Women’s wrestling is poised to take off. Don’t get left behind!
Women’s wrestling is growing significantly at the high school and college levels. In 2020, it was approved as an NCAA Emerging Sport across all three NCAA divisions and is now considered an invitational sport in the NAIA. But, if you’re looking to land a women’s wrestling scholarship, make sure you know the challenges you’ll face, on and off the mat.
Know The Numbers
The Emerging Sport designation means more schools will likely begin offering women’s wrestling. However, in 2020, only 76 schools across all divisions had women’s wrestling teams (compared to 419 men’s teams) and the majority of those programs (32) are at NAIA schools. With an average roster size of 14 student-athletes, that means there are only 1,064 spots available nationwide.
However, the most important number to know about women’s college wrestling is the number of full-ride athletic scholarships available for women’s wrestling: zero (0). Note that some schools do offer partial athletic scholarships for women’s wrestling and others may be able to offer partial athletic and partial academic scholarships to cover one’s college expenses but, for now, full-ride women’s wrestling scholarships aren’t readily available. That’s why…
Academics Are Important For Women’s Wrestling
As mentioned above, there is no uniform mandate for women’s wrestling scholarships, so while two comparably sized schools may both offer women’s wrestling, their athletic scholarship availability may vary widely. Determining factors for what, if any, women’s wrestling scholarships a school may offer include the size and budget of the athletic department, endowments, donations, or fundraising.
Given that women’s wrestling is still in its early stages, and the disparity of athletic department budgets, your best bet at most schools is an academic scholarship. That’s why, on top of your athletic ability as a wrestler, a solid GPA and good entrance exam scores are hugely important. Remember that standing out on the mat will help you make the team, but standing out in the classroom as well will show coaches you can make the cut athletically and academically.
Know The Rules
As it’s an Emerging Sport, there are currently no NCAA recruiting rules or regulations in place to govern women’s wrestling recruiting. That means there are no restrictions on how often you can be in contact with college coaches and vice versa. However, the governing body of women’s wrestling – The Women’s College Wrestling Association – states that student athletes are required to wait until September 1 of their senior year in high school before signing a Letter of Intent with any college program.
Know What Coaches Are Looking For
High school wrestling experience, whether on girl’s teams or coed teams, is the number one thing women’s college wrestling coaches look for. Beyond that, coaches look for nationally ranked wrestlers, qualifications to state and regional tournaments, and wrestling camp experience.
But experience isn’t the only thing that can catch a coach’s eye. A background in other sports can help, as does a positive attitude. And don’t forget about the importance of a solid academic record.
More Opportunities Are Coming
The effects of the pandemic threw many athletic department budgets into disarray, but ultimately, it’s likely that more schools will begin offering women’s college wrestling, sooner rather than later. Because many schools already have men’s wrestling teams and facilities, adding women’s programs will be an easy way for an athletic program to maintain its Title IX compliance. Once enough NCAA schools add women’s wrestling, it can be considered a “championship sport,” and join rowing, women’s ice hockey, women’s water polo, bowling, and women’s beach volleyball as sports that have grown from “emerging sport” to “championship sport” status. Add it all up and that means there will be more opportunities for women to wrestle competitively in college, with partial or even full scholarships, in the near future.
And no matter where you are in high school, if you want to be recruited to wrestle for a women’s college wrestling team, get to work now. Get as much mat experience as you can, in competition and camps, keep up your grades, and when the time comes, be ready to pin down your opportunity!
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