HEISER: Fight to make girls' wrestling a PIAA sport garners more regional support

Stewartstown's Tiffani Baublitz won a state high school girls' wrestling championship in March. That championship, however, was not sanctioned by the PIAA.
  • The SanctionPA campaign is fighting to make girls' wrestling an official PIAA sport.
  • The PIAA requires that 100 member schools sponsor a sport to consider it for PIAA sanctioning.
  • To date, seven PIAA school districts in Pennsylvania have committed to sponsoring girls' wrestling.
  • All of those commitments for girls' wrestling programs have come in the last six months.

Seven down and 93 more to go.

For the supporters of girls’ wrestling in Pennsylvania, those are more than just numbers. They’re signs of hope.

The PIAA requires that 100 member schools sponsor a sport before it is considered for sanctioning as an official PIAA activity.

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Just six months ago, not a single PIAA member sponsored girls’ wrestling. Now that number is up to seven.

Getting support during pandemic: Yes, that still leaves a long, uphill battle to 100, but it’s still rather remarkable that, during a world-wide pandemic, the supporters of girls’ wrestling have been able to convince seven Pennsylvania school districts to spend the money and devote the time necessary to sponsor the sport.

As everyone knows, school districts around the state have a ton on their plates at the moment. Sponsoring girls’ wrestling would appear to be toward the very bottom on their list of priorities.

Still, seven school districts have decided that girls’ wrestling is worth at least a little of their attention.

SanctionPA campaign: That has to be encouraging for the SanctionPA campaign, led by the Pennsylvania Girls High School Wrestling Task Force, which is fighting to get the sport recognized by the PIAA.

Brooke Zumas, for one, is excited about the future of the sport. She’s an assistant wrestling coach at Parkland High School in Lehigh County and chair of the task force.

“Seven schools in the past six months, and during a very challenging time period for schools, have voted to fund and support girls wrestling programs. This is a strong signal that there is an urgent desire to create a pathway for girls to have their own space on the mat,” Zumas said in a statement issued by SanctionPA.

Girls flocking to the sport: According to SanctionPA, for the past five years, girls’ wrestling has been the fastest-growing high school sport in the nation.

Mirroring the national statistics, Pennsylvania high school wrestling has experienced a 100% growth of girls on high school boys’ teams in the past five years. All 12 PIAA districts have girls wrestling within their area schools.

While there are 28 state high school associations sanctioning a girls’ wrestling state championship, Pennsylvania does not yet have an official state tournament and has not sanctioned girls’ wrestling as a sport.

District 3 support: The latest to join the Pennsylvania Group of Seven were two District 3 members — Gov. Mifflin in Berks County and Annville-Cleona in Lebanon County.

“We applaud Annville-Cleona and Governor Mifflin for their leadership and commitment to growing girls wrestling in the state of Pennsylvania,” Zumas said in the statement.

In fact, three of the schools now committed to sponsoring girls’ wrestling are from District 3. J.P. McCaskey in Lancaster County was the first PIAA member to commit to the sport back in March.

Pa. now has two public high schools with girls' wrestling programs. Will more follow?

The other members of the Group of Seven are North Allegheny (Allegheny County), Easton (Northampton County), Executive Education Academy (Lehigh County) and Central Mountain (Clinton County). The North Allegheny girls’ team is coached by 1999 Northeastern High graduate Dan Heckert.

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Girls' wrestling thriving locally: To date, none of the schools in the York-Adams League have opted to sponsor the sport. That doesn’t mean, however, that girls’ wrestling doesn’t have lots of local support and lots of standout female wrestlers.

Last March, just before the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in Pennsylvania, the 2020 MyHouse Pennsylvania High School Girls State Wrestling Championships were held in Gettysburg. The event was not sanctioned by the PIAA, but state champions were still crowned in 11 weight classes.

HEISER: You may not know it, but York, Adams counties produced two state wrestling champs

Two of those state champions came from the York-Adams region: Stewartstown’s Tiffani Baublitz captured the 184-pound crown and Gettysburg’s Montana DeLawder won the 122-pound title. In all, six wrestlers from the Y-A region won state medals by placing fourth or better.

So, this is an issue that directly impacts lots of folks from the York-Adams footprint.

It’s highly unlikely that Baublitz or DeLawder will enjoy the fruits of the SanctionPA movement. Both are seniors this season.

It's possible, however, that some local middle school girls may one day get the chance to fulfill their dreams and claim PIAA wrestling medals.

They just need 93 more school districts to give them a chance.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.