Photo Credit: Nebraska School Activities Association

History Made as Girls Wrestling Makes Its Debut at Nebraska State Wrestling Tournament

February 20, 2022

History was made as girls wrestling debuted at the 2022 Nebraska School Activities Association state wrestling tournament. More specifically, the first girls wrestling champions in Nebraska state history were crowned on Saturday.

High school girls wrestlers from around the state of Nebraska—who had previously wrestled unsanctioned or against boys—competed for the first time as a sanctioned sport during the winter season. The NSAA’s decision to sanction girls wrestling finally provided an opportunity to girls in Nebraska to have an equal opportunity at the state tournament.

From the 700 girls that started the season in November, 144 made it to state to compete for a medal at Omaha’s CHI Health Center. One of those wrestlers was Reagen Gallaway from Amherst, Nebraska.

Amherst High School, a school known for a number of wrestling titles in program history, quickly embraced the addition of a girls team. While wrestlers like Gallaway saw significant support throughout the season from their community, actually getting to state and seeing the stands of the CHI Health Center packed with fans was an experience they’ll never forget.

“It feels like I’m in a dream honestly,” Gallaway said following her state title win on Saturday. “. . . I can’t believe I’m here catching some titles and winning. I’m just very blessed.”

Gallaway did more than catch a title on Saturday. She completed an unbeaten season in which she also pinned every single one of her opponents in the first period.

Before it was a sanctioned sport, girls interested in wrestling at the high school level would have to join the boys’ team at their school and compete against boys. That brought along it owns set of issues and worries, which is why both athletes—like Gallaway—and coaches fought for the NSAA to make girls wrestling a sanctioned sport. The vote to do so had gotten close over the years but never enough to pass. Take April 2019, for example, when it felt like the day had finally come until the vote came up one short.

It took two more years to make it happen. In May 2021, the NSAA board of directors voted unanimously to sanction girls wrestling as a sport. The decision followed girls wrestling’s consideration as an “emerging sport” from the season before, which essentially acted as a trial run. With girls wrestling sanctioned, that meant those interested could compete against other girls and work for their chance to get to the state tournament.

It felt inevitable that the day would come when the NSAA would host a girls-only bracket at the state tournament. Seeing it come to fruition though? That was something wrestler after wrestler and coach after coach tried to soak up in the moment. The tweets and social reaction highlighted that from the start of the tournament until the champions were crowned.

Nebraska became the 33rd state to sanction girls wrestling. While it’s only getting started, it feels like the future is bright for the sport thanks to the athletes leading the charge.

As Gallaway walked off the mat on Saturday, she was met by a number of people wanting to talk to her. Cameras and recorders surrounded as reporters asked about her experience and her love of Wonder Woman. Her final question was simple though: how proud are you in this moment?

“I’m very proud of myself and I’m very proud of all the girls showing up and stepping up and showing all of the girls in the stands that girls wrestling is a thing,” Gallaway said, “and we’re here to stay in Nebraska.”

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