Long the domain of the male of the species, girls are just starting to come into their own in the sport of wrestling.

While Newton has had girls wrestling in the past, sophomore Delaney Cowden will be the first to compete in a state tournament when she attends the Kansas State Girls’ High School Wrestling Championships at 9 a.m. Saturday at McPherson High School.

The tournament, which will not be a Kansas State High School Activities Association championship, is expected to bring wrestlers from 36 high schools. There will be 10 weight classes.

Cowden is in her third year as a wrestler. She competed two years in middle school, skipped her freshman year, and rejoined the sport this year for the Railers. She will compete at 120 pounds.

“My dad wrestled in high school,” Cowden said. “He went to state a few times. I’m really excited about this. I don’t know who I will get, but I will take it as it goes.”

In the Newton lineup, she’s behind one of the top wrestlers in the region in senior Logan Treaster, but she said she’s learned a lot from him.

“I look up to him a lot,” Cowden said. “He’s great to watch.”

Cowden said her goal for this weekend is to finish as high as she can and to wrestle as well as she can.

“I wrestled at a McPherson girls’ tournament at the beginning of the season,” she said. “I wrestled at 126 and I was only beaten by one other wrestler, a girl from McPherson. I’m excited about this. It’s a challenge to wrestle against the guys. They are a lot stronger. This will give me a lot of confidence.”

One of the purposes of the tournament is a drive to get wrestling sanctioned as a girls’ sport in Kansas. A sport needs at least 24 schools offering the sport for the Kansas State High School Activities Association to sanction it as an official state championship. According to the National Federation of High School Associations, 111 girls participated in high school wrestling in Kansas last year, but the survey did not indicate how many schools had girls on the wrestling teams. Overall, 218 schools in the state offer the sport.

“I’d like to see us have a team,” Cowden said. “I’ve tried to recruit some of my friends, but so far, they haven’t come out. I know there are a lot of girls interested it it. McPherson has a girls’ team, but everywhere else, it’s just a few girls thrown in with the guys.”

“Ever since I’ve been coaching, I’ve had a female on the team,” Newton head coach Tommy Edgemon said. “If they want to work at it and have a girls’ team, that’s something I’d support.”

More colleges have begun offering the sport, something Cowden hopes to do eventually. The sport also is offered at the Olympic level.