This past year has been monumental for women’s wrestling in large part due to the work of organizations such as #wrestlelikeagirl and the doubling in states that sanction a high school girls state championships. The recognition and subsequent growth that comes with these events is fueling other states and organizations to jump on the women’s wrestling bandwagon. Ultimately, the groundswell will push the NCAA to eventually move women’s wrestling to a fully sanctioned national tournament worthy sport and in the end provide more opportunities for females as athletes, coaches and administrators. Take a minute to watch the attached video and let’s consider women’s wrestling at the NCAA Div. 1 level.
In 1999 Clarissa Chun became the first high school girls state champion in the nation in the sport of wrestling. Today, we have over 16,000 female participants and that number should increase exponentially in the next few years with the likelihood of more states sanctioning and the continued push from the youth level. In 2012 Clarissa earned a bronze medal in the Olympics. In many sports, an athlete of her elite status would have been granted the opportunity to earn a scholarship at an NCAA Div. 1 institution. Women’s wrestling is on the doorstep to making that happen. Even though the gears of the NCAA bureaucracy churn ever so slowly the foundation that has been built over the past few years will I believe start to open the eyes of the powers that be. Adding wrestling at the NCAA level is a win-win for everyone.
I’ve always thought that the NCAA and State funded universities should serve their state population and it’s tax paying residents. It baffles me that the NCAA will sponsor a sport that isn’t sanctioned at the high school level just to comply with Title IX laws. Take crew for example a sport that is not sponsored by my state high school governing body but yet it’s a sport the NCAA has pushed to relevancy. Rather than sports that are currently offered and participated in at the age group and high school level driving the offerings of at the University the NCAA has dictated what sport it will offer based on what is easiest for it to meet Title IX compliance. Let’s not kid ourselves there are a number of women’s sports added to the NCAA that have no relevance at the high school level and do not serve the states population.
We as a wrestling community should not be solely focused on women’s equity but also racial equality and the bigger picture here. Our most under-served minority population at the collegiate level is the Hispanic and Latino populations. Even though Hispanics and Latinos account for the largest ethnic minority in the US at 17.8% of the total population, according to the US Census, only 4.8% of NCAA athletes are Hispanic or Latino according to statistics from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (IDES). In other words, our higher educational institutions are wholly negligent in the service to the Hispanic or Latino population. Even though I have not researched California’s state university statistics I would assume they fall extremely short of serving their largest minority population as I know Washington State Universities do. Of all the sports I can think of wrestling other than probably soccer has the largest Hispanic and Latino participation rates. I write this not as a Hispanic or Latino but as a descendant of Germans who lived in Volga Russia where my ancestors emigrated from to the U.S. for a better life. As such, my parents and I were able to further ourselves through opportunities in collegiate athletics which has in a round about way afforded me the opportunity to write this awesome blog. That of course is another story but a story that should not be limited to me or people of my race.
Not only does this have implications for women’s wrestling but collegiate sports in general as these statistics show just how far we still have to go. I think there are two questions here, shouldn’t the NCAA and state funded Universities serve the state’s population and if Title IX is truly doing it’s job hasn’t it failed the Hispanic and Latino population? Here’s something else to consider, according to the (IDES) non-resident female athletes account for 6.8% of NCAA Div. 1 athletes. Think about that for a minute, our universities do a better job serving people that are not from this country than they do our own minority populations. Bullshit!!! These statistics speak both to wrestling and also our state university athlete population. Take a look at California and Washington, two of the largest states for girls wrestling in the nation and ask yourself if both females and minorities are being served by our state universities? Check out some names of at the recent WCWA National Championships this past week and you will find the likes of Angelina Gomez, Alleida Martinez, Gracie Figueroa, Brenda Reyna and many more with similar Hispanic or Latino heritage.
Women’s wrestling is very healthy right now. At every level of the sport growth is occurring on record levels. If you, like me believe in accessibility for all and equity in sport you also recognize we still have a long way to go.