SanctionPA is a grassroots effort to work towards getting high school girls wrestling approved as a sanctioned sport in Pennsylvania through cooperation with local schools and The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA). The SanctionPA campaign includes advocacy efforts, education resources, promotional materials, and collaboration with schools. The goal is for 100 PIAA-member schools in Pennsylvania to officially recognize and approve a girls wrestling program at the high school level and ultimately have the sport sanctioned at the state level. 


Activities of the SanctionPA Initiative

  • Educate wrestling coaches and school administrators on girls wrestling;

  • Work with individual schools to form official high school girls wrestling teams;

  • Provide resources to schools and coaches to develop girls teams;

  • Work with the PIAA Wrestling Steering committee and state office on sanctioning efforts and the creation of a PIAA State Championship;

  • Help coordinate competition opportunities for girls until sanctioning is achieved.

Why SanctionPA?

Girls wrestling is one of the fastest growing high school sports in the country. Mirroring the national statistics, Pennsylvania high school wrestling has experienced over a 200% increase of girls on high school boys teams in the past several years. All 12 PIAA district areas have girls wrestling within their area schools. While the majority of state high school associations sanction a girls state championship, Pennsylvania does not yet have an official state tournament and has not sanctioned girls wrestling as a sport.

Adding girls wrestling teams at the high school level, and sanctioning the sport on the state level, can have enormous benefits for schools and athletes. First, adding girls wrestling increases the number of winter sport options for girls - currently, there are 6,000 fewer opportunities for girls in the winter. By adding girls wrestling, schools can increase their winter sport offerings by 25%. Girls wrestling also helps address diversity, equity, and inclusion and provides more opportunities for girls of all backgrounds, sizes, and abilities to participate in a school program. Adding girls wrestling also increases post-secondary opportunities for girls. There are currently over 100 colleges that have women’s wrestling with six being in the state of Pennsylvania. Wrestling ranks 2nd among all sports for producing 1st generation college students. Looking at the number of girls coming up through the elementary and middle school system is another reason to support girls wrestling at the scholastic level - so that these girls will have teams to wrestle on and an official sport to be a part of.

Sanctioning would further grow participation numbers in PA - states that have added girls wrestling have seen incredible growth, sometimes as high as 400% in one year, just by providing an official opportunity for girls to participate in the sport and to wrestle and compete against other girls. Every sanctioned state has seen a marked increase in their female wrestling participation numbers.

Adding girls wrestling will also help support the long-term sustainability of boys and men’s wrestling and can be a protective factor for the sport as a whole. 


Background and Stats on Girls Wrestling​

  • There were over 32,000 high school girls competing in the US in 2020-2021

  • The majority of states have sanctioned girls wrestling at the championship level. Some states have had girls wrestling sanctioned for over two decades. More states are adding every year.

  • Pennsylvania high school wrestling has experienced over a 200% growth of girls on high school boys teams in the past several years.

  • All 12 PIAA district areas have girls wrestling within their area schools.

  • In the 2019-2020 season, PA had over 370 elementary girls participate in PJW qualifiers (there are likely MANY more competing… some youth teams have over 30 girls), 289 junior high school girls, and 229 high school girls

  • A non-PIAA affiliated state tournament for girls has been held since 1999 and hosted by PA USA Wrestling since 2012

A Look Back on SanctionPA's Progress in 2020