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Wrestling for high school, youth growing in Mississippi

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 8:00 AM CDT
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VANCLEAVE, Miss. (WLOX) - Mississippi has remained the only state in the U.S. where high school wrestling is not sanctioned. However, that will soon be changing.

The Mississippi High School Activities Association recently approved an inaugural season for high school wrestling to begin in 2021.

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Currently, there are four high schools offering the sport in South Mississippi. One of those teams is in Vancleave, where interest has been growing over the last several years.

”I remember one day in the spring, I had a kid come into my office and ask, ‘Coach, have you ever thought about starting wrestling?’” said Vancleave Athletic Director Matt Walters.

Administrators in Jackson County were surprised to hear that Mississippi was the only state without high school sanctioned wrestling.

”It does shock me, but sometimes we are a little behind on the curve. We have a great group of people that are really trying to push working with the MHSAA to get this to be more mainstream for all high schools throughout the state,” said Vancleave and East Central Assistant Superintendent Todd Boucher.

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The Mississippi Wrestling Foundation, located in South Mississippi, has been key in building interest in the sport. The organization is working hard to raise funds so programs can begin in the Jackson County School District’s three high schools.

”Right now in South Mississippi, we are going to have Jackson County School District, consisting of St. Martin, East Central and Vancleave, as well as Ocean Springs who have already had a program,” said Vancleave Head Wrestling Coach David Sutherland.

The Ocean Springs Greyhounds have been competing in wrestling for over a decade. With this latest push to expand the sport throughout Mississippi, this will their first chance to compete for a state title. Right now, ten teams are set to compete next season.

”These young men and women will actually be able to be state champions, an invitational championship,” said Sutherland.

Cody Solari, who is president of the Mississippi Wrestling Foundation and head coach at East Central High, believes great things are on the horizon for wrestling in the Magnolia State.

”Within the last year, it has really taken off,” he said. “This is just the start. I can see the entire Gulf Coast having wrestling in the next three to four years for sure.”

The foundation has also created a youth club to grow the sport in the community and get kids involved at a younger age. The Gulf Coast Wrestling Club is holding practices now and children ages 4-18 from all across the Coast are welcome to sign up. Matches begin in November and run through the end of January, with the state tournament set to take place in February.

To inquire, visit the club’s Facebook page or email vancleavewrestling@gmail.com.

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