NORWALK, Iowa -- As the Iowa High School Athletic Union continues its debate on whether or not to sanction girls wrestling as an official sport, female wrestlers showcased the high popularity at a state tournament on Sunday.
The Female Elite Wrestling Tournament is one of the state's only all-female competitions.
"It's such a different atmosphere than wrestling against guys," says Alanah Vetterick. "No matter what, win or lose, we are all together as family trying to grow this sport."
Vetterick is the only girl on the wrestling team at Norwalk High School. The 17-year-old traded her dancing shoes for a wrestling singlet nine years ago and hasn't looked back.
"I wouldn't call it a 'so-called' boy sport anymore," she laughs.
Close to 120 athletes ages K-12, competed in Sunday's state tournament in an effort to grab the attention of the Iowa High School Athletic Union. In 2017, a record 92 high school girls registered to wrestle on boys teams. While Vetterick says she doesn't mind wrestling against boys, she says there are advantages to wrestling against girls.
"I know that some girls won’t come out because they don’t want to wrestle the boys, so that has really put a damper on women’s wrestling and I feel like we have to give girls the opportunity to wrestle girls so we can grow the numbers," she said.
According to the Des Moines Register, over the winter months the Iowa High School Athletic Union planned to discuss its consideration to sanction the sport. However, organizers of Sunday's tournament worry the fear of change will get in the way of the decision-making.
"There is huge history in Iowa when it comes to wrestling," says Charlotte Bailey. "But there is nothing stopping us from sanctioning it right now except for being used to doing what we are currently doing."
Bailey adds a sanctioned sport would give athletes the chance to compete in the post season. She says only two women have made it to state since 1921.
The states athletic union says it needs 1/3 of Iowa high schools to field a girls wrestling team before becoming a sanctioned sport.