Lack of opportunity

Women’s wrestling limited


Halle Opat, Photo Editor

Twenty years ago it was incredibly uncommon to see a female wrestler on the mat, but today, it’s become increasingly more common. With the large growth in participation, many expect large advancements in opportunities for female wrestlers but unfortunately, few have been made.

With growing support from the major wrestling outlets including USA Wrestling, AAU Wrestling, and Wrestle Like A Girl girl, a nonprofit founded in 2016 to grow girls wrestling, the sport has grown tremendously over the last 20 years across the country on most levels according to the NWCA online.

On a worldwide level, several major advancements have been made including both junior and senior world team tournaments and a girls division in Olympic wrestling. Even with these major advancements, there are many missing. In Olympic men’s wrestling, there are two divisions Freestyle and Greco Roman. A women’s division was added for the first time in the 2004 Olympics in Athens at the time only a women’s Freestyle division was added, now nearly two decades later that is still the only women’s division. This allows each country to bring 20 male athletes for wrestling but only 10 females.

On a college level through all divisions, the advancements in opportunities are even fewer. It wasn’t until 2018 that women’s wrestling was granted invitational status from the NAIA, to even be able to compete following that it wasn’t until 2020 that the NJCAA, NAIA, and NCAA announced women’s wrestling as an emerging sport. With such large growth in the United States with the numbers of women wrestling in high school growing from 804 to over 28,000 since 1994 the opportunities to wrestle after high school have not reflected that growth with only 50 schools offering women’s wrestling in the country with several only being a club team. With high school enrollment numbers surpassing that of skiing, fencing, and rugby but only having two divisions, one program in the country, and 50 total, something needs to change.

Out of all levels of wrestling in the country, high school wrestling has had the most opportunity to grow. Since 1994 participation has increased by 350% according to participation statistics from the NFHS. Supporting this growth 34 states have sanctioned girls wrestling meaning having a girls division with an official state tournament, 18 states are still unsanctioned according to WLAG. Despite numbers supporting the sanctioning of it and a strong push for state athletic associations to sanction the sport.

On the youth level with more and more high school role models for aspiring female wrestlers youth wrestling is on the rise with the majority of youth tournaments having a girls division or a novice division filled with girls.

With the large growth of participation and a huge rise in support for women’s wrestling opportunities or lack thereof the only things left to hold athletes back. Women in the sport have earned the right to participate but for some reason still lack the opportunity to thrive. To support the growth in the sports world team and Olympic divisions need to be expanded to include Greco Roman, Colleges need to recognize the growth in numbers and post-secondary opportunities should reflect that, and the remaining states should be sanctioned to support the fastest growing sport in the country.