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USGWA Nationals to feature nation's best high school girls folkstyle wrestlers



Women's wrestling is one of the fastest growing segments of the sport, and the growth has shown in most dramatic growth on the high school level. More and more young girls are competing in America's schools, and are looking for other opportunities to test their wrestling skills. This weekend is the Fourth Annual USWGA High School Nationals, a national wrestling tournament for high school girls. It features folkstyle wrestling, the style contested in America's school system. In addition, it is an "all-girls" event, which differs from the regular season where often girls must compete against boys. This event is the creation of Michigan native Kent Bailo, who started an unofficial girls state championship in Michigan five years ago, then created the national tournament the next year. In recent seasons, Bailo has also intitiated a number of USGWA events in other states, which provide opportunities for girls to compete in folkstyle their own regions. "All of the wonderful vaules that wrestling teaches - that we believe with all our heart that no other sport teaches - can be shared by females, too," said Bailo. "That is good for the survival of our sport. Encourage girls and women to wrestle. Help girls and women to wrestle. Coach girls and women to wrestle." Michigan has a great tradition of women's wrestling, led by the greatest U.S. women's wrestler of all time, four-time World champion Tricia Saunders (originally from Ann Arbor). Other U.S. women's wrestling stars that are Michigan natives are Lauren Lamb and Jackie Berube. It is perhaps fitting that Michigan is the place where this program was born and is cultivated. Past champions of this event have gone on to make their name on the national scene in USA Wrestling's freestyle programs. This national tournament can be considered a proving ground for future success in women's wrestling. Consider these stars, all who won the USGWA Nationals, then have starred in U.S. Senior and age-group programs: Olivia Ocampo (Oxnard, Calif.), Katrina Betts (Milan, Mich.); Sara McMann (Marion, N.C.); Katie Downing (Pendleton, Ind.); Mary Kelly (Mahomet, Ill.); Jenny Wong (Woodbury, Minn.); Tonya Evinger (Bates City, Mo.). For the colleges that have initiated varsity or club programs for women's wrestling, this is a top event for recruiting and scouting. At the 2000 Nationals, additional divisions were added to the initial high school tournament, including a Middle School, Elementary and Collegiate division. The 4th Annual USGWA National Championships will be held March 24-25 at Lake Orion High School in Lake Orion, Mich. Over 300 of the best high school wrestlers in the nation will be there, along with college and youth wrestlers. USA Wrestling to hold an open forum during the competition, to allow parents, athletes, coaches, fans and wrestling leaders to give their input about the development of women's wrestling in the nation. Conducting the forum for USA Wrestling will be Tricia Saunders, the four-time World champion who has been a leader in developing the sport on all levels. Everyone is welcome to attend this special forum and give Tricia ideas on how to build women's wrestling in America. USA Wrestling will be holding these forums at other major events this spring, including the University Nationals, the U.S. Nationals and the Junior/Cadet Women's World Team Trials. Bailo is an outspoken supporter of women's wrestling on all levels. "I'm convinced that women's wrestling will grow by leaps and bounds when it receives the ultimate sanction, and that is to be added as a NCAA event," said Bailo.
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