RAPID CITY, S.D. — It’s history in the making.
For the first time in South Dakota’s history, high school girls are wrestling for State Class A and B titles in the newly sanctioned sport.
The process of getting the sports sanctioned in the state has been rewarding, one that has the South Dakota High School Activities Association optimistic for the sports’ future.
“We put some plans together for this year and it’s been really a positive experience,” said Dan Swartos, the Executive Director of the SDHSAA. “We’ve had a little over 100 girls do the wrestling this year, we’ve got 88 here at our state tournament and uh, you know, in other states where they’ve implemented this, the sport’s really grown a lot in that second and third year so we’re looking forward to that in the upcoming years.”
Female wrestlers are enjoying a season in which they’ve mostly wrestled against other girls around the state.
“It’s the girls’ first year being sanctioned anyhow and I’m thankful for it because I just love the sport in general a lot and I’m excited I get to be here,” said Hailey Rodriguez, a sophomore wrestler at Belle Fourche High School.
But for some girl wrestlers, like Paige Denke, this is a special tournament.
Denke transferred to Rapid City Stevens High School after making it to the State Boys wrestling tournament in Chadron, Nebraska last year. She did well against the boys last year, but after a first round bye and a forfeit in the semi-finals of this year’s tournament, she’s ready for a chance at a title.
“It’s pretty awesome actually, I mean, I wrestled boys and I made boys state last year in Nebraska but I knew I wasn’t going to be the one winning the title and for that to be a possibility this year for me against my own gender is awesome,” Denke said.
Competition is fierce, but the girls competing aren’t taking an opportunity to wrestle in their own class lightly.