You Do The Math: High School Participation Numbers

CA State championships 2017

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High school wrestling participation numbers are down across the country, but not every state is seeing declines. In recent years, several states are bucking the trend and seeing explosive growth in high school wrestling. 

We took a look at the last ten years of data provided by the National Federation of State High School Associations to see where wrestling is seeing growth, and where it is losing participants. 

The graph below charts the number of high school wrestlers reported by each state, first in 2007 and then in 2016.

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Total participants are down 6,593 in the last ten years for which we have data. There were 257,246 high school wrestlers reported for the 2006-2007 season. By the 2015-2016 season there were 250,653.

Illinois saw the biggest drop in numbers, at 2,849 fewer wrestlers from 2007 to 2016. Michigan had second largest drop at 2,689. Ohio, California, Washington, New York and Wisconsin also all saw their high school wrestling numbers fall by over 1,000. 

Balancing those drops were huge gains made in Texas and Oklahoma. Texas added a staggering 4,653 new wrestlers over the last ten years. Oklahoma added 1,285. Both southwestern states saw gains of over 5% a year.

Also of note is Arkansas, which gained 839 wrestlers. While that is by far not the highest total, it is coming from a previous count of zero. In 2007, Arkansas was the only state to not report any wrestlers. Now all fifty states (and the District of Columbia) are represented. Even Mississippi reported 25 wrestlers in 2016, despite the state not officially sponsoring the sport. 

California leads the way in total high school wrestlers, with 23,945. Illinois comes in second with 14,223 reported wrestlers in 2016.

A heat map of total participants by state can be found below.

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We won't try to speculate what might be causing the various states to see their participation numbers either rise and fall, at least not yet anyway. And we will also set aside further analysis of the numbers, for now.

In the meantime, you can check out the raw numbers in the table below and make your own guesses on the hows and whys in the comments. 

STATE 2007 SEASON 2016 SEASON
California 25896 23945
Illinois 17072 14223
New York 12879 11521
Texas 6674 11327
Ohio 13098 11114
Pennsylvania 8946 9780
Michigan 12085 9396
New Jersey 8933 9070
North Carolina 8744 8645
Florida 8269 8297
Georgia 7275 8171
Minnesota 7957 8135
Indiana 7904 7156
Wisconsin 7781 6667
Missouri 7082 6636
Washington 8258 6570
Iowa 7313 6512
Virginia 6867 6415
Arizona 5474 5400
Colorado 4828 5052
Kansas 5020 5008
South Carolina 4114 4763
Nebraska 4655 4543
Maryland 4633 4469
Oregon 4659 4320
Massachusetts 4615 3986
Tennessee 3739 3904
Oklahoma 2500 3785
Utah 2995 3421
Alabama 1940 2719
Connecticut 2902 2439
Nevada 2240 2420
Idaho 2325 2392
Kentucky 1680 1880
Louisiana 1224 1725
New Mexico 1488 1608
West Virginia 1573 1500
Alaska 1216 1469
Montana 1529 1382
South Dakota 1423 1333
Wyoming 1078 1153
Hawaii 1135 1107
Delaware 1148 1039
North Dakota 933 903
Arkansas 0 839
Rhode Island 955 781
Maine 1136 701
New Hampshire 747 641
District of Columbia 0 205
Vermont 290 161
Mississippi 19 25

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