Women’s Wrestling Set for Inaugural NCAA Championship | Sports Destination Management

Women’s Wrestling Set for Inaugural NCAA Championship

Feb 15, 2024 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

All images taken at the Women's West Coast Tournament of Champions, by Chris Mora Photo

It did not escape anyone's notice that the news landed on National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

Women's wrestling took a big step toward becoming the 91st NCAA championship sport, with its projected first NCAA championship occurring in winter 2026. The NCAA announced the news.


The NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics voted at its recent meeting to recommend Divisions I, II and III sponsor legislation to add a national collegiate women's wrestling championship.


But in Placer Valley, California, it was only affirmation of something Placer Valley Tourism has known all along: Women’s wrestling is a gold mine of opportunities. Back in 2016, the organization began promoting its Women’s West Coast Tournament of Champions (WWCTOC), something that has seen almost exponential growth.


Women's West Coast Tournament of Champions“The growth we witnessed amongst our local high schools nearly a decade ago prompted the creation of the Women’s West Coast Tournament of Champions, says Donna Dotti, director of sales for Placer Valley. “It’s truly satisfying to know we were able to fill a need early on and provide a premier tournament and college showcase that helped pave the way.”


And WWCTOC (and Placer Valley) simply continue to reap the benefits.


“The growth has been amazing,” Dotti adds. “And with the exception of COVID and the Olympic trials which are held every fourth year, the event continues to grow which is why we finally decided to add a middle school division. Due to the growth of the WWCTOC we have now assigned a tournament director to each of the three divisions. We learn something new each year and will likely tweak the format a bit this coming December to exceed expectations. Having the Roebbelen Center as the host site has definitely elevated the WWCTOC.”


In fact, Dotti can bring the numbers for the December event:


2016 – 7 colleges

2017 – 17 colleges















Olympic Trials












Olympic trials this year so numbers were down

Women's West Coast Tournament of ChampionsHigh School:

2015 – 35 teams

2016 – 42 teams

2017 – 69 teams 


High School



















Dotti attributes the event’s growth to a number of factors.


“For years, we’ve offered a very competitive and unique product. We invite college recruiters to attend for free, which means more representation on site and more opportunities for the athletes to be seen. There’s also more opportunity for girls to continue their education beyond high school through wrestling whether as an athlete, coach or all-around better individual. The increase in colleges adding wrestling and scholarship support is definitely a factor; parents also see the potential and value of this.”


Additionally, she notes, wrestling as a sport is more affordable for schools to implement than problems that need specific facilities or apparatus.


Women's West Coast Tournament of ChampionsAnd wrestling has, in fact, skyrocketed through the NCAA’s Emerging Sports for Women program. Before the committee can make a recommendation to add a championship for an emerging sport, 40 schools must sponsor it at a varsity level and meet the sport's minimum competition and participant requirements. Women's wrestling, which became an emerging sport in 2020, eclipsed that number in the 2022-23 academic year. (Women’s wrestling is also offered at the NJCAA and the NAIA levels.)

Both USA Wrestling and Wrestle Like a Girl championed the program as it made its way through NCAA.

"The rise in sponsorship and participation numbers for women's wrestling is yet another proof point of the rapid growth of women's sports. The sport is also a growing Olympic pipeline, helping produce multiple medalists at the 2020 Games," NCAA President Charlie Baker said. "The NCAA is excited to continue investing in the sport to help it grow and provide more opportunities for student-athletes." 


The NCAA notes that the projected timeline to add a women's wrestling championship is:


  • Each division (DI, DII and DIII) is expected to review the recommendation and sponsor a proposal by its respective 2024-25 legislative cycle deadline.
  • The recommendation also includes establishing a Women's Wrestling Committee, which would begin its work in January 2025, to allow time to prepare for a championship in winter 2026.
  • If sponsored, the divisions are expected to vote on the proposals during the 2025 NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, Jan. 15-18.
  • If adopted on that timeline, the first women's wrestling championship would be held in winter 2026.
  • Before a women's wrestling national collegiate championship can be established, funding must be considered by the appropriate financial oversight committees among other competing priorities during the relevant annual budget development cycle.


These required next steps and timeline are consistent with past sports added as national collegiate championships through the Emerging Sports for Women program.

"USA Wrestling is excited that the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics has recommended women's wrestling to become an official NCAA championship," said Rich Bender, executive director of USA Wrestling, one of the national governing bodies of women's wrestling. "As part of the coalition of wrestling organizations that has supported women's wrestling through the NCAA Emerging Sports for Women process, this is a huge milestone for our sport and for our NCAA women student-athletes. We look forward to working with the NCAA leadership in the coming months during the approval process, with the goal of having the first NCAA Women's Wrestling National Championships in the 2025-26 season." 


Women's West Coast Tournament of Champions"Wrestle Like a Girl is thrilled that the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics has recommended women's wrestling to become an official NCAA championship sport," said Sally Roberts, CEO of Wrestle Like a Girl, one of the national governing bodies of women's wrestling. "This momentous occasion further empowers women in sports and brings us closer to fulfilling the promise made 51 years ago with the passage of Title IX. With the many battles won, women's wrestling will be rightfully enshrined with dignity and recognition as an NCAA championship sport for women. It is a victory for all the athletes, supporters and allies who have worked passionately to make this dream a reality. The tireless efforts have paid off, and we are proud to stand with our sisters in sports to celebrate this accomplishment. This is a significant step forward in women's empowerment, and we are honored to be part of it."

According to the latest sports sponsorship and participation data, nearly 800 student-athletes competed in women's wrestling across 51 teams in 2022-23. More than 70 schools reported that they intended to sponsor the sport for the 2023-24 academic year. 

College women's wrestling also boasts a diverse student-athlete population. Per NCAA demographics research, 43% of the student-athletes on women's wrestling rosters are minorities, which is tied for the fourth-highest percentage among NCAA women's sports. 

Current NCAA women's wrestlers compete in a season-ending national competition that is organized by the coalition of wrestling organizations. The National Collegiate Women's Wrestling Championships are set for March 8-9 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 


Meanwhile, Placer Valley continues to grow its event. Dotti agrees with the philosophy of Wrestle Like A Girl, that wrestling can be a positive force in girls’ lives.

“It’s empowering for the athletes, builds self-esteem and the discipline is a valuable asset to take into adulthood.”

About the Author