Sophie Pollack has opportunities to wrestle while wearing school colors.
Pollack, a junior at Canandaigua Academy, had 20 matches this season as a member of the school's varsity team. But all of those bouts were against boys, most around the 172-pound weight class, an upper weight at the high school level.
"Wrestling against girls is entirely different than wrestling against guys," Pollack said. "You are not built the same.
"So (as a girl wrestling other girls), it's a lot more fair. It's a little less discouraging."
There is a chance for more all-girls matches to take place around New York State as early as next year, with a level of formal recognition from the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. Section V is a member of the NYSPHSAA.
A status as an "emerging" sport in the NYSPHSAA during 2022-23 would be a step above no formal recognition, which is the current case for girls wrestling.
"We think we are on the cusp of reaching the goal that we set about two-and-a-half years ago," NYSPHSAA assistant executive director Todd Nelson said about an elevation to "emerging" status.
Title contenders: Section V sends 5 undefeated wrestlers and a host of others to state
Another step would have to take place for girls wrestling to receive full recognition from the NYSPHSAA, when the organization would set up a meet to crown state champions like in sports from bowling to football.
For now, girls the sport is moving forward, like a wrestler eager to score during a match.
"It’s encouraging. I can’t wait for it to be sanctioned," Warsaw varsity wrestling coach Glen DiStefano said.
Paradise for now is Chautauqua Lake
Full-sanctioning of girls wrestling might come too late for Warsaw Hailey DeGroff and Pollack at Canandaigua, who are in their junior years.
Both wrestlers do have an all-girls meet to look forward to Feb. 19, the third annual New York State Intersectional Women's Wrestling Championship at Chautauqua Lake High in Section VI or Buffalo region.
The meet was put together by coaches in Section VI and Section V as a pinnacle event for girls wrestling this winter season, like the state championships in Albany Feb. 25-26.
SUNY Brockport hosted the most recent girls wrestling state intersectional that included 35 girls in 2020. Most multi- and out-of-section tournaments in 2021 were wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic, including the state championships.
"There was (an all-girls) tournament at Chatauqua Lake earlier this season, but there were only 16 girls in the whole tournament," Pollack said. "I'm hoping to see more girls. I had three legit matches and two exhibitions, five total, but only three counted.
"There has been a lot of support, especially with a lot of coaches. My teammates have been supportive. I haven't run into (boys refusing to wrestle a girl) this year, but I have before. I hope there are more girls matches, legitimate matches that are able to count (this weekend)."
There were 48 wrestlers who signed up for the state intersectional through Feb. 15. Organizers were still welcoming entries through the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org during the week of the meet.
Canandaigua varsity wrestling coach Eric Mullen said the "Madison system" would be used to set up matches. There are no weight classes, but wrestlers within certain ranges after weigh-ins are grouped together for round-robin style competition. Mullen anticipated about five rounds of wrestling.
Signed up from Section V
Here are the Section V wrestlers who have signed up to compete at the New York State Intersectional Women's Wrestling Championship at Chautauqua Lake in Mayville, Chautauqua County:
Bolivar-Richburg: Teegan Sibble
Brockport: Baylee Degenfelder, Brooke Walsh
Canandaigua: Sophie Pollack
East Rochester: Jayme Taylor
Fairport: Sophie Michaud
Keshequa: Alivia Cartwright
Livonia/Wayland-Cohocton: Destiny Latimer, Katrina Weldy Ady West
Lyndonville: Laci Giarla, Catelyn Kidney
Marcus Whitman/Penn Yan: Avery Castner, Adriana Rodriguez
Midlakes: Trinity Dean, Olivia Miles, Leah Peck, Izzy Raes
Penfield: Ella Bode, Emmie Moore
Pittsford: Amelia Samuelson
South Seneca: Ruth Dendis, Macy Swank
Warsaw: Hailey DeGroff, Gracie Hostetler
Next steps to championship recognition
The NYSPHSAA counts about 300 girls who wrestle in the state, most on boys teams, according to Nelson. There are two all-girls wrestling teams at NYSPHSAA-member schools, Bay Shore and Rocky Point in Section XI on Long Island.
"Those girls (on boys teams) would like the opportunity to wrestle other girls," Nelson said.
There are no all-girls teams in Section V. Most of the female wrestlers in Section V who entered the state intersectional at Chautauqua Lake are members of their school's varsity teams, including the Bolivar-Richburg's Teegan Sibble, the first girl to win a Section V class championship.
Mullen said there are 52 girls in Section V who are wrestling, up from the high 30s or low 40s who competed during the shortened 2020-21 season.
"No. 1, I've had a few girls on the team (at Canandaigua) over the years," Mullen said. "You want to be able to provide the same opportunity you are providing the boys.
"No. 2, if you want to grow the sport, gender should be irrelevant. I'm a fan of wrestling."
For a sport to receive "emerging" status in the NYSPHSAA, like girls hockey, there must be four sections, each of which has at least four teams competing in the sport.
The NYSPHSAA then would be involved in setting up a regional championship, like the event that took place in girls ice hockey Feb. 12-13 at SUNY Canton, won by Skaneateles in Section III or Syracuse region.
"We have a lot of schools and coaches who are working hard to get girls wrestling recognized," Nelson said, also acknowledging the work of USA Wrestling New York chapter. "We're right on the fringe of having four teams recognized in four sections.
"It's our belief that numbers would grow very quickly because there are a number of girls that are not comfortable wrestling with boys."
Championship status for girls wrestling, the designation sports from basketball to football have, would come when six sections each have four teams competing.
"These could be teams of one, but more than likely, we will likely have schools merging," Mullen said about Section V. "Hopefully, we can see a rise in numbers."
Mullen said there is hope that an unofficial state championship in March could be a spark for participation.
Nelson said there is anticipation that Section IV or Binghamton region could have five teams in 2022-23, four in Section IX. He also said there could be three or four teams in Section II or Albany region.
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: High school girls wrestling: Section V participation growing