When the PIAA, the governing body of high school sports in Pennsylvania, said it would consider officially sponsoring girls wrestling, the organization set the number to begin the process at 100 teams.

Today, there are 111 high schools in Pennsylvania sponsoring the sport, one that now officially has varsity recognition in Pennsylvania following a third and final reading and an official vote by the PIAA’s Board of Directors on Wednesday.

Kudos to the wrestlers and advocates across the commonwealth who pushed for this and to the PIAA for standing by its word to make the move when enough interest was built up over the course of the last few years.

While a girls state wrestling championship has been held annually since 1999, the sport was not recognized officially by the PIAA until this week. Wednesday’s vote allows the PIAA to host district and state championship meets as it has done for the boys for decades.

Just this past winter, Northwestern’s Sierra Chiesa became the first girl to ever qualify for the PIAA Wrestling Championships. She went 1-2 at the tournament, making history each time she stepped onto the mat.

Girls wrestling is among the fastest-growing sports in the nation. Pennsylvania has seen an 80% increase in participation in just the last year, and more than 400% in five years according to SanctionPA, an advocacy group pushing for varsity status in Pennsylvania.

How fast has the growth been in Pennsylvania? The first school to officially sponsor girls’ wrestling, JP McCaskey in Lancaster, did so in March 2020. In three years, 110 other schools — and counting — have followed suit.

Locally, only three schools — Milton, Hughesville and Montgomery — have school-sponsored teams. Shikellamy wrestling coach Tim Boetsch has expressed interest in creating a school-sponsored team there as well. So has Selinsgrove coach Seth Martin, whose program has had girls competing against boys for two decades, he said.

A year ago, the United States recognized the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark legislation that leveled the playing field for girls’ sports. The law has opened millions of doors for a few generations of athletes in America, names like Mia Hamm, Cheryl Miller, Katie Ledecky and Allyson Felix, along with local names like Maria Fantanarosa, Kelly Mazzante, Keli Smith and Jessi Perruquet, who went on to break state scoring records, earn All-American honors, play in the Olympics and win NCAA titles.

Those athletes took advantage of the opportunities given to them. We can’t wait to see what is next for these wrestlers.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Editor William Bowman.

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