A tap out is unlikely after the Newton school board on Monday, June 28 agreed to support the efforts of its athletes and coaches to have the state athletic union sanction girls wrestling as an official sport in Iowa. Doing so would allow districts to compete in standalone girls wrestling tournaments, among other things.
Elected officials unanimously approved and signed a letter of support to the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU), indicating the intention of Newton Community School District to have a girls wrestling team upon the sanctioning of the ever-growing sport.
Newton currently has a girls wrestling team, but it only operates as a branch of the boys wrestling program. This means girls wrestling tournaments can only be held as a division of a boys tournament, rather than independently organized competitions.
By sanctioning the sport, Newton Superintendent Tom Messinger suggested the girls team would no longer have to share a program with the boys team. Adam Hale, head wrestling coach, also said girls wrestling is currently one of the fastest — if not, the fastest — growing sport in the United States.
“At the state level, if you look at high school numbers, we’ve gone up four or five times the number of participants at the unofficial girls state tournament,” he said. “At the collegiate level, we went from having one collegiate women’s program as little as three years ago. And now we have four with others on the verge.”
With more girls wrestling programs emerging across the state, Hale said the team would like to push for Newton’s role in the sport by sending a letter of support to the athletic unions. Hale expected girls wrestling “is not very far in the future” from be officially sanctioned.
“We need 50 schools to send a letter of this sort, and at last count we had 30 or 35, and that was before this year,” Hale said. “I think we kind of hit a stalling point this year with COVID and schools going virtual. Superintendents had bigger things to worry about. But now … I think it’s time to press forward with that.”
Having a separate girls wrestling program will have more longterm benefits and set the athletes up for more success, Hale added. The sooner Newton can establish a girls wrestling program the sooner the district can get a dedicated coach and coaching staff for the sport.
To help mitigate costs, Hale suggested Newton could have shared program with other school districts in the area, much like the swim team.
The NCSD Board of Education was eager to approve the letter of support. Schoolboard member Robyn Friedman thanked Hale for thinking ahead of the game and “thinking so positively about where we will get to with this sanctioning” and for keeping funding in mind.
Last year, Newton had three girls wrestlers who competed in state, Hale said. After the state tournament, more girls showed up and started practicing, which the coach contributed to the success of student athletes Grace Brown, Emma Lopez-Garcia and Jessie Hutchinson.
“So we went from having three girls compete and end the season a couple years ago to four girls ending the season, three competing and all winning matches at state,” Hale said. “Moving forward we’re looking at having six — hopefully more — starting out the year this year.”
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