FALLS CHURCH, Va. — Reporter's Notebook: This week the Falls Church City School Board took the dramatic step of passing a resolution that calls on the governing body of high school athletics in Virginia, the Virginia High School League (VHSL), to elevate girls wrestling to a varsity sport. Supporters are now sending that resolution across the state to high school principals, athletic directors, lawmakers, and even the governor in hopes of convincing VHSL's Executive Committee to officially sanction girls wrestling. This process is quite complex. First, VHSL officials would vote for girls wrestling to become what's called an emerging sport. That would then give girls wrestling up to three years to prove it deserves varsity status. Athletes and coaches at Meridian High School in Falls Church have been instrumental in this movement so that's where we went for perspective.
There are few sports as punishing as wrestling. For Meridian High School wrestlers Senya Urbom and Megan Carpenter, that’s exactly why they grapple.
“It’s tough, which is something that I don’t find in a lot of other aspects in life," Urbom said.
This school year, hundreds of young women competed in coed high school wrestling tournaments in the commonwealth. But an official girls' state championship doesn’t exist, since girls' wrestling isn’t sanctioned by the Virginia High School League.
“The girls deserve to be recognized as much as the boys do," Meridian wrestler Megan Carpenter said.
"I’ve probably had about 30 matches against guys and I’ve won quite a few. I’ve pinned a couple of guys," Urbom added.
As much as Urbom and her fellow female teammates enjoy pummeling male opponents, they and their coaches believe it’s high time to right this injustice and give girls their own sport.
“Now’s the time. Let’s do it. Sanction girls wrestling in Virginia," Meridian High School Head Wrestling Coach Jason Perkins said.
Assistant Wrestling Coach Kish Rafique agrees.
“We are pilots and pioneers of equity. We need to do something about this," Rafique said.
Rafique is among those leading the charge. She says according to the USA Wrestling Girls High School Development Committee, an estimated 28,000 girls compete nationwide in wrestling, and more than 30 states already recognize girls wrestling as a varsity sport.
“We’ve talked to VHSL for more than eight years now and we’ve hit roadblocks," Rafique said.
But that perspective may change.
"I clearly think this is the right time myself," VHSL Executive Director Dr. Billy Haun said.
Haun tells 7News On Your Side this recent lobbying effort will likely lead to girls wrestling becoming what’s called an emerging sport next school year, which gives girls wrestling up to three years to prove it deserves varsity sport status. VHSL's Executive Committee members, which include a variety of stakeholders, including superintendents and principals, get to vote up or down on this issue.
“I think it’s been gaining momentum. I think the momentum is there. More girls have been wrestling and it really seems to be picking up steam," Haun said.
For Meridian High wrestler Emilie Miner, it boils down to mutual respect.
“I think that it’s really hard for people to accept somehow in the deepest depths of their mind that women can be this tough and strong and this willed to do what they want to do. Women have been doing intense things since we got here," Miner said.