April 22, 2024

Newton athletes and parents want to build on momentum of girls wrestling

High school sport is growing fast, school board wants to remain proactive

Ashlyn Van Manen

Hilary Foster of Newton is almost always prepared with a pre-written speech during the open forum portion of school board meetings, but last week she went rogue — off the cuff! — and piggybacked on comments made by varsity girls wrestler Ashlyn Van Manen, who advocated for improving fast-growing sport.

“I think we really need to visit that and the facilities that are available for the girls,” Foster said. “The program is growing. They’re crammed into that little closet that they practice in. Moving forward I don’t think that’s going to be a possibility. Title IX will come into place or we could get complaints at the district.”

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in school programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. Foster confessed her daughter wrestles and that several other parents have daughters who wrestle in the relatively new program in Newton. But she is right, the sport is going through a growth spurt.

According to a March 12 article by Associated Press, it is the fastest-growing high school sport in the United States. All over the country, high school girls are taking on the sport and setting records. Van Manen’s triumphant story was shared at the Newton school board meeting. Last year, she had an 8-21 record.

But now the sophomore and state qualifier is sporting a much improved 17-9 record. Van Manen was recognized for her performance — alongside fellow girls wrestler Kylee Adams — during the school board meeting. She spoke highly of her experience and told board members the sport is growing.

“I think it might be beneficial for us to see how we can improve the sport and improve everybody’s knowledge of the sport,” Van Manen said.

Which also aligned with Foster’s sentiments. Foster even went so far as to suggest the program needs additional facilities to train and possibly an additional coach. The pleas certainly caught the ear of the school board, whose chairperson requested adding a future agenda item to discuss the program further.

Specifically, what it needs so that the district can remain as proactive as possible as the sport grows at the middle school and high school levels.

In 2021, Newton school board showed its support by bolstering the efforts of girls wrestling athletes and coaches pushing to have the state athletic union sanction girls wrestling as an official sport in Iowa. The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union officially sanctioned the sport during the 2022-2023 school year.

Prior to the sport being sanctioned, the Newton girls wrestling team operated as a branch of the boys wrestling program. Which meant girls wrestling tournaments were only held as a division of a boys tournament, rather than independently organized competitions. But that all changed.

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.