NIAA to add girls division in high school wrestling |

NIAA to add girls division in high school wrestling

Carter Eckl / Nevada Appeal

Girls wrestling is one of the fastest growing sports in the country and on Thursday, Sept. 29, the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association voted to officially recognize the sport.

During the NIAA’s Board of Control meeting, the board voted to recognize a girls wrestling division within Nevada state wrestling.

The decision did not fully sanction girls wrestling as an NIAA sport, but will allow girls to compete in their own division, including a girls division at the state tournament.

Per the NIAA, around 200 girls wrestle in Nevada high schools and the number has steadily increased over the past several years.

Last season, 220 girls registered to wrestle in Nevada high schools.

Nevada is the last state in the Western United States to officially recognize a girls wrestling division — Washington (2007), California (2011), Arizona (2018), Oregon (2018), Utah (2019), Montana (2020), and Idaho (2021) had already added a level for girls.

What’s next
This winter will be the first in which girls wrestling will have its own division and the NIAA is encouraging tournament directors to add girls brackets to events this season.

Girls will have the ability to participate in both boys and girls lineups during the regular season, but all wrestlers will still be held to the same contact-limit rules for competition set by the NIAA.

At dual meets and other regional matchups, “girls can be paired to compete as appropriate, much like JV matches.”

Prior to regional tournaments, girls must declare which division they want to wrestle in — the girls division or the open/boys division.

There will be regional qualifier tournaments in both the North and the South to qualify for the girls state wrestling tournament.

Four representatives from each weight of the 12 weight classes will qualify for the state tournament in the middle of February.

“A girl cannot forgo competing in the girls division (at the state level). They cannot go in the open division and compete against boys. Girls would be specific to stay in their lane with the girls division,” NIAA executive director Donnie Nelson said during Thursday’s board of control meeting.

The NIAA says the decision to recognize wrestling comes at little to no cost to school districts, as schools do not need to add any new staff to have a girls division, though programs may choose to add girls coaches.

“Boys and girls may practice at the same time in the same practice facility under the guidance and leadership of the same staff,” read an NIAA agenda.

The girls regional tournament will take place Jan. 28, while the boys regional tournament will take place Feb. 3-4.

“This is not sanctioning girls wrestling. We’re not talking about girls wrestling on a moving schedule, providing separate transportation for girls only,” said Nelson. “That can happen, school districts can do that, but again we’re not separating them. It’s not like girls and boys basketball. This is just a girls division.”

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