High School Girl’s Wrestling Growing In Washington

Wrestling is king at Sedro-Woolley High School. The boy’s team has nine state titles, including six in a row from 2002 through 2007. The girl’s wrestling team wins titles too. Yes, you read that right — high school girl’s wrestling. The Cubs are currently four-time defending state champions.

“We have loggers,” said Sedro-Woolley girl’s wrestling coach Barb Morgan. “We have kids of loggers. We have farm kids. We have big, strong kids.”

High school girl’s wrestling isn’t a club sport, it’s actually governed by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, just like the boys. Washington has its own girls classification, and it is one of only five states in the country to offer a girls-only state tournament (Texas, California, Massachusetts and Hawaii are the others).

High School Girls Wrestling

The Sedro-Woolley girl’s wrestling team at practice

That separation has opened the door for massive growth. The number of high school girl’s wrestlers in Washington jumped from 376 in 2007 to more than 1,200 this year. Sedro-Woolley has seen its turnout increase as well, going from four girls eight years ago to 32 this season.

“Wrestling is unique,” said Sedro-Woolley junior Tinerra Adams. “It’s only you out there on the mat. You can’t rely on someone else to help you out or show you a move. It’s all about what you know at that moment.”

Most high school girl’s wrestling programs across the state and the country are mixed with the boys. They have the same coach and the same practice schedule. That’s not the case at Sedro-Woolley. Instead of working out with the guys in the high school’s mat room, the girls choose to trek to an elementary school across town for their own space.

“When we wrestle with the boys, they’re rude,” said Sedro-Woolley junior Taylor Dawson. “They try to beat us up. In here, we get to wrestle each other instead of the boys wrestling us.”

The high school girl’s wrestling system isn’t perfect in Washington yet. There are still several issues to overcome, including scheduling conflicts and a problem with the uniforms.

“We go to tournaments and there are still girls wearing boys singlets,” Morgan said. “They’re wearing shirts underneath because they don’t cover enough.”

While there are issues, high school girl’s wrestling in Washington is clearly taking major strides in the right direction. Morgan believes the sport has improved “dramatically” over the last ten years.

“These girls have so many more opportunities than I had when I was in school,” Morgan said. “It’s because someone stood up and fought for them, so it’s my turn to stand up and fight for it.”

She’s fighting for them and they’re fighting for themselves. Sedro-Woolley goes for its fifth straight state crown at Mat Classic XXV in Tacoma. Even if the Cubs don’t win the crown, they’re helping pave the way for high school girl’s wrestling in Washington, and that’s a victory all in itself.

What do you think about the progress of high school girl’s wrestling in Washington? How about across the country? I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. If you’d like to watch the story I put together for my television station, check out the video below. Thanks for visiting http://allaroundtim.com!


  1. Joe McFarland says:

    Great work! I did a video a couple of years back and interviewed Jim Myerhoff, the father of girls wrestling in Washington. Here is the video: http://vimeo.com/38414585 and the interview:

    Feb 19, 2012

    This is Joe McFarland MD writing about my trip up to the Tacoma Dome to see how girls have been added to the Mat Classic. Jim Myerhoff had agreed to meet with me during the tournament and discuss how Washington has progressed with its girl’s program. We went up Saturday the 18th and arrived about 11am. The tourney was going full blast with the girls competing on 4 mats. We filmed short segments of girls or ladies wrestling in the wrestlebacks that occurred in the early afternoon. I interviewed 4 competitors after their matches and asked them about their experience as a high school lady wrestler. Those interviews and wrestling segments will be available in 10 to 20 days depending on editing time.

    The other reason for the trip was to interview Jim Myerhoff. Jim has been an advocate for women’s programs in the state. Instead of pushing womens participation away – saying that it is a “Man’s” sport – he has embraced it and nurtured it to the point where it has exploded. I interviewed him while the matches were going on and recorded his thoughts. Unfortunately, there was tremendous background noise and the reproduction is flawed. I will do the best I can and have him fill in the gaps.

    Jim: In about 2003 there were girls beginning to show up wrestling against boys in the state meet. These girls were generally lighter in weight. Because of increasing participation we began an invitational, which meant that if you had 4 matches against a boy or girl during the season then you were eligible for post season competition. There were no weight classes. They were weighed in and separated into groups of 4 and they got 3 matches. They got ribbons and we had an awards ceremony for them. There were about 50 or so participants. There were also 5 or so girls in the boys tournament that year, as well. Next year there were 109 and the year after 160. At that point there were enough for a real bracketed tournament. Once they had their own real tournament, participation jumped into the 400s and they had their own qualifying tournaments and a 16 girl bracketed state tournament in the various school divisions. Now there are over 1100 girl wrestlers in the state.

