When it comes to high school girl’s athletics in Florida, wrestling is virtually the final frontier.
Every other sport sanctioned for boys by the FHSAA has a female equivalent, including such relative newcomers as weightlifting and flag football.
But wrestling, which has been sanctioned by the state for boys for half a century, has no real option for girls.
“I think it’s unfair,” said Gabriela Rodriguez, a junior at McArthur High. “If a guy can do cheerleading, why can’t a girl wrestle? I think it’s sexist.”
Never miss a local story.
To make up for the lack of opportunity, some girls have wrestled against boys, with limited success.
But on Jan. 24, girls will finally get a chance to wrestle other girls in South Florida. Coaches Mike Zarra of McArthur and Ron Schulz of Nova are promoting the first-ever South Florida High School Girls’ Wrestling Championships.
The tournament will be at McArthur, and Zarra said more than 30 high school girls have already signed up to show their skills.
“With most girls,” Zarra said, “their techniques need to improve because they haven’t wrestled enough. But they are just as tough as the guys. One of my girls [Daniela Molnar] beat three boys in varsity matches last year.”
Molnar, a junior who is in her second year of wrestling, has tried other sports such as track and swimming. But she prefers wrestling.
“It makes you feel powerful, like you are achieving something,” she said.
Currently, only four states sanction girls’ wrestling: California, Texas, Washington and Hawaii.
Schulz, 65, wrestled for McArthur at Florida’s first boys’ state championships, which was held at Miami Dade North in 1965. He would love to be there when the state gets around to giving girls their first state championship.
But he knows it’s a difficult process.
“Judging by lacrosse and other sports that went through the process,” Schulz said, “it will take two to five years.”
Zarra said more than 20 colleges currently offer scholarships for women’s wrestling, which is a strong incentive for girls who want to get their education paid for while competing in their sport.
“I would like to wrestle in college,” said Nova sophomore Brianna Tucker, who got interested in the sport because her brother and father wrestled. “It just depends on if the college I want to go to has wrestling.”
In addition to increased opportunities in college, women’s wrestling has been an Olympic sport since 2004, which adds to its credibility.
Schulz said wrestling is a cost-effective way for schools to improve their numbers of female athletes, which is beneficial in terms of compliance with federal equal opportunity regulations.
Almost all schools already own wrestling mats — the ones they use for the boys. Schulz said his kids purchase uniforms, which is the more sanitary than re-issuing them from year to year.
“If you do it right, you can charge admission, and the sport will pay for itself,” Schulz said. “You can’t tell me that the boys won’t want to come out to watch girls wrestle.”
McArthur wrestler Tania Diaz, a sophomore, said all fans should come out to watch.
“I think they’ll like it,” she said. “I think they’ll see a whole new revolution of female wrestling.”
For more information about the tournament, contact Schulz at firstname.lastname@example.org.