TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) -- Over the weekend at the Tupelo Flea Market, the Missississippi Wrestling Foundation held a demonstration to educate shoppers about the sport. Mississippi is the only state in the United States to not have wrestling as a statewide sport. Which, is kind of a bummer for Nettleton native Autumn Jones.
"Because I love the sport, it’s a good sport, it gives me confidence, helps with self-defense, it’s a great sport," Jones said.
Girl's wrestling is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. According to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, since 1990, girls wrestling went from 112 girls to over 21-thousand in 2019. Nearly 250-thousand boys compete in high school wrestling, but the sport hasn’t caught on in the Magnolia State. It's something Brian Fox, who wrestled in high school and college in his native state of Ohio is trying to change.
"Our goal is to get to 15 new schools by next wrestling season which is November," Fox said. "So we’d have 17 total the first year, our second year goal is 30 to 40 schools and then our three to five year goal is 100 schools."
Fox said once he hits that mark, the MHSAA will sponsor a state-wide tournament. Fox and the Mississippi Wrestling Foundation are offering to donate mats, equipment, and coaching tutorials for the first 10 schools that begin a wrestling program. The effort hit home for Blue Mountain native Jose Moreno. He wanted to wrestle in high school but couldn’t find a home. Now he’s helping Fox.
"You know if you weren’t a basketball guy or baseball guy you just didn’t have a sport," Moreno said. "I always knew that other schools had wrestling it was just something like well why don’t we have it?"
So far Fox said he’s gotten interest from schools in Tupelo and in Desoto County. He’s also trying to get local colleges involved like Blue Mountain College, so that kids who might not fit the traditional mold of basketball or soccer, can have a winter sport to participate in.
"The cross-training benefits learning how to use your leverage, coordination, flexibility, quickness, power," Fox said. "If you’re too big or too small to play football or basketball or you just don’t play those things, it’s another option for students."
If you have a kid who is interested in participating, the Mississippi Wrestling Foundation is holding classes at UFM fitness in Tupelo.