MSHSL implements new high school girls wrestling division

Junior+Sumer+Harington

Photo by Maya Disher

Junior Sumer Harington and Junior Kiley Warren wrestling at practice. Kiley Warren has been wrestling since eighth grade and has been helping Sumer Harrington with her first season wrestling.

Last spring, the MSHSL was introduced to the idea of creating a girls division for high school wrestling. To implement the girls division, they needed a two-thirds majority vote from their 48 member representative board. On May 11, the 48-member Representative Assembly of the MSHSL approved the girls wrestling division with votes of 44-4. Minnesota is one of 32 states to create a girls high school wrestling division.

In previous years girls, such as 8th grader Audrey Rogotzge, were wrestling in the 120 weight class for the boys regular and post-season. This season, girls are training and competing with the boys during the regular season. During off-season, girls now have the opportunity to compete in a girls-only individual section and state tournament. These matches will happen simultaneously with the boys post-season individual tournaments. Girls also remain eligible to be a part of the boys team for post-season duel tournaments.

Wrestling coach Tim Hartung said a girls wrestling division was something that “needed to happen.”

Womens wrestling is one of the fastest-growing women’s sports in the United States. Girls have been wrestling on the boys team since the 1980’s and collegiate level wrestling implemented a girls division in the 1990s. Women’s wrestling is a relatively new Olympic sport, with its first matches in 2004.

“If you look at our world level, our girls in the United States are doing very well. Girls wrestling is thriving, so it was time for the high school programs to get on board,” Hartung said.

Having girls on the wrestling team is nothing new to the school’s wrestling program. The difference is the majority of the girls who have wrestled with the team had the same amount of knowledge in wrestling as everyone else. Creating an environment that is substantial for the level of skill the boys hold, while also catering to the girls, like junior Sumer Harrington, who are starting their first year wrestling, is a balancing act.

“It’s not really new stuff, it’s just going back to the basic level,” Hartung explained. “The biggest dynamic is being lenient yet still strict. Give them a little bit of wiggle room yet holding them accountable.”

The relationship between the boys and the girls is held to a standard of mutual respect between both parties. Having had girls on the team before, the team knows that whether male or female they do not treat anyone differently. Many of the boys see having girls on the team as beneficial.

Junior Eric Jurek said that over the past couple of years since girls have arrived, the team has been a lot more mature.

Wrestling is a hard sport mentally, physically, and emotionally. So as a first-year, everything can happen. You lose a lot. You win very little. So just keep the opportunism up and never give up.”

— Eric Jurek

“They don’t treat you differently because you’re a girl, if anything, they’re harder on you,” Harrington said.

Harrington is a dancer on the Chevals and has been for the past year. Due to a recent foot injury, she was not able to participate in this year’s winter competition season. She spent the fall season being the dance team’s manager to support her teammates. When winter sports started in mid-October, Jurek approached Harrington with the idea of having her join the wrestling team.

“It’s been something I’ve wanted to do since freshman year so I was like, why not?” Harrington said.

Being a first-year wrestler, Harrington said she is not expecting to be amazing right away. She believes that she needs to work hard and put in the effort to continue improving. Her fellow teammates on the wrestling team have helped her by giving her pointers and keeping her motivated.

“Wrestling is a hard sport mentally, physically, and emotionally. So as a first-year, everything can happen. You lose a lot. You win very little. So just keep the opportunism up and never give up,” Jurek said.

With numbers for their girl’s division being low this season, coaches are taking this as an opportunity to help inspire other girls for future seasons. The overall goal for the program this year is to get it built. They want the girls to feel like this is their program and their sport. They are less worried about the numbers for the program. A few years back they created a girls-only club at their youth level. Numbers are high within the club and they continue to grow every season. So with the girls club being built, they know the numbers for the girl’s division will be coming soon.

Both the athletes and the coaches have high hopes for this season and the program. They are cultivating and developing the natural talents of the athletes. Hartung said he can see the motivation these girls have. Using that passion and drive he hopes to someday see one of these girls as the first female state champion in Minnesota.