BROOKINGS -- Next year will likely see the start of South Dakota High School Athletic Association-sanctioned girls' wrestling in South Dakota. The first reading approving the new sport was taken Tuesday by the SDHSAA board of directors.

Meeting via teleconference, the board acted on the first reading of a variety of recommendations for changes to the SDHSAA Athletics Handbook.

In the case of girls' wrestling, the board agreed to follow a pattern established in Missouri that provides four weight classes for girls' wrestling at the state tournament. The sport would be integrated into schools based on the interest shown in each school district.

The vote by athletic directors was 91-10 in favor of adding girls' wrestling.

Last year, without a separate girls' division, nearly 40 females competed in SDHSAA-sanctioned wrestling meets. About another 100 girls competed in club-only events.

New football proposal should be ready to vote on in June

The board sent a proposal to change to a five-class system in football back to the football advisory committee after some questions were raised about the amount of input that went into the proposal.

As proposed, the five-class system would include:

-- 11AA, the nine largest schools according to male-only average daily membership as well as Sioux Falls O'Gorman, which always seeks to be classified with larger schools. Teams would play a nine-game season leading to an eight-team postseason.

-- 11A, the next largest 16 schools which would play a nine-game season leading to an eight-team postseason.

-- 11B, all remaining schools with a male-only ADM of 56.001 and greater. They would play an eight-game schedule leading to a 16-team postseason.

-- 9A, the top half of all nine-man teams as determined by male-only ADM playing an eight-game season leading to a 16-team postseason.

-- 9B, the remaining nine-man teams playing an eight-game season leading to a 16-team postseason.

Currently, South Dakota has a seven-class system with four 11-man classifications and three nine-man classifications. Since its implementation in 1999, the state has 33 fewer teams.

One of the school officials testifying against the classification proposal was Belle Fourche Athletic Director Adam Nowowiejski.

"There's just too much disparity between the top and bottom," Nowowiejski said, noting the range in the number of students eligible to go out for football in the biggest schools in a division vs. the smallest schools in the division.

Board member Brian Maher of Sioux Falls offered a motion to have SDHSAA staff reconvene the football advisory committee and work on a new five-class system for football. The new proposal should be ready for the board's June meeting. Maher's motion was favored on a 7-1 vote.

The board approved changes to the first allowable practice dates for 11AAA, 11AA and 11A football teams and 11B and nine-man teams. The larger divisions would start on Aug. 10 rather than Aug. 13. The small classifications would start on Aug. 6 rather than Aug. 10.

The extra days are not mandatory. The changes came because coaches said they wanted more practice opportunities to safely prepare athletes for their first contests.

The board approved the change in the first allowable practice dates despite criticism of the change from administrators representing Black Hills schools.

Steve Morford of Spearfish noted that the Black Hills Motorcycle Rally starts on Aug. 7, making it particularly tough for schools to hold practices due to all the traffic and the need for students to work during the rally.

"A large number of our athletes have rally jobs," according to Sturgis Activities Director Todd Palmer. "Having a week of missed practice would set us back tremendously."

SDHSAA Assistant Executive Director John Krogstrand said one coach had raised the issue that there are complaints from the Black Hills schools about an early start for football practices during the rally, but never any word of complaints from other fall sports like soccer, golf and tennis.