"I have a firm commitment to building a 'scholar-centered' athletic program that will continue to grow The College enrollment and foster expanded investment in campus academic and co-curricular programs," said Provost Dr. Terry Haines. "I believe wrestling will be a very positive addition to our athletic program, and this expansion is very much in line with the scholar-athlete model I have advocated throughout my tenure in higher education."
He added, "The average GPA of the Nation's top elite high school wrestler competing in recent High School National Championships was 3.0, which will contribute to and maintain the academic focus of our sports program. Intercollegiate wrestling will also provide additional opportunities for diverse populations to participate in our athletic program, including expanded opportunities for women and multiple physiological profiles for both genders."
Ottawa University joins a growing list of colleges adding wrestling to their sport rosters, including 43 men's wrestling teams in the NAIA, three of them in the state of Kansas: Benedictine College, Baker University, and Bethany College. OU will be the second KCAC program to add wrestling and the first to add women's wrestling. There are currently 280,000 high school students actively engaged in wrestling at the secondary education level.
The NAIA currently does not sponsor women's wrestling, so the Lady Braves plan to compete both regionally and nationally in the Women's College Wrestling Association (WCWA), which hosts 10 NAIA teams. The National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA) added a Women's Collegiate Division in 2008. The WCWA is the current governing body for all collegiate women's wrestling programs at NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA institutions. Ottawa University will be the second Kansas college to add women's wrestling, joining Northwest Kansas Technical College (Goodland, Kan.) Current NAIA schools with women's wrestling programs include Oklahoma City University, University of Jamestown, Missouri Valley College, Wayland Baptist University, Missouri Baptist University, University of the Cumberlands, Midland University, Waldorf College, Lindenwood University-Belleville, Menlo College, and Campbellsville.
"We are excited to offer both women's and men's athletic opportunities in this very popular sport," said OU Director of Athletics Arabie Conner. "Women's wrestling is rapidly growing across the nation on the youth and high school levels, and there are still limited opportunities for competing at the college level. We are very interested in expanding opportunities for the many competitive, highly skilled scholar-athletes who are looking for opportunities to continue to compete on the college level."
Notably, Ottawa University has a track record of focusing its attention on female sport offerings, including recent program additions in softball (1996), women's soccer (1996), women's golf (2007), and women's tennis (2012).