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    Default Women's wrestling article

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    It's too soon to say if the NCAA will grant women's wrestling "emerging sport" status, but small schools across the nation are adding teams as a way of - you guessed it - boosting enrollment.


    According to The New York Times, <st1lace w:st="on"><st1:PlaceName w:st="on">Missouri</st1:PlaceName> <st1:PlaceName w:st="on">Baptist</st1:PlaceName> <st1:PlaceType w:st="on">University</st1:PlaceType></st1lace>, a small Christian liberal arts institution, is starting a team this fall. <st1lace w:st="on"><st1:PlaceName w:st="on">Oklahoma City</st1:PlaceName> <st1:PlaceType w:st="on">University</st1:PlaceType></st1lace> began a program in 2007. And <st1:PlaceName w:st="on">Menlo</st1:PlaceName> <st1:PlaceType w:st="on">College</st1:PlaceType> near <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">San Francisco</st1lace></st1:City>, which specializes in business management and where nearly two-thirds of the students are men, has had a women's wrestling team since 2001.


    Is this trend a comment on gender equity? Not likely. Most schools continue to cut programs, practicing addition by subtraction. No, officials at these small colleges admit adding a women's wrestling team has little to do with Title IX and everything to do with their bottom line. Officials at tuition-hungry colleges say women's wrestling is an untapped market of prospective students, one that has curiously been all but ignored by bigger universities.
    The inclusion of women's wrestling in the Olympics beginning in 2004 provided a huge boost to the sport's popularity and credibility. Five thousand girls nationwide wrestled in high school in the 2006-07 academic year, yet only eight colleges offer it as a varsity sport. Three of those eight programs are starting this fall.
    Rosters fill up nearly as quickly as colleges create teams. "When we can get so many girls to come here for a first-year program, that's 20 to 25 extra students who normally wouldn't have looked at <st1lace w:st="on"><st1:PlaceName w:st="on">Jamestown</st1:PlaceName> <st1:PlaceType w:st="on">College</st1:PlaceType></st1lace>," said Cisco Cole, the women's wrestling coach there.


    <st1:City w:st="on">Jamestown</st1:City>, a 1,000-student private liberal arts college in <st1:State w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">North Dakota</st1lace></st1:State>, has one of the three new women's wrestling programs. Seventeen wrestlers, including four from <st1:State w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Hawaii</st1lace></st1:State>, have enrolled. <st1:State w:st="on">Hawaii</st1:State> to <st1:State w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">North Dakota</st1lace></st1:State>, how else can it be explained?


    Despite wrestling's growth among small colleges, larger schools have not yet followed suit. Obscure sports like squash and synchronized swimming have been officially recognized as Emerging Sports for women by the NCAA, but wrestling has not made the seven-sport list.


    <st1:PlaceName w:st="on">Pacific</st1:PlaceName> <st1:PlaceType w:st="on">University</st1:PlaceType> in <st1:State w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Oregon</st1lace></st1:State> is the only NCAA member that offers varsity women's wrestling. The other varsity programs are at NAIA schools. A few women compete on NCAA men's varsity teams.


    High school participation has increased more than tripled in the past decade, when 1,600 girls wrestled during the 1996-97 school year, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. The sport has grown fastest in <st1:State w:st="on">Hawaii</st1:State>, <st1:State w:st="on">Texas</st1:State> and <st1:State w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Washington</st1lace></st1:State> - states that created separate state championships for girls, according to USA Wrestling, the national governing body.


    More high school girls participate in wrestling than in archery or equestrian, which have been officially recognized as "emerging sports" by the NCAA. At least 10 NCAA-member colleges must express interest in a program and at least 20 must offer it as a varsity or competitive club team before a sport can be classified as emerging.
    For small colleges, the influx of even a few dozen students can make a financial difference. <st1lace w:st="on"><st1:PlaceName w:st="on">Oklahoma City</st1:PlaceName> <st1:PlaceType w:st="on">University</st1:PlaceType></st1lace>, for example, has 30 female wrestlers and offers athletic aid that is the equivalent of eight full scholarships. Annual tuition and room and board is $27,000.


    Missouri Baptist hopes to attract extra attention for starting a program. "It's not like Missouri Baptist is constantly throwing out Olympic-level athletes," said Brian Jackson, the women's wrestling coach. But he recently signed a recruit who qualified for the Olympic wrestling trials in June at 158 pounds.
    A handful of NCAA Division I members offer co-ed wrestling clubs. Women's wrestling is also available at Division II Northern Michigan, where it is not a varsity sport but is part of an Olympic training program overseen by the United States Olympic Committee.


    What about the idea that wrestling is not a sport in which women should be competing? "There are groups out there trying to paint us as being an anti-woman organization," said Mike Moyer, executive director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association. "Yet we're doing everything we can to promote opportunities for women."


    Michael Burch, an assistant men's wrestling coach at Brown, said that many college administrators and, perhaps the NCAA, remain uncomfortable with having women compete in contact sports, even when they spar against each other.


    "In general, there's this resistance to the personification of women as aggressive," Burch said he was fired by the <st1:PlaceType w:st="on">University</st1:PlaceType> of <st1:PlaceName w:st="on">California</st1:PlaceName> at <st1:City w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Davis</st1lace></st1:City> in 2001, soon after he protested the elimination of women from the men's wrestling team. He sued the university, and the case was later settled. "Most men's coaches are O.K. with women who can work hard and hustle out on the field," Burch said.
    I don't think I have to worry about being overwhelmed by girls in Soitheast <st1:State w:st="on"><st1lace w:st="on">Ohio</st1lace></st1:State> wanting to pay for their college education by wrestling. At least, not yet. But it is very interesting to me how the times are changing and what was once unheard of, is now working its way into the fabric of college athletics. I'll keep you posted on the future of women's wrestling.
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    Last edited by Wrestling Club Concepts; 07-22-2008 at 06:24 PM.

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