ELMIRA, N.Y. -- Elmira College Director of Athletics Renee Carlineo announced on Wednesday morning the addition of men's and women's wrestling as intercollegiate programs that will begin competition during the 2020-21 academic year. The teams expand Elmira's varsity sports offerings to 20 intercollegiate programs.
"I am incredibly excited for the addition of two wrestling teams to our athletic department and the student-athletes to our community," said Carlineo. "Wrestlers are gritty, resilient, and will add a new dimension to our already well-rounded student body. We have a perfect geographic location for this sport and possess unique academic offerings to attract competitive wrestlers that are academically strong."
As part of a larger department-wide initiative, adding men's and women's wrestling will impact current athletic facilities in a positive way. The College will begin to explore recreating existing space for locker rooms, not only for the two new athletic programs, but also for Elmira's current athletic varsity teams.
"The addition of men's and women's wrestling comes at a particularly exciting time for the College," stated Elmira College President Dr. Chuck Lindsay. "We have the opportunity to provide a unique co-curricular experience for a new wave of student-athletes, while adding to our already robust athletics programs and the vibrant culture within our current student body."
Wrestling has become an emerging sport in NCAA Division III for both men and women. However, Elmira will become somewhat of a pioneer in the world of women's wrestling in the region, as the Soaring Eagles will sponsor the first NCAA Division III women's wrestling program in New York. Additionally, Elmira's implementation of men's wrestling will be the 12th Division III program in the state.
"The National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NWCA) would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to the extraordinary leaders at Elmira College for recognizing the educational value that men's and women's wrestling will bring to their campus," added Mike Moyer, Executive Director of the NWCA. "We are thrilled to have been able to facilitate a substantial startup grant from regional benefactors to insure the successful launching of the men's program along with the first-ever intercollegiate women's team at a four-year college in New York."
The popularity of wrestling in the region, as well as across the country, will provide Elmira with a new pool of student-athletes from which to recruit. In the New York region alone, there are 11,461 high school boys wrestling programs and 584 high school programs for girls. When Pennsylvania is included, those numbers increase to 21,181 and 786 for high school boys and girls, respectively.
Nationally, the high school participation rate for boys and girls wrestling has increased over the last 15 years. The popularity of scholastic girls wrestling has led to the implementation of 18 high school athletic associations that sponsor a state championship. This growth has sparked the addition of 226 new collegiate wrestling programs since 1999.
On June, 2019, the NCAA put forth a press release announcing "the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics recommended that all three divisions of the NCAA governance structure add two sports -- acrobatics and tumbling and women's wrestling -- to the NCAA Emerging Sports for Women program."
"The committee identifies sports to be added to the Emerging Sports for Women program, which is a pipeline supporting the advancement of women's sports to NCAA championship status. The program also provides athletics opportunities for women and sport-sponsorship options for colleges and universities. Schools also may use an emerging sport to help meet membership minimum sports-sponsorship requirements and financial aid requirements."
Elmira College briefly sponsored men's wrestling as a collegiate sport during the 1970s, but the sport was later discontinued. With the reinstatement of the men's program, and the addition of women's wrestling, the College will implement a national search immediately for a head coach for both teams.