John’s Journal: Female Wrestling Officials Are Making Their Mark
Along With Female Competitors And Coaches, Officiating Is Next Up
Posted: Friday, March 3, 2023 - 4:59 PM
These last two Minnesota high school wrestling seasons have seen some impressive and important changes. This weekend’s state tournament at Xcel Energy Center includes girls competition for the second year, and a number of females are now mainstays as assistant wresting coaches, as noted in this recent John’s Journal story: https://www.mshsl.org/about/news/johns-journal/johns-journal-female-wrestling-coaches-fill-important-positions.
The next logical step is seeing female wrestling officials. That may not be far off, based on the experiences of the only two women certified as wrestling officials by the MSHSL.
Cami Snobl, who lives in Tracy, and Jill Czeck of Lakeville have not officiated at a state tournament but they are pioneers in the field. Both are serving as mat-side table workers at state this year, positions that include running the scoreboard, the clock and tracking each match.
“I love our sport and every aspect of it, and so the more we can get women out there the better,” said Snobl, a 1991 Tracy-Milroy graduate who became an MSHSL official several years ago and also works as assignment secretary with the Southern Minnesota Wrestling Officials Association.
“I had four kids at home so there wasn't the time (to officiate),” she said. “Then when they graduated I just said, ‘OK, I'm going to start getting ready and get on the mat.’ So 2018 was my actual first year on the whistle. It was great, super fun.”
Both Snobl and Czeck grew up with wrestling. Cami officiated youth wrestling all through her high school years and was a student manager.
“I was a cheerleader one year and I couldn't sit like a lady on the edge of the mat; I was doing more coaching than cheering,” she said. “The next year I went in the room and was a manager.”
Czeck, a 2000 New Prague graduate, was a statistician for the high school wrestling team. She studied the wrestling rulebook and was quickly well-versed on everything.
“I left the sport when I went to college and had a family,” she said. “Then people started streaming matches and I started watching with my young sons. And I would get so mad when the score was wrong. So I just wanted to work the table because I thought, ‘Those wrestlers work so hard, let's keep them wrestling.’ ”
While working a table at the 2020 MSHSL state tournament, Jill sat next to a male who said, ‘You need to be out there. Girls wrestling is coming up.’ And I said, ‘Hey, I can be on the whistle.’ I never wrestled but I know the rules. And here I am, this is my job.”
Before becoming certified by the MSHSL, Jill officiated some youth tournaments.
“I had fun,” she said. “And it was hard. Then Cami called me during the summer and said, ‘Are you going to do it? Did you sign up? (with the MSHSL)’ She said, ‘If you're signed up, there's an all-girls tournament in Hastings the first week in December. We're taking you there. They want all female refs there.’
“Well, Cami and I ended up being the only two. But I had so much fun at that first girls tournament in Hastings. I actually got an email from a mom thanking me.”
Jill worked 15 or so wrestling events this season on the sub-varsity level. Cami, who is dealing with health issues, has not done any officiating this season but is optimistic about returning to the whistle and varsity matches.
Neither Snobl nor Czeck want to be in the spotlight, but they know they are on the leading edge of something special … for the sport and for women.
“I feel like this is someplace where I can contribute,” Cami said. “And hopefully me being out there and being visible promotes wrestling. We need more officials all across the board. But we need to get more females out there on the whistle, too. It sets a great example for young women as well as the young men out there and it just keeps promoting the sport.”
The number of high schools offering opportunities for female wrestlers has doubled this season, as has the number of girls (96) qualifying for the state tournament.
“Just to see the growth in one year, and to see the individual wrestlers and the growth they've had in one year, it's been phenomenal,” Snobl said.
“We get to be the sisters in the brotherhood. Wrestling, this is a family. Then you get into officiating as another brotherhood within that wrestling family, and it's just so strong. It has been amazing in that we get support not only from other officials but also from the coaches. It's so exciting seeing that growth.”
--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at [email protected]