    What we see is girls that come from wrestling families that want that opportunity now that it is accepted and they can compete. There is still a lot of resistance among some coaches that do not agree with the concept of women’s wrestling. When agreeable with both the school and the coach, then the programs grow. Acceptance is better within the cities than in the ranching areas. There are several schools in Washington that have more girls than boys turning out. (Sedro Wooley, Burlington)

    Boy participation is a little down or flat and the reason is that there are so many elite kid wrestlers that are freshmen in high school that other kids can not match up with them so they come out and get discouraged and drop the sport. This is not a problem with the girls. They all begin the learning process together so they can compete for their school right away.

    The process starts with two girls of similar weight that turn out. They have their work out partners. If not, they will have to work out with the boys, which isn’t bad, but often the boy might have advanced strength and skill and working with a girl doesn’t help him much. It just works better with the first example. Jim has yet to get a phone call in 9 years of girls wrestling where there is a problem arising from involving girls wrestling with guys. What happens is a healthy process of girls trying out the sport. If they work as hard as the guys for two weeks or so and do the drills and show good toughness, then they travel with the team and can compete with girls from other teams. By then, they are accepted by the guys and when they travel, the word on the mat is “don’t mess with our girls – they are on our team”. The girls part of team will naturally grow – 2 becomes 4 and 4 becomes 8. If they get to one more than half of the boy’s weights then they are a “team”. Once a girl gets to the tournament and goes back and promotes it at their school, it can explode.

    If I (Jim) were to go back to coaching girls in school – starting a program – I would get the catcher in softball, the goalie in soccer, all the water polo players I could get and then I would go to the vice principle and ask to see the 10 pushiest problem girls that had attitudes. Those will be your best girl wrestlers. Some of these “troubled kids” excel when they find a sport that lets off steam, gets them tired and sweaty.

    The schools handle the coaching differently. The best way is a head wrestling coach over both boys and girls like in track with a separate assistant for the girls and the boys. Facilities differ, but often boys and girls train on the same mat surface. If there is a very skilled girl, she may need to train against the boys to continue her progress. The girls wrestling coach in Kelso is also the soccer coach. The head wrestling coach there said you can coach the girl wrestlers and don’t worry about technique – I can teach you that. It’s big there now. Some schools have girls practicing separately 4 days a week and together with the boys one day a week.

    In the metro areas where there are more girls’ teams, they can compete in dual meets with other schools along side the boys utilizing a second ref. This is rare at this stage because few high schools have full teams.
    Most competition is on weekends for the girls by traveling to tournaments. They have a website that lists the tournaments for each week.

    This process is not going away. It is going to get stronger and stronger. There is a girl from Washington that is on the girls’ Olympic training team. They love the physicality of the sport. A side benefit is that they brought the media back. We are now seeing coverage of wrestling that we didn’t see for years.

    Do these girl wrestlers tend to go into occupations that require strength, like fire fighting and police work? Not necessarily. They just like wrestling. They often are recruited by JCs or colleges that have girls wrestling like Pacific. Our JC in Yakima was going to drop wrestling but decided to keep it by adding girls wrestling. They won nationals for two years now. Southwester CC in Coos Bay has girls wrestling and Bo Icalia is the women’s coach.( He is up at this tournament recruiting.)

    At first, starting out, schools have so little money that girls have to wear the boys uniform so they have to add a t-shirt. Later they purchase girls wrestling uniforms. Basically all the girls here wear the girl’s uniforms at this state level tournament.

    Headgear? At high school they all wear these new headgear that cover their hair also. So far, no problem with injured ears.

    As far a schools down in the Oregon area to look to for guidance – Kelso has certainly done it right. Washugal has a good turnout. Mountain View, Battle Ground and Skyview are all close by. They would love to see some competition from Oregon. It would be easy to begin in the Portland area with so much seasoned competition right close by.

    So after, fostering girls wrestling in the state of Washington, what’s in your future, Jim?
    I went to 40% 3 years ago. We have a transition team in place as I phase out. I have a motor home and family obligations.

    Thank you Jim Myerhoff, for showing us that wrestling is a sport that women will love and benefit from just like men do. They just need to get the chance.


Let me know what you think!