A division of their own

Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Cassville Wrestling Coach Nathan Fortner, center, and Assistant Coach Chris Fortner are hoping for a lot more to celebrate for this season as Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) has approved the creation of a girls division of wrestling. Jared Lankford/sports@cassville-democrat.com

Cassville to offer girls wrestling after vote

In May, the state of Missouri made a bit of wrestling history when it became the ninth state to make girls wrestling an individually recognized sport.

Prior to this year, girls were allowed to wrestle in the state, but they had to compete in the boys division. Thanks to a 202-41 vote by the members of the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA), female wrestlers will now have their own division.

Cassville High School voted in favor of the new division even though they did not have any female wrestlers on this year’s team.

“The first year we started the program, we had three girls come out for the team,” said Doug Martin, Cassville athletic director. “I think we had one make it all the way to the first week of matches. It’s tough when you’ve never wrestled before and then you’re thrown into the mix and you’re wrestling boys.”

Despite these facts, Martin believes the new division for girls could benefit Cassville.

“Our youth program was in favor, our high school coaches were in favor, and we were in favor of the girls league,” Martin said. “I have long believed that girls should wrestle girls. It is just more competitive that way. I think it is better for girls by giving them their own division. Could you imagine in track girls having to compete with boys. Very, very few would ever crack the top three.”

With the newness of the vote, there are a lot of plans being made in a hurry.

“I don’t know how many girls are going to come out [for the team],” Martin said. “We plan to use the same coaching staff this year. We are looking for matches and tournaments and we’ll construct the girls schedule with those events if they do. We plan to give our girls every opportunity to get matches. I hope with this new rule, our active numbers rise.”

According to a MSHSAA press release, the implementation of the girls division is supposed to occur over the next two seasons.

MSHSAA’s plan is to have a two-year transition period that would permit girls the option of participating in both their school’s boys lineup and girls lineup during regular season contests only. After this two-year transition period, girls can only participate against girls at girls-only competitions. From the start of implementation of girls wrestling, the girls must participate in the girls postseason.

Weight classes have yet to be determined for the girls division and will not be finalized until Nov. 15, just 24 hours prior to the official first day of allowable competition.

The weight classes will be determined after weight assessments are completed and entered into the trackwrestling.com system.

“The data from the weight assessments will be used to set the actual weight classes in an effort to achieve as much equal distribution in weight classes as possible,” the MSHSAA release said. “This process would be used during the first two years of sanctioned girls wrestling with permanent weight classes being established in the third year and beyond.”

There will be one classification for girls wrestling and two district tournaments that will be held on Feb. 2, 2019. District assignments will be released on Nov. 9.

For district seeding purposes, only girls versus girls matches during the regular season will apply to seeding at the district tournament.

The top four place finishers at each weight class will advance as state qualifiers to the state championships. According to MSHSAA, there will be a total of two district tournaments until participation numbers at each weight class or overall girls participation numbers dictate the need for additional district tournaments.

The state qualifiers will advance in an eight-person bracket at the state championships. The top four place finishers at the state championships will be recognized as state medalists.

The MSHSAA Girls Wrestling State Championships will be administered at the same site on the same days that the current state wrestling championships are held, Mizzou Arena (University of Missouri) and changes to the state wrestling championships schedule will be made to accommodate rounds for the girls competition. More information will be announced at a later date.

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