PALM HARBOR, Fla. - For the first time in Florida, girls wrestling is now a sanctioned high school sport. The Sunshine State joins 31 others to give females a chance to make it into their school record books.
This is a big deal for athletes -- like Palm Harbor University High School’s Clare Booe -- seeking some recognition in their sport.
At PHUHS, it’s not unusual to see girls wrestling alongside the boys. Sophomore Clare Booe has only been working on her takedowns and pins for about three years, but she’s hard to beat.
"That's a lot of work and effort," Booe said. "There's still more I can accomplish."
The 15-year-old is ranked in the top 10 in the country for her weight class and already competes at the state and national level, winning top events.
Palm Harbor University High School’s Clare Booe
"I won states this year as a freshman at 100 pounds," Booe said. "That was a big deal for me and it was really cool."
This season, girls wrestling is finally sanctioned by the Florida High School Athletic Association, giving females the chance to have their own school teams and officially make it into the record books for district, regional, and state tournaments.
PHUHS wrestling coach Matthew Avramidis is glad to see them get the recognition they deserve.
"Every girl in our room, from Clare down to the new girls, they work really hard, just as hard as the boys, and they deserve it," Avramidis said.
Girls’ wrestling is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country and this recognition helps validate females on the mat. Avramidis hopes it will also spark more interest among girls.
"It's good for the sport of wrestling in general. We're doubling our numbers, we're doubling the participation, we're doubling the fan base, we're doubling of family members coming in and watching matches," coach Avramidis said.
Florida is now one of 32 states with a sanctioned state championship for girls wrestling. Clare hopes to keep collecting those titles.
"I think there's still more I can do and that if I keep working, I can get better," she said.
Wrestling season kicks off next month, with PHUHS’S first official girls' team hitting the mat November 8.