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Future Looks Bright For Girls Wrestling In SD

Girls Wrestling Shows Promise In SD

South Dakota recently became the 25th state in the nation to sanction a girls wrestling division at the high school level. While it’s nothing new to see girls participating in the sport, it’s a big-time moment for the state to recognize wrestling as a sport for both girls and boys.

“Girls wrestling is something that has been growing around the country in recent years. It was a couple year process with our wrestling advisory committee,” said Dr. Dan Swartos, South Dakota High School Activities Association Executive Director. “Last year, that committee passed a recommendation to add girls wrestling, starting off with four weight classes, starting this year.”

On the boys’ side, there are fourteen weight classes, plus two classes of competition. So, why just four total weight classes in girls wrestling? The association says it’s simply just a starting point to get it going.

“Not knowing what our population would be [for girls], we thought we’d start off with four weight classes, similar to what Missouri had done,” Swartos explained. “In every surrounding area where girls wrestling has had a first year, it’s really taken off after that. We expect it to grow quite a bit after this first year, even with the really encouraging first year numbers we’re seeing right now.”

Rapid City has a wrestling invite this coming weekend. At one point, roughly forty girls were scheduled to wrestle in it – positive signs, indeed.

A few years back, 2015, Ronna Heaton of Brookings became the first female wrestler in South Dakota history to qualify for the state tournament. She also would make history again the following year with a fourth-place finish – the first female to place at the high school state wrestling championships.

While Heaton is viewed as a trailblazer by some, because of what she did while with the Brookings Bobcats, it’s not uncommon to see girls regularly competing in wrestling at the youth level. This aspect is what Swartos claims is vital to girls wrestling succeeding.

“We’ve known for a while that we’ve got a good population of girl wrestlers in our youth wrestling programs and up to our AAU stages, and then when they get up to middle school or high school, those girls, the regions would go away, so to continue, they’d have to wrestle boys,” Swartos stated. “The key is at the youth level. At a young age, getting the kids interested in it.”

There are currently 31 schools/co-ops in South Dakota who are fielding a girls wrestling team for the 2020-21 season. While the future is always unknown, what’s being seen at the present time is positive to say the least.

Nate Wek is currently the sports content producer and sports and rec beat reporter for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He is a graduate of South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism Broadcasting and a minor in Leadership. From 2010-2013 Nate was the Director of Gameday Media for the Sioux Falls Storm (Indoor Football League) football team. He also spent 2012 and 2013 as the News and Sports Director of KSDJ Radio in Brookings, SD. Nate, his wife Sarah, and two kids Braxan and Jordy, live in Canton, SD.