Womens Wrestling :


Women’s wrestling may appear to be a recent phenomenon, but women have actually been wrestling since the ancient times.

There is evidence of early inscriptions that indicate Spartan girls wrestled throughout Byzantine and Roman rule.

Among African tribes, girls often wrestled as part of their ritual initiation into womanhood. The elders would gamble land with other tribes on the outcome

Women's wrestling is growing and strengthening throughout the world as more nations sponsor teams and competitions for women each year.

 In the past two years I have had the opportunity to see first hand the Klippan Ladies Cup in Klippan, Sweden and the Gilbert Schwaub International in Tourcoing, France. Hundreds of girls and women, age seven to the senior open level competed in the tournament from all across Europe.

The skill, the technique, the hunger for victory, and the enthusiasm looked no different than attending
a USA Wrestling tournament here in the United States.


Until recent years, women have not competed against other women in the sport of wrestling. In the past, young women have often competed against males on the club and high school level. The growth of women's wrestling in the United States is now providing new opportunities for young women to participate and grow as athletes in the sport. In the international style of freestyle wrestling new programs and championships such as: Cadet, Junior and University Nationals have now been created by USA Wrestling for our female wrestlers; in addition USA Wrestling now offers Tour du Monde opportunities for the women, giving them the chance to experience new cultures, international travel, training and competition within a different environment. USA Wrestling also sponsors Women's Team USA, the women's freestyle national team. Since 1989, the U.S. has been participating in the Women's Freestyle World Championships. In July of 1997, the U.S. team placed third in the team competition, and produced three silver medalists.


At the high school level the numbers keep increasing. In 1997, the State of Michigan sponsored the first ever women's state high school championships. A total of 120 female wrestlers competed in ten weight divisions. Texas is also starting a women's state high school championship, in Hawaii and in suburban Chicago women's wrestling leagues or conferences have been developed. Right now plans are underway to develop a Women's High School National Wrestling Championship to be be held in Michigan in March of 1998. Even the women's collegiate movement is growing. In 1993, the University of Minnesota-Morris was the first college in the nation to sponsor women's wrestling as an official varsity sport, since that time women's programs have been developed at New York University, Cumberland (KY), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Central Washington, and not to mention countless number of women who have joined their collegiate men's programs.


Today in the United States, college wrestling programs are fighting for their lives. In the past few years we have seen countless number of collegiate wrestling programs cut due to Title IX. The once great NAIA is almost dead with just 25 active members, the NCAA I national tournament now features less than 100 schools, down in numbers by almost 50 percent in the last 10 years! We have fought, written letters, signed petitions, and lobbied in Washington with little effect. While we were crying and complaining about the injustice, women's ice hockey became a NCAA and Olympic sport.


At the collegiate level women's wrestling is an ideal choice for creating new opportunities for women. In fact, women's wrestling fits the NCAA criteria for emerging sports programs. Many schools that support a men's wrestling program are out of compliance with Title IX - and money is always a factor. Adding women's wrestling to an athletic program can save the athletic budget alot of money. Think about it. The coaches, the equipment, and the facilities are all in place. All that is needed is singlets and travel expenses. Economically it is the smart choice.


I hear all the time how bad it is because of Title IX. I say let's embrace Title IX and create opportunities for women's wrestling. Once you have had the opportunity to see a well conditioned female athlete with technical skills you will be sold. I challenge all of you to not be called for stalling...put together an aggressive plan of action to let women into the wrestling room. The same life long benefits we learned through wrestling can be developed in these young women as well. Wrestling is a microcosm of life, don't cheat anyone out of this experience! The fact of the matter is there is much to be gained and I have personally learned, there is nothing to lose by opening up the wrestling room to women. Do what is best for the sport we love...let it grow!

Note: Doug Reese was the head wrestling coach at the University of Minnesota-Morris. In 1993 he began the first women's collegiate wrestling program in the United States. Reese serves as Chairperson on USA Wrestling's Women's Wrestling Committee and is a U.S. National Coach for Women's Freestyle Wrestling. Reese has developed 42 Women's All-Americans at UM-Morris, 10 U.S. National Team Members, and four world team members. Coach Reese has traveled to Europe eight times with Women's Team USA and most recently help coach the US Women's World Team to a third place finish in the 1998 Women's World Championships in Poznan, Poland.