Women's wrestling will be ESU's 21st varsity sport. While not recognized as an NCAA intercollegiate sport, it is governed by the Women's College Wrestling Association (WCWA) and is in the process of pursuing emerging sport status from the NCAA.
"We are extremely excited to bring women's wresting to ESU," said President Welsh. "High school girls' wrestling participation has grown for 27 straight years and continues to expand. Currently there are 48 college teams that sponsor a varsity women's wrestling program, and most teams have about 30 members by the program's third year. Women's wrestling has been under consideration for some time and we've already developed our schedule for next fall. We are eager to recruit new student-athletes for this opportunity."
According to ESU's athletic director, Dr. Gary Gray, ESU wrestling coach Anibal Nieves will initially coach both the men's and women's wrestling teams. Nieves, who earned All-America honors at ESU in 1989 and represented Puerto Rico in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, is in his first year as men's head coach at ESU. His coaching experience includes the previous six years as women's head coach and men's assistant coach at Springfield Technical Community College in Springfield, Mass.
"Coach Nieves' success in coaching both men's and women's wrestling, including four women's national champions at Springfield Technical Community College, gives ESU an excellent opportunity to launch our women's wrestling program while also continuing to build our men's program to a championship level," said Dr. Gray.
Dr. Welsh also announced two sports that are also being considered for addition at ESU - acrobatics and tumbling, and esports - as part of the University's Athletics Master Plan.
Acrobatics and tumbling offers students the opportunity to develop acrobatic, tumbling and cheer skills and is associated with the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association (NCATA). Esports is a form of athletic competition involving the use of video games intended to provide opportunities for students to gain a college education. Esports is supported by the National Association of College Esports (NACE), a non-profit association with more than 80 member schools and associated with more than 1,500 student-athletes.
The addition of women's wrestling and consideration of acrobatics and tumbling and esports falls under the guidelines of a new Athletics Master Plan for ESU, expected to be finalized early in 2019. The Athletics Master Plan, which has been in development since September 2018, will also address facility changes to improve teaching spaces for two of the University's academic programs - athletic training and exercise science - as well as facility upgrades for student-athletes.
"The academic success of our athletic training and exercise science programs requires ESU to re-evaluate the available space in Koehler Fieldhouse and explore options for growth," said President Welsh. "At the same time, the master plan will enable us to assess the needs of our varsity sports and our current facilities in order to determine changes that need to be made that will provide our student-athletes with the capability to remain competitive with other institutions in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and beyond."
Facts About Women's Wrestling
- Since 1994, the number of women who wrestle in high school has grown from 804 to 16,562 (as of 2018)
- Since 2004, women's wrestling is now a recognized Olympic sport.
- Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, Hawaii, and Washington sponsor a state high school championship.
- Women's wrestling participation numbers are higher than the NCAA sponsored sports of crew, fencing, skiing, and rifle and NCAA emerging sports of rugby, sand volleyball, and equestrian.
- NWCA (National Wrestling Coaches Association) conducts a 16-team National Dual Meet Championship in conjunction with the NWCA Multi-Divisional National Duals.
- NWCA has been instrumental in getting women's wrestling added as a new sport a number of schools
- WCWA National Tournament provides competition opportunities for 200+ athletes.
- WCWA follow International Freestyle Rules.
- WCWA members also compete in USAW Senior and Jr. Fila events.
- WCWA college recruiting fair is held during the USAW Girls Folkstyle National.
- WCWA members must follow eligibility rules similar to NCAA and NAIA rules.