PIAA votes to sanction girls' wrestling for 2023-24 season

Pennsylvania is officially the 38th state to sponsor the ascending sport.

Thomas Kendziora
York Dispatch

Girls’ wrestling is officially a sanctioned high school sport in Pennsylvania.

The PIAA Board of Directors unanimously voted to sponsor the sport at its Wednesday afternoon meeting. Pennsylvania became the 38th state to sanction girls’ wrestling, and the PIAA will conduct a full season in 2023-24. State championships are expected to be held at the Giant Center in Hershey on the same weekend as the boys’ championships.

Red Lion’s Connor Rogers against Dallastown’s McKenzie Gipson-McDonald in Red Lion on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022.

Three years after J.P. McCaskey in Lancaster became the first Pennsylvania school to officially add a girls’ wrestling team separate from the boys, the state reached the 100-school threshold required for sponsorship this February. There are now 111 official programs in the state, with more surely to come.

Spring Grove, South Western, Dallastown and Kennard-Dale are the four York-Adams League schools who currently sponsor girls’ wrestling. The first three teams were added between June and September 2022, while the Rams joined the ranks this March. Rosters are growing quickly — South Western had 19 girls listed on its team this winter.

Gettysburg was a league member when it became the eighth Pennsylvania school to add a program in October 2020, and the Warriors competed in the region’s first-ever girls’ tournament in January 2021 at Governor Mifflin alongside McCaskey, Easton and Annville-Cleona.

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The MyHouse PA Girls State Wrestling Championships have been held six times, and multiple local standouts came away with medals this March. South Western’s Kayla Henderson and Natalie Hardy took silver in their respective weight classes, while teammate Davina Crump finished third in her class and York Suburban’s Naylee Ierley was fourth. Wrestlers from Dallastown, Dover and Susquehannock also competed in the event.

Naylee Price-Ierley--York Suburban- at the Winter sports for the 2022-2023 season preview day 2 photos in York on Nov.10, 2022.

Opportunities for girls to crack the boys’ lineup were always few and far between. Ierley went 4-7 in her appearances for York Suburban this season as one of the few girls to regularly compete in boys’ matches. Dallastown sophomore McKenzie Gipson-McDonald wrestled in two division duals, going 1-1 and winning an additional match via forfeit.

York College is also set to hold its first women’s wrestling season in 2023-24, with Ierley among the Spartans’ commits.

Girls’ participation in wrestling increased by more than 80 percent in the last year and 400 percent in the last five years, according to the PIAA. The organization approved girls’ wrestling as an “emerging sport” in 2022 and voted three times to sanction it.

It’s unclear what a York-Adams League season may look like next winter, but there’s no question the sport is on the rise. And Wednesday’s decision was a milestone for all involved in its ascendance.