HANCOCK COUNTY — The sport of girls wrestling has grown heavily across the state in recent years.

Last year, the IHSAA classified it as an emerging sport, and now this year the hopes are that it will become a sanctioned sport after this season.

“From what I’ve seen across the state, and from other coaches I’ve talked to, numbers have really just exploded this year. You can even see that at the club level with girls getting involved in the sport at younger ages,” New Palestine head coach Jason DeLois said. “I’m really hopeful that the IHSAA gets on board this year.”

To make that happen, the numbers in the sport need to keep rising.

In Hancock County, three schools are playing their part in making that happen.

New Palestine and Greenfield-Central had wrestlers last season and continue to grow. After not having any girls last season, Eastern Hancock enters the season with a few wrestlers, too.

Here’s how each county school stacks up as the season begins today at the New Palestine Invitational.

New Palestine

The Dragons enter the season as the most complete team, with 14 wrestlers. That number is nearly triple the amount of last year’s team of five.

“Our middle school coaches really promote the program. Seven of them are ninth graders, so that’s pretty exciting,” DeLois said. “We really preached from the start to bring a friend, that’s how you get more people in.”

Last season, with just five wrestlers, the Dragons qualified three participants to the state finals, and all three are back with the team.

Senior Sydney DeLois, the Daily Reporter Hancock County Girls Wrestler of the Year, is back with the team and will look to make it a perfect 4-for-4 on state finals trips.

Last season she finished third. In her two previous seasons, she earned fourth-place finishes. She finished last season with a record of 22-2, with the two losses coming to an out-of-state opponent and the state champion.

Along with DeLois, senior Madisyn Covington and junior Julia Champ are returning state finalists. Both lost in the opening round last year.

“I see those three qualifying again, and hopefully we can qualify even more,” coach DeLois said.

Senior Ezra Wagner and junior Jillian Champ are the other returning members from last year’s team. Junior Audrey Kirlin and sophomore Olivia Lemus round out the non-freshman on the team.

Rounding out the team of 14, are seven freshmen, and according to the head coach, the group enters the season with experience.

“We have some really good girls coming in that have wrestled on the national level,” DeLois said. “They have progressed really fast.”

Erica Whetsel, Ella Morris, June Wagner-Gilbert, Samantha Neidlinger, Carmie Kelle, Lilian Kissell, and Elizabeth Champ make up the group of freshmen on the roster.


The Cougars are the second-biggest team in the county, and enter the year with nearly as much experience as the Dragons.

Senior Kylie Smith-Foster and junior Ella Harpold both return and bring state final experience with them, and Jasmine Camacho, who placed at state two seasons ago with New Palestine, also returns.

Harpold had a record of 23-8 last season and earned the Cougars highest place at state with a third-place finish. It was her second trip to state after a fifth-place finish her freshman season.

“Ella probably wrestles more than any girl that we have. She’s always about finding the best kid in the room,” Greenfield-Central head coach Josh Holden said. “She doesn’t shy away from competition and travels around to compete with the best people that she can.”

Smith-Foster is a multi-time state finalist. In 2021 she was a runner-up and last season she lost in the opening round. She finished last season with a record of 26-5, with 23 of her wins coming by fall. Her five losses came to the No. 1, No. 2, and No. 4 ranked wrestlers in the state.

“Kylie, being a senior, is just physical and mature down in her weight class. She’s come a long way,” Holden said. “She’s always been a good wrestler, but this year it’s her want to compete and find the best people in the room as well.”

Along with the trio of former state finalists, the Cougars add talented freshman Asia Bowen who wrestled at the junior high level.

“She’s [Bowen] as mean as you want to get. She gets after it, really loves it, and is super athletic and talented,” Holden said. “I think she started early enough and has enough skill to compete right away as a freshman.”

Senior Cassie Biggerstaff returns to help the Cougars in the heavyweight division, and freshman Keely Allen rounds out the Cougars roster to begin the season.

Madalyn Reed, who was a member of the team last year, is recovering from an injury, but Holden hopes she can return later in the season.

Eastern Hancock

The Royals come into the year with the fewest number of girls on their team, but the return of girls to the wrestling team is something the Royals haven’t seen since 2020.

One brings experience, while the other is a newcomer to the sport.

Sophomore Mackenna Hardebeck, who competed in middle school, is back wrestling after an injury kept her out last season.

Freshman Libby Fish is competing in the sport for the first time.

2023-24 Girls Wrestling Key Dates


Nov. 4;New Pal Invitational;8:30 a.m.

Nov. 11;Purdue Poly Invitational;9 a.m.

Dec. 2;Penn Invitational;9 a.m.

Dec. 6;New Palestine at Greenfield-Central;6 p.m.

Dec. 30;Regional;9 a.m.

Jan. 5;Semi-State:10 a.m.

Jan. 12;State;9 a.m.