Second York County high school adds girls' wrestling as official sport

Dante Green
York Dispatch

Another York County high school has added a girls' wrestling team, reflecting a   nationwide trend involving one of the nation's fastest-growing sports.

South Western High School became only the second school in the county and the 55th school in the state to add the sport as the school board ratified the decision Wednesday night amid support from the community. 

The new team will begin competing in the 2022-23 season. The addition of the team to the Mustangs' lineup was pushed by coaches and teachers who recognized there were students wanting to compete in girls' wrestling. 

Assistant principal and former longtime wrestling coach Wes Winters said he was excited and thankful to the school board for pushing the decision through.

"The superintendent and school board were very supportive for the student-athletes from the start. It’s a fast-growing sport," said Winters. "We wanted to be one of the schools that help to get this sport sanctioned. We knew now was the time to get on board. Wrestling is one of the highest where kids can go to colleges. Girls will get more college opportunities because of this."

Statewide, 100 teams are required before the sport can be officially sanctioned by the PIAA.

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So far, the PIAA has been hesitant to sanction the sport, despite 32 different associations across the country holding state wrestling tournaments. Local districts that have created teams are J.P. McCaskey, in Lancaster County, and Gettysburg — which was the first in the York-Adams League to start a team. Gettysburg recently made the switch over to the Mid-Penn conference, where they will compete next year.

South Western's Natalie Handy won the 100-pound state girls' wrestling title in March and competed at the 2022 USMC/USAW Junior And 16U National Championships last week.

York College also recently added women's wrestling as a varsity sport.

Spring Grove got the ball rolling locally when it became the first county school to add a team in late June.

For South Western, the new sport will add expenses to the school’s budget, including fees for uniforms, travel, coaches and tournaments. The school district will need to provide a budget for the program, and Winters said donations will help.

"We will work with athletic directors from other schools and the coaches in places like Gettysburg and Lancaster to set up the schedule. We will look at proposals for expenses in our next travel budget," Winters said.

Spring Grove plans to practice with the boys’ team on a regular basis, and the Mustangs can adopt a similar plan. A schedule for both schools and who they will play is still in development. The plan is to keep the girls' wrestling team under one program, similar to how they treat junior varsity wrestling and varsity wrestling. Nate Murren will be head coach of the team. 

Making strides: An independent event called the MyHouse PA High School Girls State Championships has been held over the last few years. It was first at Gettysburg High School, then at Spooky Nook Sports in Lancaster County, and then at Central Dauphin this year. More than 250 girls competed at the event. It has been a strong example to the PIAA that there is ample interest in the sport.

Many girls in high school face challenges as they are forced to compete against boys of greater size and, frequently, greater strength, according to Winters. The PIAA allowing the sport to become sanctioned would lead to girls competing mainly against other girls.

Another 45 teams will need to be added statewide in order for that to happen, but schools continue to take steps in a positive direction.