Girls Could Be the Future in Iowa High School Wrestling

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- High school wrestling in Iowa has a rich history that extends nearly one hundred years.

"Fun in general.  Just go out there and fight. Take their aggressions out and relieve some stress," said Dustin Roland, Des Moines Lincoln's Head Coach of four years.  But an overlooked Junior Varsity match Thursday at Ankeny High School between Southeast Polk and Lincoln could be the future.

"They say it's not girls stuff, it's boys stuff," said January Paw.  If fans looked closely they could see two girls grappling at once.  "I like the competition with the guys because you can really test yourself," said Chloe Pearson.

Des Moines Lincoln boasts an unprecedented five girls on their squad. Coach Roland says, to them it's business as usual. "They're just five wrestlers and they work as hard and do everything and the expectations are the same as it is for the thirty-six guys in the room right now."

The five female Railsplitters are the most on any team in the state. "Three of the five have been in our varsity lineup," said Roland.

For Senior January Paw, a Taiwanese refugee, it's her first year on the mat. "You gotta be tough and when I joined I liked it, I actually liked it."

For Carrie Pearson hearing her daughter Chloe's passion took some getting used to.  "At first it might have bothered me but she's awesome she's strong, she's tough. I knew she wouldn't give up and she loves it."

The trend isn't only at Lincoln. Des Moines Public Schools says the state has seen a 29% increase from girls across the state.  "It's been more often. One bracket we had a whole tournament of girls.  I think it was the Des Moines East tournament."

It's all changing the question from how could it become a girls sport, to when? Coach Roland said, "We've got five this year and next year our goal is ten.  As teams across the state continue to grow those numbers the Girls Athletic Union, it's going to be hard to ignore."

Until a decision is made, Lincoln may be split in gender but not in their identity.  "To us, it's just our team,"said Roland.  His wrestler, Paw agreed, saying, "We are like family and stuff.  We share things and support each other."

The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union says they would need at least one-third of Iowa high schools to field a girls wrestling team for it to become a sanctioned sport.  They are also exploring the possibilities of girls rugby and lacrosse.

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