The Montana High School Association’s 181-school membership voted to approve girls wrestling and boys powerlifting as the state’s two newest sports at its annual meeting on Jan. 20 in Billings.
Both sports will be offered beginning in the 2020-21 school year.
The MHSA executive committee forwarded the proposals to the greater membership in November 2019 and girls wrestling passed by a comfortable margin. Boys powerlifting, a sport proposed in part to balance the athletic offerings for boys and girls, was approved by a smaller margin of around 20 votes, according to MHSA Executive Director Mark Beckman.
Girls wrestling will be offered during the winter season and, during an initial two-year pilot period, girls wrestlers will be allowed to compete in the regular season against either male or female competitors. In the postseason, however, girls will have their own state wrestling tournament with all schools competing in the same classification. There will be no divisional for girls wrestling and all girls wrestlers will qualify for state. An initial proposal recommends seven weight classes be offered, ranging between 103 and 205 pounds.
The Flathead Valley has a number of girls currently competing in wrestling and produced one of the state’s most successful girls wrestlers, Tilynne Vasquez, who was a two-time state placer for Flathead High School in 2017 and 2018. Vasquez finished fourth in the state in her sophomore season, believed to be the best finish by a female wrestler in Montana history. Beginning in 2020-21, girls will no longer be allowed to wrestle in the boys state tournament.
Boys powerlifting will be offered in the spring of 2021, according to a tentative plan released by the MHSA. All schools will compete in one classification and the state meet would be held in May.
These are the first two sports added to the MHSA’s offerings since boys and girls soccer began play in 1991.