Local School Districts Preparing for First Season of PIAA-Sanctioned Girls Wrestling
With the May 17 announcement that there will be a PIAA-sanctioned girls wrestling season in 2023-24, Bald Eagle Area, Philipsburg-Osceola and State College are beginning to plan what that season will look like.
All three schools had already started a program — BEA in 2021 and P-O and State College this year — but they were waiting for the PIAA to officially sanction girls wrestling.
The PIAA had announced that it wouldn’t sanction girls wrestling until there were 100 schools with programs. There were 111 in the state as of May 22. The PIAA sanctioning was wonderful news for supporters of girls wrestling, which had gained interest and momentum thanks to the SanctionPA organization.
Pennsylvania is the 38th state in the United States to sanction girls wrestling.
“Obviously I‘m excited with what’s going to happen next season,” said BEA coach Ron Guenot, whose school was the 12th in the state to add a girls wrestling program. “I’m just proud to be a part of the whole movement. I’m just proud of the people that put in the hard work to make it come true.”
When P-O added girls wrestling in January, P-O coach Justin Fye said then he didn’t expect a PIAA-sanctioned season until 2024-25.
“It happened very quickly, but I also know there was a lot of push from around the entire state to possibly start this sooner,” P-O Fye said. “At the very end, I wasn’t as surprised that it might happen.”
There are a lot of things to still be ironed out, but one surprise coming out of the PIAA decision is that the girls state tournament will happen at the same time as the boys state tournament at Hershey’s Giant Center.
“That’s the plan,” Guenot said. “There are a lot of logistics that they’re going to have to work out. I don’t think anything is set in stone as far as time-wise. I’ve heard they’re going to go to eight mats instead of six. What an atmosphere that’s going to create.”
One of the questions surrounding the decision is will the girls have similar postseason tournaments as the boys? Will there be a District 6 tournament and a regional tournament before states?
“I believe what they’re looking to do is to possibly have a district tournament, definitely a regional and a state tournament this upcoming year,” Fye said.
The decision comes on the heels of Northwestern’s Sierra Chiesa becoming the first girl to qualify and win two bouts at the PIAA championships.
If schools like BEA, P-O and State College have boys and girls programs, it’s highly unlikely girls will wrestle for the boys team.
“Once the season starts, the girls have to make a choice,” Fye said. “If a girl chooses to compete for the girls team, they have made that commitment for the postseason.”
Also, if a school has a boys and girls team, and a girl wrestles for the boys team during the regular season, that will cost the boys team competition points. Both the boys and girls teams will have 22 competition points.
Last season, both BEA and P-O had three girls on their boys team, while State College had one. Only BEA sophomore Eden Eveleth took the mat in varsity competition, receiving a forfeit win.
The MyHouse Girls State Wrestling Championships has served as the state tournament for girls wrestling. BEA junior Angie Grieb placed fourth at 155 at the tournament last year. P-O junior Isabella DuVall placed sixth at 124 pounds.
Who will be coaching Grieb, DuVall and any other Centre County girl wrestlers? Guenot said he will oversee the boys and girls programs, but BEA has created an assistant coach position focusing on the girls program. The news was so new that Fye didn’t know if he would be coaching the girls.
“That’s something that myself, Cory Wood, who’s our junior high coach, Kelly Rees, our (athletic director), (superintendent) Dr. (Gregg) Paladina and our school board would have to sit down and take a look at that,” Fye said. “A lot of it depends on the numbers that we get.
“The thing that’s nice is that (the news) came out early enough that it will give us some time to sit down and think everything out.”
State College coach Ryan Cummins couldn’t be reached for comment.
The coaches expect the girls schedule will be mostly tournaments instead of dual meets the first season.
“I also believe we’re probably going to see schools starting to co-op a little bit more for the girls,” Fye said. “That could make it that there will be more dual meets at that point.
“As far as full teams, I think we have a ways to go for that,” Guenot said, “especially around this area.
The number of girls competing for high school teams in District 6 has been very small in recent years. That could change in the future.
“I think we’re going to see more participation,” Guenot said. “We had more girls in the elementary program last year than we’ve ever had. I think we’re going to have more girls join the program. I think statewide you’re going to see the interest grow. It’s already grown so much.”
Eventually schedules, coaching and what the postseason will look like will be decided. Until then, the coaches, wrestlers and girls wrestling supporters are just thrilled that a PIAA-sanctioned season is approaching this winter.
“I think it’s huge,” Guenot said, “especially since you’re talking about a state with the tradition Pennsylvania has. It’s the best wrestling state in the country. When you add girls wrestling to that, it’s only going to catch fire.”