Wrestling

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Pinning Down a Growing Trend: Women’s Wrestling Leading to Uptick in Events

28 Nov, 2018

By: Michael Popke

The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point announced in early November that it would add women’s wrestling to its sport offerings beginning in 2019. Women's wrestling is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, and UWSP will be the first public institution in the Midwest to offer it.

"Our university goals include increasing enrollment and improving retention of our students and this is another way our athletic department can help,” UWSP athletic director Brad Duckworth said in a statement.

Men's wrestling coach Johnny Johnson will coach the new women’s program, which will join and compete in the Women's Collegiate Wrestling Association (WCWA), the governing body of women's college wrestling. Upon acceptance, the Pointers would be the 50th member of the WCWA. 

Since 2004, women's wrestling has been a recognized Olympic sport, and the National Wrestling Coaches Association reports it is currently in the process of pursuing “emerging sport” status for women's wrestling in the NCAA.

Women's wrestling has grown from around 800 participants in high school in 1994 to more than 16,000 this year, according to data from UWSP. In the United States, 13 states sponsor a high school state championship in women's wrestling.

Meanwhile, Texas Wesleyan University officials recently announced they are considering adding women’s wrestling instead of women’s lacrosse.

“As there are not any women’s lacrosse university teams in Texas, competition would be hard to come by,” Athletic Director Ricky Dotson wrote in an email to The Rambler, the university’s campus newspaper. “Most of the lacrosse teams Wesleyan would be competing against are in Kansas, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Without other teams in our region, travel would be difficult and expensive for us.”

Women’s wrestling, on the other hand, is a “logical consideration” for the university. “The research I’ve done indicates the opportunity for potential outside funding for women’s wrestling through some national foundations, and the opportunity to compete already exists,” Dotson wrote.

As proof of the sport’s success among females, Placer Valley (Calif.) Tourism recently won a 2018 Champions in Economic Impact award from Sports Destination Management for its role in hosting the Women's West Coast Tournament of Champions. The event began as a wrestling tournament for high school girls. A women’s collegiate division was added in 2016, and growth skyrocketed. Now, the event brings competitors from 64 high schools and 18 colleges in 10 states and Canada — generating 123 total room nights and an economic impact of $139,992.

For a list of all colleges and universities that offer women’s wrestling programs, click here.

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