Area coaches excited with girls wrestling

Evart wrestling coach Ben Bryant (front, right) watches a practice last season. (Herald Review file photo)

Evart wrestling coach Ben Bryant (front, right) watches a practice last season. (Herald Review file photo)

BIG RAPIDS — Now that female wrestlers across Michigan have their own division to compete in for the upcoming season, coaches from schools in Mecosta and Osceola counties have been quick in voicing their approval for the change.

Starting with the 2021-22 fall season, a championship division for female competitors who participate in Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) events will be added to the Individual Wrestling Tournament series.

A total of 14 championships will be awarded, according to weight classes put in place by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

“I think it is a great move for Michigan wrestling,” Pine River wrestling coach Terry Martin said. “This might encourage girls who are on the fence and not eager to compete against boys to give it a try.”

Martin said Pine River has had anywhere from one to four girls on the wrestling team for each of the previous six seasons.

Reed City coach Roger Steig also had positive things to say about the new format and said a girls wrestling division had been in the works for a long time.

“The Michigan Wrestling Coaches Association has been pushing for this, working with the MHSAA for a few years now,” Steig said. “I am happy that the girls are finally getting their due; only good things can come from this.”

Steig went on to say that such a move could result in an increase in female participation for years to come, especially for schools whose numbers have fallen off in recent years.

During the 2019-20 season, a total of 401 girls competed in wrestling for MHSAA member schools, an increase from 250 in 17-18 and 327 in 18-19, respectively.

“I am pumped that we now have an actual division for girls wrestling,” said Evart coach Benjamin Bryant. “I think that it gives female athletes a great platform to showcase their skills. We have had little participation in our program with female wrestlers, and I am hoping this new addition will draw more participants.”

Qualifiers for the new division will be figured out with a sectional format, and girls will continue to compete on boys teams during regular-season and team tournament competition.

Girls will also have the option of competing in the boys individual tournament, rather than the girls bracket.