The first ever girls wrestling state championship in Indiana took place Friday at Hamilton Heights. A total of 49 schools qualified with 86 wrestlers competing for 16 state titles.
Heights' boys and girls coach Gary Myers was the main organizer of the event after he got the blessing of the IHSAA. The idea first came to him when a few girls showed up at his wrestling camp.
"I happened to see a couple girls in wrestling and I thought, 'It'd be cool to have these girls wrestle against their peers and show what real skills they have," he said.
He began planning in July, called the IHSAA to get the go-ahead from them, then proceed to plan a few dates.
"I wanted to go to them first and see if they were ok with," Myers said. "They gave me some advice and parting wisdom and I was able to call upon them a few times when putting together."
He said he wanted it to be as close to the boys' competitions as it could be. He estimated about 98 percent was the same.
It started with the creation of the Indiana High School Girls Wrestling (IHSGW) website, getting some Trackwrestling guys on board and spreading the word.
Two regionals were planned for Jan. 7, the north regional at Rochester High School and the south one at Franklin Community High School. The state meet was planned for Friday, Jan. 13 then the ice warnings moved back the date to Jan. 20.
Myers' had five girls qualify for state, which was the third-most in the state. The team placed fourth at the Rochester regional and would be wrestling in their very own Hamilton Heights gym for the state finals.
Ellizabeth Hunter (88), Markaela Pugh (106), Olivia Denham (138), Addison Baber (152) and Alexis Harbor (160) qualified for Heights. Westfield's Melody Barrows (138) also represented Hamilton County.
Pugh won the 106 state championship after a decision, a pin and a major decision.
"For her, a light clicked at that tournament and next thing you know she was throwing in the legs to wrestle," Myers said.
She defeated Daleville's Willoe Cunnington 12-4 in the championship.
Alexis Habor and Ellizbeth Hunter each placed third after wrestling a round-robin style for their weight class. Harbor got a pin in 15 seconds in her first round.
Addison Baber finished in fourth out of seven wrestlers. She had a bye the first round then was pinned by future champion Sabrina Pedroza. She came back with a pin of her own to clinch a spot in the third-place match. The match was a tight one which Baber dropped in a 7-5 decision.
In the 138 weight class, two Hamilton County wrestlers faced off in the first round. Melody Barrows from Westfield and Olivia Denham from Heights fought, with Barrows getting the pin and going on to a third-place finish. Denham finished in seventh.
"To have 49 schools qualify from the north and south regionals was great and then to have a state champion from my own school was icing on the cake," Myers said.
He added that he was hoping this was something the IHSAA would be able to pick up in a few years.
"It was a lot of fun to watch," Myers said. "I was even more excited for that than probably anything we've ever done."