NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - The NSAA will vote in April whether to create a separate sport for girls wrestling, it is possible to see it in 2019.
In order for a change to be made statewide for the NSAA, it needs to go through certain steps. First, and most obviously, it needs to be proposed. If a proposal passes a vote in any district in November, it moves to a vote in all the districts. Then, if the vote passes in three of the six districts, it gets sent to representative assembly in April. At rep assembly, the proposal needs three-fifths of the available votes (51, in this case), to be realized.
In November 2018, creating girls wrestling as a solo sport was proposed in three of the six state districts; it passed in all three. In January 2019, four of the six districts voted in favor, including District II, the largest district, located in Omaha. Now, if the proposal passes at rep assembly in April, girls wrestling will become a sport for the 2019-20 season.
For the first two rounds of voting, each school gets to cast a vote. In rep assembly, districts are given votes based on their student enrollment.
Dan Keyser is the superintendent of Sutherland Public Schools, and a member of the NSAA Board of Directors for District IV. Keyser believes the vote in April will be close, but thinks there's a good chance the vote passes.
According to Keyser, "The proposal was brought forth because a lot of the wrestling community really are not fully in favor of boys and girls wrestling each other."
According to the National Wrestling Coaches Association, there are 13 states in the country that sponsor a state high school wrestling championship for girls; Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, Hawaii, and Washington. 48 colleges, including Midland University and York College in Nebraska, offer girls wrestling.
Wrestling has become more popular in Nebraska thanks to a grassroots involvement in Nebraska's youth wrestling.
"Nebraska AAU and Nebraska USA Youth Wrestling, this will be their third year where they have a separate division for just girls wrestling for their state events. So I think there's a movement youth wise, high school wise, and collegiate wise, for girls wrestling," Keyser said.
If the proposal passes, schools are not required to create a girls wrestling program, but there is a chance local schools will choose to do so.
"I know that there is interest from some of the schools that voted for it, to implement girls wrestling. To say that they would all do it, I would say probably not. Right now, we have some girls that are participating on the boys teams, due to facilities, due to coaching requirements, I don't know that those schools would go ahead and add an additional sport," said Alan Garey, the superintendent of the Medicine Valley School District, and a member of the Board of Directors for District V.
According to Keyser, there are 144 girls participating in wrestling across high schools in Nebraska. In Missouri, there were 150 girls participating in wrestling, but after the state sanctioned girls wrestling, that number grew to 900.
"I don't know that that number would grow like that in Nebraska, but I think it would definitely grow," Keyser said.
Keyser believes if the vote passes, there will be only one class, to allow for more possible competitions. It is possible some of the smaller schools create co-ops, to create adequately sized teams. The question for school districts is whether to keep girls wrestling with boys, or to separate them.
"If girls wrestling gets sanctioned, and then that school district chooses to adopt girls wrestling, then, their girls that compete will be wrestling in a girls division. If a school does not adopt girls wrestling, and continues to have a wrestling program, then the girls have the option to be a part of that wrestling team, but they would not be allowed to participate in the girls wrestling division," Garey said.
Factors that schools have to consider are available facilities, number of coaches and other staff, and how many athletes are participating. It is possible to have boys are girls wrestling teams to have the same team, and practice at the same time, but the decision is at the discretion of the school.
As far as competitions go, the NSAA can have girls only events, and they can have girls meets combined with the boys meets. However, it is not likely to see a state championship event for girls wrestling in 2020.