WILSONVILLE – As the fall sports seasons wind down, gyms and wrestling rooms are filling around eastern Oregon. Even before one wrestler hits the mat, early visits to various schools are showing one clear trend-girls involved in wrestling is booming.
In 1990, 112 female high school wrestlers took to the mat across the nation. In the 2016-17 high school year, that number had grown to 14,587 student athletes. Looking at 2016-17 numbers again, Oregon ranked seventh in the nation in terms of female grapplers with 348. California ranked first listing 4,505 participants.
The OSAA numbers provide an even clearer picture. The 2020 season in Oregon showed 857 female wrestlers, an increase of over 29% over 2016. 148 schools in Oregon had a girls wrestling program.
As the preseason polls start to make the rounds, one thing is becoming clear. The mid weight classes for female wrestlers in Oregon will be full of talent. Talented, hard-working female wrestlers capable of a state tournament win will, under the current system, be lumped together.
Under the current system, 1A through 6A female wrestlers will compete for one state title in each weight division. This system was fine just a few years ago when numbers were limited.
The current numbers may not necessitate six divisions, but now is the time to consider two divisions of female wrestlers for the state tournament. 1A/2A/3A would compete in one classification for a state title while 4A/5A/6A would compete in a second classification.
We are estimating the sport of female wrestlers will need to be divided into multiple divisions within a few short years as the number of females finding the sport continues to increase.
Every week, easternoregonsports.com receives notice of another college or university adding female wrestling to their collegiate program. This means scholarships, a method of a student athlete receiving a college education by way of athletic success. Claiming a state title on a scholarship application grabs the attention of many coaches.
The sport is growing, Oregon needs to catch up.