(Brad Davis/The Register-Herald) Nicholas County's Mackenzy Nicholas grapples with Midland Trail's Colton Legg during the Class AA/A Region 3 tournament Feb. 9 in Coal City. Nicholas was one of nearly 22,000 girls to compete in high school wrestling last season nationwide.

Most people don’t realize that one of the fastest growing high school sports in the United States is girls wrestling. The National Federation of High Schools reported 804 girl participants in 1994 and by 2019 that number had increased to 21,735. The increase may have been buoyed by women’s wrestling being added to the Olympics in 2004.

As of now there are 18 states that offer girls wrestling as a separate sport than boys wrestling. There are 46 colleges and universities that currently offer women’s wrestling and the number is steadily growing.

Please remember the name Adeline Gray. She won her fifth individual world championship this summer and helped the American team finish second to Japan in the World Cup competition. No other American wrestler, man or woman, has won that many world titles.

In West Virginia, high school girls still wrestle with the boys. The best girl wrestler in state tournament history was Erica Dye, who wrestled for Wirt County. She accomplished a career record of 100-21 wrestling against guys and made it all the way to the state finals in 2002 in Huntington. She lost the decision. Truthfully, most of the crowd was rooting for her and gave her a standing ovation even after the loss. I kind of felt sorry for her opponent, Anthony Valles of Madonna, because of the circumstances he was put in but he handled it with class.

Another female wrestler around the same time period was Brittany Woodall of Buckhannon-Upshur. Brittany always made it to the state tournament and won a few matches but never placed in the top six. She is now an accomplished physician.

Last year, Parkersburg South’s Samantha Miller won two matches at states and is back for her senior year wrestling for the Patriots.

Locally, the first girl to wrestle in the youth program was Deanna Blake of Bradley. Deanna was quite good in the youth division, but in the 1970s and early 1980s girls could not compete in football or wrestling at a secondary school. She went on and became a star volleyball player at Woodrow Wilson.

Meredith Snead was the first junior high female wrestler in our area. She wrestled for Park the early 1990s.

Amanda Boggs was on the wrestling team at Liberty High School during the 2002-2003 season. I’m not sure how much she got to wrestle but she was there.

On Feb. 8, 2020, at Parkersburg South High School, the WVSSAC will offer a girls only state wrestling championship tournament. Any girl who is a member of her school team may participate. There will be a high school and middle school division.

I am not sure how many girls in West Virginia are wrestling on their school teams, but I certainly applaud the effort by the WVSSAC and it might add to the growth of wrestling in our state. Hopefully it will be successful.

I recently heard an unofficial motto for the world’s female wrestlers: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” Nuff said.

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This week a squeeze of the water bottle goes to Dr. Michael Fizer, local dentist and huge wrestling fan.

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