WPIAL girls wrestlers excited about PIAA stamp of approval

Saturday, May 20, 2023 | 5:29 PM

When Connellsville’s Jayanah Nobles qualified for the My House Pennsylvania Girls Wrestling Championship in March, she was disappointed it wasn’t held at Giant Center in Hershey.

If she qualifies for the PIAA championships in 2024, there is a good chance it will be at the same time and venue as the boys championships.

The PIAA voted this week to sanction girls wrestling after more than 100 schools across the state said they endorsed the sport. Come July 1, the start of a new athletic calendar, girls wrestling officially will be added by the PIAA.

“I was very excited to hear that the PIAA passed it because I’m part of growing the sport,” said Nobles, who placed eighth in the state meet. “I love wrestling. I also compete in dance, track and cheer, but wrestling is my favorite sport.

“I definitely like the competitive part of the sport. I achieved a lot, and I’m advanced and it shows how much I love the sport. I made it to states last year, and, honestly, I was upset that it wasn’t at Hershey. I’m happy it is, and I feel it’s deserved.”

In December 2021, the PIAA officially recognized girls wrestling as an emerging sport, and interest continued to grow across the state. The board held a third and final vote Wednesday to approve it.

“The plan is to hold the girls championship at the same time as the boys,” WPIAL wrestling committee chairman Frank Vulcano Jr. said.

Vulcano is also a member of the PIAA wrestling committee. “We’ve tweaked the championship schedule, and I think it will make everyone happy.

“We still have a few more tweaks before we vote on it. It still needs approval. But we’re excited to see the sport continue to grow and increase attendance at events.”

Sixteen schools in the WPIAL have indicated they would sponsor a team, and North Allegheny athletic director Bob Bozzuto said he knows more schools will follow.

North Allegheny was the first school in the WPIAL to sponsor a program two years ago. The Tigers have 15 girls on the roster, and Bozzuto said he expects that number will grow.

“It’s turned out well,” Bozzuto said. “We expect to grow significantly. I was proud of the way the student-athletes competed. I was excited to see the enthusiasm. We hosted a boy/girl doubleheader with Seneca Valley, and it was awesome.”

Canon-McMillan has 25 girls on its roster, Connellsville 17 and Southmoreland seven. Other WPIAL teams sponsoring wrestling are Burgettstown, Kiski Area, Plum, Penn Hills, Fort Cherry, Seneca Valley, Laurel, Mt. Lebanon, Moon, Pine-Richland, Trinity and Peters Township.

Southmoreland freshman Audrey Miller didn’t compete in the state tournament in March because of a scheduling conflict. But she said she will make sure to clear her calendar so she can attempt to make it in 2024.

Miller competed for the boys teams at 107 pounds. She was buoyed by the news of the PIAA’s approval.

“I’m excited and very happy to have the opportunity to wrestle against another girl,” Miller said. “I’m looking forward to the season.

“I’m sure more girls will be willing to participate. Competing in wrestling is empowering and makes you feel good about yourself. I’m a student council president, and I’m going to encourage more girls to try it. I think they’ll like it.”

Southmoreland athletic director and coach Dan Boring said he is excited for the girls. He said with the graduation of only two girls and additions from the middle school program, the Scotties roster will grow.

“We met with SanctionPA on Thursday, and things will be similar to the boys: 22 competition points and separate high school and middle school rosters,” Boring said. “You can also use the same coaching staff and hire separate staffs, whatever you desire. It’s exciting news. We’ll see how it rolls out here soon.”

Members of SanctionPA have been working toward official sponsorship for the past three years, and after reaching the benchmark of 100 schools fielding girls wrestling teams earlier this year, the PIAA board took action.

Pennsylvania became the 38th state to officially sponsor girls wrestling.

“In line with national trends, we anticipate the girls wrestling participation numbers to increase with the official vote to sanction the sport,” president of SanctionPA Brooke Zumas said in a statement. “And it is with great anticipation we look forward to celebrating the very first PIAA-sponsored girls wrestling state tournament next year.

“In just three years, SanctionPA and the schools across the state were able to mobilize and showcase the support for this rapidly growing sport. We look forward to continuing to advocate and support the growth of the sport in the state.”

Vulcano said the schools in the WPIAL will be independents for the first season, meaning they would not receive a schedule or be placed in a section. Schools are encouraged to make their own schedule.

“We’ll provide qualifiers for the teams,” Vulcano said. “We’re planning to wait for the new enrollment cycle in October and November to see how many teams we actually have. The girls will compete in 13 weight classes.”

At last year’s state championship, Canon-McMillan’s Valarie Solorio (100 pounds) and North Allegheny’s Leyna Rumpler (148) won gold medals, and Canon-McMillan’s Elizabeth Elliot (112) and Natalie Rush (190) placed second. Eighteen others earned medals.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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