SALINA, Kan. (KWCH) A first for high school sports in Kansas comes with the first KSHSAA girls' state wrestling tournament in Salina.
The Opening Ceremony at the 2020 Inaugural Kansas Girls State Wrestling Tournament at Tony's Pizza Events Center in Salina on Thursiday, February 27, 2020. (Photo: Everett Royer, www.ksportsimages.com)
The field at Thursday's state meet include veteran wrestlers who, this season, finally have their chance to compete in all girls' tournaments officially for their schools, as well as some new to the sport.
Among the veterans is Nickerson's Nicole Moore whose wrestled for 11 years.
"I love this sport. It's everything," she says.
Thursday's state tournament was one of the first all girls' competitions in which Moore's participated.
"It's cool to see all the girls here," Moore says. "it's definitely different."
With the KSHSAA addition of girls' wrestling this winter, Nickerson wrestling coach Nick Flowers says the sport's popularity skyrocketed this year.
"We saw 700-person growth in girls' numbers this year," he says of wrestling's popularity spike in Kansas. "There's always been a few of them. Now we're seeing the explosion."
He says Thursday's state tournament for the female wrestlers is just the beginning.
"We'll get more girls out because they're not going to be worried about competing against the guys, so I think more girls will come out," Moore says. "And I think by doing that, you just get more athletes and a wider range of competition, which I think is going to help it grow."
Several Kansas male wrestlers attended Thursday's girls' state tournament to cheer on teammates who will return the favor Friday and Saturday when the boys' wrestling state tournaments take place.