Thursday, March 01, 2007

Bring on the women wrestlers


Not in Jello, not in mud, not wearing string bikinis--but on a regulation mat wearing real wrestling singlets in intercollegiate competition. It appears that women's wrestling may be an emerging sport in intercollegiate athletics. And Oklahoma City just may be the epicenter of this progressive move.
Oklahoma City University is starting a women's wrestling program to go along with its successful men's program. It will also be coached by the current men's coach. The program, when it is implemented next fall, will be one of only 6 programs in the country. But the move by OCU is generating significant buzz. The coach has already fielded calls from all the top female high school wrestlers in the country.
And OCU will also have the benefit in recruiting as it borders Texas, which has half of the country's 5,000 high school female wrestlers. [I find this somewhat ironic given that, last I knew, Texas had a ridiculous law that said, after age 14, girls could not wrestle against boys and because of the dearth of female wrestlers, this left many young women without the opportunity to pursue their sport. This is the story of Tara Neal (pictured above) who was the focus of the excellent documentary Girl Wrestler.]
The potential emergence of women's wrestling is probably quite dismaying to male wrestlers who already feel maligned by women athletes and Title IX who they see as taking away their opportunities to compete at the collegiate level. [This is a misconception of course. Wrestling is frequently on the chopping block when athletic departments find there is not enough money to support all the programs they have in an equitable manner but research has shown the most cuts to wrestling occurred in the 1980s when Title IX was not being enforced.]
I am quite interested in seeing how and if this trend emerges and how the introduction of women's wrestling to intercollegiate athletics will alter the overall landscape of women's athletics.