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North Carolina High School Athletics Association Sanctions Women’s Wrestling as a Sport Beginning with the 2023-2024 Season

Coach Matthew Dunn congratulates one of his current male winning wrestlers. (Photo courtesy of Chante Calhoun Hoilman.)

By Tim Gardner

The Board of Directors of the governing body of prep sports in the state — the North Carolina High School Athletics Association (NCHSAA) — has announced that women’s wrestling will officially become a sanctioned high school sport in North Carolina, starting in the 2023-2024 season.

North Carolina had a record 594 women participating in high school wrestling for the past 2021-2022 season, making it the 19th largest state in America in terms of total female participation.

Matthew Dunn, who has coached Avery County High to various 1-A classification state championships welcomed the move by the NCHSAA.  

“The sanctioning of women’s wrestling is exciting and incredible news, though the decision is overdue as we follow many other states that have had women’s wrestling for many years now,” he said.  “In the past Olympics, our women’s wrestling teams displayed incredible dominance with multiple gold medalists and placers.  At this point, women’s wrestling is one of the fastest growing sports in regards to participation and offers as many or more scholarships (to participate collegiately) as its male counterpart.  

“In addition to the opportunities this creates, it also allows girls to compete in a females-only sport.  This eliminates some of the awkwardness inherent with co-eds participating in such a contact sport.”

Dunn noted that Avery currently has several female wrestlers in its programs, particularly in its middle school program.

Coach Matthew Dunn

Since 2017, the NCHSAA has worked with Team NC Wrestling to offer a NCHSAA Women’s Invitational Championship. The event started with 33 females in 2017 and has grown to nearly 250 participants in 2022.  Nine women also qualified for the boy’s state championships in 2021, and Heaven Fitch became the first ever female to win a NCHSAA title in 2020.

The NCHSAA and Team NC will continue to partner in offering the women’s invitational event for one final season in 2022-2023 before it becomes a fully sanctioned championship sport.

Dunn acknowledged and thanked a coach from Avery’s biggest rival school and fellow-member of the Western Highlands Conference for being instrumental in getting women’s wrestling installed as an individual sport in the NCHSAA.

“Coach Ed Duncan of Mitchell County High was one of the driving forces to adding women’s wrestling.  He played a huge role in growing and sanctioning this sport.” 

Dunn said that wrestling provides a tremendous education for all who participate in it—both males and females

“Wrestling is an incredible sport,” he proclaimed.  “It teaches independence, discipline, offers unmatched conditioning and is in itself a highly effective form of self-defense.  If I had a daughter, I would love for her to participate in wrestling.  I think, thankfully, we now live in an era where you can be both ‘tuff and feminine.” 

North Carolina becomes the 35th state in America to sanction women’s wrestling, which is one of the fastest growing scholastic sports in the nation. 

The announcement from the NCHSAA comes only two months before the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

Title IX is a federal civil rights law in the United States of America that was passed as part (Title IX) of the Education Amendments of 1972. It prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives funding from the federal government. 

The introduction of Title IX was followed by a considerable increase in the number of females participating in organized sports within American academic institutions, followed by growing interest in initiating and developing programs which would pursue feminist principles in relationship to concerns surrounding issues dealing with girls and women’s equality and equity in sport.

(Some information in this article used courtesy of the North Carolina High School Athletics Association (NCHSAA).