More than 200 girls from about 80 schools packed into the Roundhouse on Saturday in hopes of winning a state championship.
McPherson hosted and won the third annual Kansas girls high school wrestling state tournament. The Pups edged Fort Scott 113-110 and placed eight wrestlers in the top eight, but coach Doug Kretzer, the state’s biggest advocate for girls wrestling, said the tournament wasn’t so much about McPherson.
“The first year, we had 36 schools and 56 girls,” he said. “Every time we would go to those first four tournaments, those girls would talk to every single girl at the event and tried to get them to get more girls out. ... They were heavily recruiting girls to come beat you and take titles away from you.”
The 2019 tournament featured five nationally ranked wrestlers and 25 champions from 21 schools. McPherson senior 126-pounder Mya Kretzer was the only Bullpup champion, beating Hutchinson sophomore Maritza Jimenez by pin at 2:23.
McPherson has won each of the three state championship tournaments, but the gap has continued to shrink, Doug Kretzer said, and that’s a good thing.
“McPherson has a huge ‘X’ on our back,” he said. “Every time we walk on the mat, if a girl from a different town beats a McPherson girl, that’s a huge statement. It’s more difficult to stay on top than it is to get on top. We came out slow, and you could just hear the roar of the crowd — it just sounded a little different every time a McPherson girl went down.”
Saturday was a specatcle. There were few empty seats, media outlets were there to follow along, and there was even an appearance from olympian Amy Fearnside.
Kretzer said that as the number of girls who are wrestling grows, so does the quality. He said the level of competition has doubled, “maybe even tripled,” since the state tournament was created.
“These girls look like wrestlers, and I believe in my heart that’s because they’re getting an opportunity to wrestle other girls,” he said.