Local Sports, Morgantown, Sports, University

Girls’ division to debut at W.Va. state wrestling tournament in 2024

MORGANTOWN — For the first time ever, female wrestlers will have their own division at the West Virginia State High School wrestling tournament beginning in 2024.

Previously, the Girls State Wrestling tournament was held in the middle of February in Parkersburg. Girls could then participate in regionals in an attempt to qualify for the state tournament that hosts everyone.

Going forward, the girls will enjoy their own division with the option of either participating in the all-girls bracket or wrestling as a member of the team without the option of doing both.

With girls’ wrestling being one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, this inclusion allows girls in the Mountain State to showcase their skills in front of more people, including their teammates and coaches, some of whom wouldn’t have been able to have the time to be at the girls’ state tournament to cheer on their teammate.

Morgantown High School head wrestling coach, Joe Abu-Ghannam says simply that representation matters.

“It is fantastic that these female wrestlers will get the exposure that they deserve,” he said. “With girls wrestling being the fastest growing sport in the country, it is important that they get this acknowledgment. Now they have a proper platform to put their skills, hard work and dedication on full display for all to see. This is a win for the sport, our state, and, most importantly, the female athletes of West Virginia.”

University High School head coach Ken Maisel echoed his counterpart, saying one example he noticed of the growth of the sport came in Fargo, North Dakota this summer at one of the most prestigious tournaments in prep wrestling.

“The girls’ participation had grown by around 400 percent or something,” Maisel said. “It is unquestionably growing and it is great that the girls will be able to participate at the state tournament. They’ve had it before, but now they get to show what they have in front of a lot of people and in the arena rather than a gymnasium.”

The 2024 state wrestling tournament is scheduled to take place from Feb. 29 through March 2 at Mountain Health Arena in Huntington. The girls’ division will wrestle on Saturday while the boys are doing wrestle-backs, and will then have their spot in the championship finals later in the evening on Saturday. This also includes walking in the Parade of Champions prior to the finals matches.