The WIAA Board of Control was busy Wednesday.
Wisconsin’s governing body for high school athletics reviewed and acted upon several recommendations from the coaches committees regarding winter sports and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A coaches’ recommendation to add a girls division to the state wrestling tournament series was approved 10-0. Starting with the 2021-22 wrestling season, a girls-only individual tournament will be held. Boys and girls will be able to wrestle one another during the regular season, but the postseason will be gender exclusive.
Girls wrestling is being added, for now, as a tournament and not its own sport. As a sport, it would have to have to meet the WIAA bylaw of 5% participation by member schools, or somewhere around 25 schools.
Janesville Craig wrestling coach Mark Mullen and Janesville Parker wrestling coach Shane Fleming both like the addition of a state tournament division for girls only. Parker had three girls on the team last season and Craig had one.
“I think it’s a great idea, because anytime you can get more kids involved in our sport, it’s a win,” Mullen said. “And by knowing that there is going to be a state tournament just for the girls at the end of the season, you’ll definitely get more girls to come out.”
Fleming echoed Mullen’s sentiments.
“Girls are at such a disadvantage right now in our sport, especially at the upper weight classes where they’re simply not strong enough to compete,” Fleming said.
“This gives them an opportunity to still practice and compete against the boys during the season, but now they’ll get a chance to wrestle only girls in the tournament series.”
For boys and girls basketball, the WIAA Board approved implementing a computerized seeding system for postseason play. The WIAA hopes to have the system in place for the 2020-21 season but no later than 2021-22.
“From a convenience standpoint, it makes sense,” Craig boys basketball coach Ben McCormick said. “A lot of times at those seeding meetings, coaches were making a two-hour trip. And with the new system there is no appeals process; you get what you get.
“But, I also want to see how it works out in football this year. They’re using the computerized system for the first time. My biggest concern is how it’s going to account for strength of conference. Everybody thinks they’re in the best conference and votes accordingly, but obviously that’s not the case.”
One academic change involves eligibility. Due to the many challenges that student-athletes faced in the spring due to virtual online learning, the WIAA Board voted unanimously to allow a school the option to defer academic eligibility grade requirements for all students until the first grading period of the 2020-21 school year.
Also, the WIAA Board voted to extend the coaches’ five unrestricted coaching days for this summer only. Due to the impact of COVID-19, 11-player football coaches are allowed unrestricted contact through Aug. 1, and all other coaches through Aug. 8.
As of Wednesday’s board meeting, the WIAA is planning on all fall sports taking place.