Leveling up

What the IHSAA ‘Emerging Sports’ category means for teams at SHS


Many student athletes dream of winning a state title, but for some, this has been out of reach since they compete in sports that are not officially sanctioned Indiana High School Athletic Association sports. But in May 2022, IHSAA posted a news release where they announced that boys volleyball and girls wrestling were approved to be IHSAA emerging sports.
According to the IHSAA, this classification subjects the teams to all IHSAA rules and policies. The only difference is that emerging sports don’t have a state tournament.
Since obtaining the emerging sport title, the SHS girls wrestling team has grown to three times the size it was last year, and they’re able to compete in tournaments that are girls-wrestling specific.
Head wrestling coach Nick Skinner has tried several strategies to open the sport up to more female athletes, such as working with other coaches and adjusting practice schedules for those who are interested. According to sophomore Kyla Johnson, these measures have helped the girls feel more comfortable.
“We have a lot of new girls, and you can tell they’re starting to like it,” Johnson said. “At tournaments, you can see them, they get real happy when they win.”
Though becoming an emerging sport is a big step for the team, Skinner said that Indiana is actually behind many other states.
“(IHSAA officials) were behind the 8-ball,” Skinner said. “They did it because the rest of the country was doing it, and in this state, numbers are growing.”
Indiana was the 33rd state to classify girls wrestling as an emerging sport, according to Skinner. While the new classification does provide more opportunities for the girls, Skinner believes that it will actually hurt the SHS team. Johnson is the team’s best wrestler in the 113-pound weight class, and if girls wrestling is officially sanctioned, she won’t be allowed to compete with the boys anymore, leaving the Cards with a hole in that weight class.
This new classification is a step towards official IHSAA sport classification, but Skinner says that, according to his commissioner, this process could take anywhere from two to six years.
If girls wrestling becomes a sanctioned sport, Skinner believes that some things will need to be modified. For example, he says that they will need to change the weight classes because the current ones “aren’t really fair to women.”
Athletic Director Brian Murphy believes that the team’s new classification will bring more fans to the events. Along with the free-admission policy, having this title will place greater expectations on the team.
“I think when (the official IHSAA title) happens, … the sports get more popular, which is good,” Murphy said. “It demands more from the athletes.”