The Roundhouse was filled with female wrestlers on Saturday as McPherson High, for the second year in a row, hosted the Kansas Girls Wrestling Championships.
It was somewhat of a novelty and maybe even a curiosity last year when 36 schools and 56 individuals took part. There were a lot of novice wrestlers, many of whom probably had competed only a handful of times before the event. Many of the matches were over in lightning-quick fashion as the experienced wrestlers recorded pins in just seconds.
But this year it clearly was evident that girls wrestling has made a light-years leap. There were many more quality matches, including those for MHS’ Mya Kretzer, who was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler in the meet after winning five matches in a row. She had a one-point victory earlier in the day before winning 10-1 in the finals against a national-caliber competitor. You have to remember she has spent her season wrestling against boys, carving out nearly a 20-win season.
She was one of just a number of girls, however, who could probably hold their own against the boys. But this tournament was designed for girls only and it was a great showcase for college coaches, who desperately need wrestlers to fill their rosters. College girls wrestling is on the rise and it’s a great way for these girls to continue to get a good education while having the opportunity to continue their careers.
“I think the word got out around the state that girls were going to have the opportunity to wrestle against other girls all day long. I think that helps a lot mentally for all these girls,” MHS coach Doug Kretzer said. “They know when they go to an event, it’s going to be a competitive match. When you feel like it’s going to be competitive, then you get better. You grow and learn more moves. You practice harder in the practice room. The biggest thing is knowing they’re going to have more competition against other girls is helping their skillset to improve quickly.”
Ottawa, which is a KCAC member, had a display set up at the doors leading into the Roundhouse. Former McPherson High wrestler Addie Lanning is a senior at Ottawa and is national caliber.
“The high school pool can’t keep up with the college needs,” Kretzer said. “If you’re a female and you go out for high school wrestling, you’re automatically on a college coach’s radar. Just the fact you have the guts to try it. Then they know they can catch up quick if they see the desire to be a wrestler.”
Girls wrestling is not a KSHSAA-sanctioned event, but through the tireless efforts of Kretzer and other coaches, getting the sport to be recognized may be in the not-too-distant future.
“When we went to KSHSAA in September, there were barely over 30 colleges that had girls wrestling,” Kretzer said. “Since September to now, there’s over 40. Mark Lentz (of KSHSAA) is here and that’s a good sign. I think the majority of the decision is directly tied to participation numbers. The participation numbers more than doubled from last year to this year. You can see the buy-in from the other schools and coaching staffs. Basically every tournament we’ve had gone to has doubled or tripled.”
Kretzer said in talking with other coaches, the numbers will continue to go up to the point where the decision will be an easy one for KSHSAA.
“I talked to the girls before the event,” Kretzer said. “I told them if every one of you talks one girl into going out next year, that’s 500 girls. That’s going to be hard to deny. Coaches love to coach. As soon as you see the interest level there and there’s tournaments like this, you get excited about being competitive as a coach.”