For decades in the state of Oregon, it’s been the boys who have ruled the mats of high school wrestling. But now it’s more and more girls putting their foot on the line and getting their hand raised.
Girls wrestling just became a sanctioned high school sport in Oregon.
“Wrestling coaches are behind this, this movement,’ said head Redmond High School wrestling coach Kris Davis. “This is what’s keeping wrestling alive and in the forefront, I think, is girls wrestling right now, especially in the college ranks. And so I think everybody is really pushing for this type of, of movement of growing girls wrestling.”
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It is the first sport the Oregon School Activities Association has added since softball in 1979.
“It’s nice to add another sport,” said OSAA Executive Director Peter Webber. “Something would probably be long overdue, and we’re excited to get that going and work out the details as we go through.”
According to the OSAA, girls wrestling participation in the U.S. increased 46% to 53,000.
In Oregon, it went from 850 to more than 1,100 just last year.
“It’s grown a lot,” said first-ever girls state champion wrestler at Redmond High Mackenzi Sharon. “It used to be pretty small, not very many girls, but there’s a ton of tough girls here, and I think wrestling each other growing up has definitely pushed towards that.”
Central Oregon girls’ wrestling had one of its best years in 2023, from bringing home girl’s team titles to the first-ever girl’s state champions at Crook County and Redmond High.
“I’m pretty excited to see where it takes our program to have us separate and have like our own fundraising and we can just kind of take it in the direction we need to go to improve the best for the girls,” said Sharon.
It’s not just the returning champions who are excited about the news but also the girls just starting.
“I think it’s really great because people don’t really talk about wrestling that much, girls wrestling especially,” said first-time wrestler Reina Barnes. “So I was like, I think it’s amazing that it’s like our own sport now.”
Currently, coaches are eagerly waiting to see what girls wrestling as a sanctioned sport is about.
“We’re kind of in a waiting game with OSAA right now to kind of see what this looks like because they haven’t done it since 1979,” said Davis, “So yeah, we haven’t, we haven’t been through this yet. So we’ll see how it goes.”