IOWA CITY, Iowa — When the University of Iowa announced its addition of women’s wrestling as a scholarship sport on Thursday, some wrestling advocates immediately wondered if the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union would give its approval next.
“It’s absolutely amplified the urgency of making that happen, said Sally Roberts, the founder and CEO of national wrestling collective Wrestle Like A Girl. “We’re going to start seeing an exponential growth within the state of Iowa. It’s just very exciting.”
Roberts, a decorated wrestler herself, said more than 200 girls showed up for her last wrestling camp in Iowa. She believes the sport provides many benefits and life skills for girls and women.
“When they get to participate in the sport of wrestling, it teaches them how to own their space, their voice, and their bodies,” Roberts said.
The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union has a formal process for sanctioning new sports, including girls wrestling. In order for the IGHSAU board to consider approval, fifteen percent of member schools must submit a proposal to support the sport.
The IGHSAU needs 50 schools to express their interest in girls wrestling before moving to sanction the sport. So far, 32 schools have affirmed their commitment.
“We want the parents and people out there that are interested to go to their schools if that’s something they desire,” said Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union associate director Gary Ross.
The number of interested schools has risen from 17 to 32 since the beginning of the year, and Ross said some schools are already showing interest in the aftermath of the University of Iowa’s decision.
“We received calls from coaches and administrators today about what steps they need to take, and we have shared the process with them,” Ross said.