By Daniel Dullum
Starting this winter, girls wrestling is the newest addition to the AIA’s list of varsity sports. It has yet to be determined if Apache Junction High will be participating, at least initially.
Tina Harshman, former AJHS athletic director, said, “We didn’t plug it in for next year, but we’ve had a couple of female wrestlers throughout the seasons. I wouldn’t be surprised if it shows up within the next couple of years!”
David Smith, AJHS and Cactus Canyon Jr. High wrestling coach, said he isn’t sure how the district will “address the evolution within wrestling.”
“There has been some interest in the past,” Smith said, adding that he has coached “about 12 to 14 girls” between CCJH and AJHS.
“The announcement came after school was dismissed, so it will be difficult to gauge interest until the student population returns to school on July 24,” he added.
On May 21, the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Executive Board voted to include girls wrestling as an emerging sport, beginning with the 2018-19 school year.
The AIA statement continued, “girls wrestling would take place during the winter and conclude with a bracketed individual championship tournament in conjunction with the boys wrestling at its state finals.
“With this inclusion, Arizona joins an elite group of less than 10 state associations to offer girls wrestling as a championship event. The number of individual participants per weight class will depend on the number of qualifiers from the regular season tournaments”.
AIA Executive Director David Hines said, “This is a positive move for the AIA and for all the female wrestlers throughout the state. It’s another opportunity for student-athletes to compete, which will also help the sport grow.
“Girls wrestling is also becoming an emerging sport at the NCAA level, which means there will be scholarship opportunities.”
The AIA said the growing number of female wrestlers within the state that participate in USA Wrestling youth programs was a main factor for the Executive Board to vote in favor of this initiative.
Photo above from AZPreps365