We're amid this era in which participation in high school sports is going down. And you can blame concerns about concussions or helicopter parents, and you can blame those video games. We love to blame video games. But the numbers don't lie.
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On an unseasonably warm February morning in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, as hundreds of elementary and middle school boys were grappling one another, 87 girls from 55 high schools found their way to the mats for North Carolina's first official high school girls' wrestling invitational contest. The state is one of many experiencing a boom in female wrestlers. For years, girls around the country were folded into boys' programs. But since , the number of girls in high school wrestling has soared from 3, to nearly 17,, buoyed by the introduction of women to Olympic wrestling in and the rise of MMA, a sport dominated by strong wrestlers. In the past year, six states have sanctioned the sport, making it one of the nation's fastest-growing high school girls' programs. As more girls sign up, the question is: What's next? Some schools are pushing for separate programs to give girls their own space, as is the case with the meet in North Carolina.
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By Kirsten Fleming. February 27, pm Updated February 27, pm. Jessi Johnson started wrestling in the seventh grade, competing against the boys in her New Jersey schools. Now the year-old Manalapan H. Now, without having to dominate their male peers, what used to be a distant dream is finally in sight. Chloe Ayres, the year-old daughter of Princeton University wrestling coach Chris Ayres, practically grew up on the mats. Ayres and Johnson say they were shocked at how quickly it all unfolded. With only a month to prepare for the season, coaches across the state scrambled to build programs from scratch.
It was their first-ever chance to compete for a state title in women's wrestling. It was a historic moment for the state and the sport. For many of the girls, their entire season is spent wrestling boys, because there are so few women's wrestlers. But this tournament is just one more sign that women's wrestling is growing in the Cornhusker State.