high school state tournament. I really believe it’s awesome for our youth girls, because now they have an opportunity to continue their wrestling career through high school and possibly on to college.”
The WIAA ruling means high schools can start recruiting girls for wrestling with hopes of getting enough interest to field an all-girls team. Voeck said the goal will be to have teams with 12-14 girls and a schedule that resembles boys teams.
Voeck said he and co-head coach Doug Peterson will be trying to recruit athletes for the girls team. The first step might be getting more to sign up for youth wrestling, which involves pre-high schoolers.
“Doug does a great job detailing how wrestling can make you an overall better athlete,” Voeck said. “Our youth program already has numerous females participating, and I believe with a high school girls state tournament, they are more likely to continue the sport into high school and become a state champ, which is an awesome opportunity for them.”
Voeck said he and Peterson would co-coach the girls team when it begins in 2021-22.
In the 2020-21 wrestling season, genders would be mixed on the same team, meaning girls may be competing against boys.
Katelynn Gunderson was on the MGM team for four years. She is now wrestling for the women’s team at Lakeland University.