We live in a world that is constantly growing. Each day we are all expected to live out our lives and connect with others to accomplish a task at hand. In today’s world we are seeing the advancement of everything around us and some people are left in the dust playing catch up. How does any of this relate to wrestling, you may ask?
Over the past years we have seen the sport of wrestling reach new peaks and involvement with those around us. Everyone has been looking for a way to “grow the sport,” some may say. Well what better way to gain more fans and growth than add something that has been missing for decades, Women’s Division I Wrestling.
During mid 2020, Division I Women’s wrestling was acknowledged as an “Emerging Sport” by the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) stating, “Women’s wrestling is one of the fastest growing sports at the scholastic and collegiate levels. The NWCA is committed to growing women’s wrestling from the grassroots level to the colleges. The NWCA is currently in the process of pursuing emerging sports status for women’s wrestling in the NCAA.”
I myself grew up in a small town where the sport of wrestling was dominated by the male athlete. There were oftentimes when you would see females stepping on the mat to compete, but it was against male athletes. Turn the clock forward and we now see female athletes competing and excelling at the highest levels within their own divisions.
In 2018, MSHSAA passed a vote to make Missouri the ninth state in the U.S. to make girls wrestling an official high school sport. In the first year, the state tournament saw a total of 144 female participants. Fast forward again to 2022, the state tournament saw almost a double in growth to 224 participants and full brackets throughout all 14 weight classes. How many of those girls got an opportunity to go on and compete for their home state university? Zero.
MSHSAA in Missouri votes to add official girls high school wrestling, becoming the ninth state in the USA— USA Wrestling (@USAWrestling) May 8, 2018
Having the opportunity to commit and wrestle for your home state is something many young athletes dream of growing up. While there are numerous opportunities for female wrestlers to further their careers at DII, DIII, and NAIA levels among others, the fit, resources, and environment may not be what some are looking for in a collegiate scene.
There are few Division One programs that account for women’s college wrestling. Recently, the University of Iowa became the first Power Five school to welcome the program to their University. Since the addition, the University welcomed in its first coach in program history, Clarissa Chun. Chun has competed and coached at the highest levels of wrestling and is a former Missouri Valley College Alumni.
Why should Missouri be the next big program to jump on board? A major university like Missouri could provide high competition levels while providing a top of the line education. With name, image, and likeness (NIL) becoming an important role in a young student-athlete’s life, the opportunities to grow their brand would be much higher.
Adding a program of this magnitude to a major division one college could make a huge rippling effect within the collegiate world. The passion, outreach, and support from the wrestling community would grow to new levels.
A women’s wrestling program at Missouri opens the door for the future by giving females the chance to compete on a larger national spotlight. It gives them an opportunity to become role models for younger wrestlers wanting to follow the same path.
There’s no doubt that wrestling is growing within the female sporting community. Bringing women’s wrestling to the highest of collegiate levels will definitely have its obstacles, (budgets, scholarships, hiring process, etc..) starting the movement now would be a shift in the right direction. Mizzou wrestling is already viewed as a successful program. Moves like this will help solidify the program as a powerhouse and make a big statement in the grappling world.