TACOMA — The question was never “if” Mat Classic would have multiple girls tournaments, it was always a “when.”
Washington became just the third state in the country to offer an official girls wrestling state tournament back in 2007. The first tournament featured nine weight classes with eight-woman brackets. As the popularity of the sport grew, so did the tournament.
This year is the biggest tournament yet. Well, make that two.
The girls tournament expanded to two brackets for the first time this season — a 20-woman field for Class 3A/4A and a 12-woman field for Class 1B/2B/1A/2A.
“It is so encouraging to see the sport is just growing and growing so fast,” Arlington girls coach Jim Smoots said. “It’s becoming so popular that it’s not even very much considered a minor sport. … People know about it.”
As a result, there’s more opportunity than ever for girls at this year’s state meet. With just one tournament last season, 29 girls wrestlers from a total of 14 local teams qualified for the state tournament. With two tournaments this year, 56 girls wrestlers from 17 teams in the area made their way to the Tacoma Dome for the 34th edition of the state meet. There will also be 28 individual girls state champions this season instead of 14.
“I think we got a few more through because of the two tournaments instead of one,” said Smoots, whose squad was one of two in the area to qualify seven wrestlers. “I had five wrestlers and four alternates last year, which was really just having a bunch of alternates. But now to get seven who actually wrestle, that was really good.”
According to a report by FloWrestling.com, the sport saw a 46% increase in girls participation at the high school level across the nation this season. The increase in Washington, which has been a leader in the girls wrestling movement, was nearly 30%.
So, why is the sport continuing to grow at rapid rate?
Smoots and Everett girls coach Rick Iversen, who have over 60 combined years of coaching experience between boys and girls wrestling, pointed to the opportunities being created at higher levels, the emergence of female coaches who helped pioneered the sport’s movement, and a generation raised by moms who grew up while the sport was becoming more visible.
“I already have graduates from Western Washington University and Arlington and my time (with Everett) that their daughters are starting to come out for youth wrestling,” said Iversen, who’s coaching career includes stops at Western Washington and Arlington. “… Lots of these girls here today will become coaches and mothers.”
Smoots said he’s coached many sons of his former boys wrestlers during his lengthy career. Recently, that trend has switched to the daughters of his past boys wrestlers. He’s even had girls who had a dad who wrestled and a mom who served as the team manager for Smoots’ teams.
“That’s been really cool,” he said.
Women’s wrestling was added as an Olympic sport in 2004. Since it’s entrance to the world games, college programs have started popping up around the country. The surge of institutions offering women’s wrestling only seems to be getting bigger. The University of Iowa is set to become the first NCAA D-I Power Five school to offer a varsity squad next school year.
“Every month their are two or three colleges adding girls wrestling,” Iversen said.
Iversen doesn’t see the movement slowing down anytime soon.
“Boys coaches don’t want to hear this, but girls wrestling will surpass boys for several reasons,” he said. “It’s growing faster and it won’t quit.”
Iversen recalled a prior trip to Mat Classic when a talent-loaded Burlington-Edison girls squad showed up wearing shirts that read “Girls wrestle. Get over it.”
“Now nobody has to get over it,” he said. “They all accept it. It’s a viable and honorable sport.”
Stanwood boys in third in 3A, four in semis
The Spartans entered the weekend with big aspirations as they attempt to hunt down their school’s first-ever state title in any sport.
Stanwood needed a stellar first day to really make a push at the tournament team title. The Spartans appear to have done enough to remain within striking distance heading into the final day.
Stanwood sits in third place with 114 points and trails first-place Mead by 15 points and second-place Hermiston by 4.5. Four Spartans qualified for Saturday’s semifinals. Senior Tyler Rhue (132 pounds), senior Keaton Mayernik (132), senior Mason Ferguson (182) and sophomore Elijah Fleck (195) all enter the tournament’s final day with an individual state title in reach.
Stanwood also has four more wrestlers left in the consolation bracket who can place as high as third.
Mead has three wrestles who qualified for semifinals and Hermiston has five.
Other locals in semifinals
4A: 106—Ahmad Banishamsa, Lake Stevens; 113—Jacob Christianson, Lake Stevens; 145—Gil Mossburg, Glacier Peak; 220—Koen Mattern, Lake Stevens; 285—Connor Aney, Glacier Peak.
3A: 138—Tre Haines, Arlington; 152—Dustin Baxter, Arlington; 220—Hunter Tibodeau, Shorewood.
1B/2B: 106—Creed Wright, Darringotn; 126— Aksel Espeland, Darrington
3A/4A girls: 105—Finley Houck, Shorewood; 115—Danielle Crew, Arlington; Kira Songer, Marysville Getchell; 125—Karianne Baldwin, Glacier Peak; Parker Lastala, Glacier Peak; 130—Madisen Bowers, Lake Stevens; 135—Rylee Northall, Jackson; 190—Alivia White, Marysville Pilchuck; 235: Mia Cienega, Everett.
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