HELENA -- Girls wrestling is one step closer to being an official reality in Montana.
The Montana High School Association executive board will submit a proposal to add girls wrestling as an MHSA-sanctioned sport after reviewing a study constructed by a committee. The findings of the study recommended bringing the proposal to a vote from the membership during the MHSA's annual meeting in January.
Right now, female wrestlers compete against their male counterparts throughout the season.
MTN Sports interviewed five female wrestlers -- four present and one former -- last winter for the MontanaSports.com Original "Something to Prove," which looked at the history of female wrestling in Montana. It's believed less than 20 female wrestlers have qualified for the state tournament in Billings, while only three -- former Laurel wrestler Abi Gontarek, Kalispell Glacier's Tilynne Vasquez (formerly of Kalispell Flathead) and Chinook's Rebecca Stroh -- have placed at state.
To view the MontanaSports.com Original: "Something to Prove" please click here.
"Wrestling has always been a part of my family," Vasquez, whose fourth-place finish in 2017 is the highest finish for a Montana female, told MTN Sports last February. "I started at age 6 because I wanted to go experience the fun things, and ever since I've been hooked on it. It's a part of my life."
"Us, as girls in wrestling, we always have something to prove, you know?" she continued. "I'm really glad that it's at a point now where people are accepting and we have opportunities just like the guys. It makes you push a lot harder."
"I've had a lot of parents come up to me, or even the little girls themselves, parents and their daughters come up and think it's great," Highwood's Morgan Ayers added. "It warms my heart seeing all these little girls coming up, and them staying in wrestling. They tell me they look up to me, they watch me all the time and it's a great feeling that I'm in this."
During MTN Sports' travels last winter, many coaches stressed the benefits of adding an official girls wrestling classification, the greatest being the likelihood of increased numbers in the sport. Per the coaches, many girls compete in wrestling during their younger years but quit the sport before high school to avoid wrestling against boys.
But with the recent addition of women's college wrestling at the University of Providence, as well as numerous other programs across the nation, some made the decision to continue through their high school years with hopes of earning a scholarship.
"During junior high it wasn't too bad," said Stroh. "When I turned in my permission slip to do it in high school, I got a lot of looks like, 'Why are you in the wrestling room? Why?' I think they thought I was just going to be a manager, and I was until the University of Providence got (their program). It was like, 'I'm going to do it.'"
Along with the MHSA executive board's proposal to add girls wrestling, a second proposal to add boys powerlifting will also be brought forward, balancing out the male and female sport offerings. The board also approved a proposed Class B-C wrestling realignment, creating two divisions -- the East and West Divisions. The new alignment, which will be implemented during the 2020-21 season, can be found in the photo below.