CLEARFIELD – Girls wrestling is the fastest-growing high school sport in the country and girls could soon have a mat of their own at the Clearfield Area Junior-Senior High School.
In Pennsylvania, there’s been more than a 200 percent increase in girls’ participation in high school wrestling over the past several years.
According to SanctionPA, all 12 Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) districts have girls participating in wrestling within their area schools.
In 2022-23, there were over 500 girls participating on PIAA junior high teams and over 1,000 girls participating at PIAA high schools.
A non-PIAA affiliated state tournament for girls was held from 1999 – 2023 and hosted by PA USA Wrestling since 2012.
Girls wrestling was granted an “Emerging Sport Status” in February of 2022, and on Feb. 14, 2023, the 100th PIAA school started girls wrestling.
That milestone was monumental for the sport, giving it eligibility to officially become sanctioned by the PIAA, which happened May 17 with a unanimous board vote.
The decision made Pennsylvania the 39th state with a girls state wrestling tournament, which will now coincide with the boys championship, beginning in March of 2024 in Hershey.
The move brought home CHS ’00 grad Tim Taylor, who following high school wrestled for the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army.
The three-time PIAA state placewinner was a two-time Olympic alternate; five-time U.S. national team member; seven-time Armed Forces Champion; and two-time University National Champion in men’s freestyle.
Taylor was a high school wrestling coach in Colorado, where he also helped start one of the best girls wrestling programs in the state.
Now he’s determined to bring that same success to his alma mater, and last month approached the Clearfield school board about starting its own girls wrestling program.
On Monday night, he said Clearfield—at the recommendation of District 9—had started looking into a girls wrestling co-op with Curwensville; however, that was recently tabled by the Curwensville school board.
Taylor attended Clearfield’s school board workshop meeting with five potential girls team members, and indicated he had at least five or six others who were not present but also interested in competing.
We have 41 state boys wrestling champions—the most of any PIAA school, noted Taylor, before proposing Clearfield start its own girls program to “rival” that.
Long-time boys wrestling coach Jeff Aveni backed the heavyweight he once trained.
“We are Clearfield. We are wrestling. And, we should have our own [girls] team.”
For now, it appears the girls would have no shortage of regular season tournament opportunities and would follow the same post-season schedule as the boys with a district, regional and state tournament.
“But we want to find a way to get dual meets here,” said Aveni. “That’s how you will get fans” and they say the girls are more fun to watch.
“They go after it. They don’t just stand there and look at each other. They go after it and they really wrestle. Sometimes boys wrestle not to lose, but the girls they don’t do that.”
Taylor said he’s ready and willing to volunteer as the girls wrestling coach, and has already completed the required paperwork.
Morgen Turner—current substitute teacher and former CHS student-athlete—is also willing to assist Taylor as a volunteer conditioning coach and “positive role model.”
Turner said she may not bring wrestling experience to the practice room but has done cage fighting, is familiar with cutting weight and knows how to do it in a healthy way.
Following discussion, the board voted to amend next week’s meeting agenda so it may consider pursuing the addition of girls wrestling (junior high and varsity).
If approved, Aveni would oversee both the boys and girls programs, with Taylor and Turner as volunteer coaches in the girls program.