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AU has had a big year.
Iowa is the first Power 5 school to add women’s wrestling after the school announced Thursday they would be adding the program to begin competition in the 2023-24 season.
“Being the first is huge,” Iowa men’s wrestling coach Tom Brands said. “Being the first is impactful.”
The men’s program recently won their 24th NCAA national championship.
Athletic director Gary Barta said adding a women’s program had been in talks for several years.
“[Wrestling] is part of the history of Iowa,” Barta said. “It’s part of the university’s DNA.”
Girls wrestling at the high school level has yet to be a sanctioned sport, but there is a state tournament sponsored by the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association. More than 600 girls participated in wrestling in Iowa last year.
“Frankly, Tom was in my ear three, four, five years ago, saying, ‘Come on, boss, let’s go. Let’s get women’s wrestling added,’” Barta said. “We were not ready to do that yet, but we were watching it.”
Brands has long been an advocate for female wrestling, writing to the NCAA board of governors in 2017 that “it is long overdue for women to share in the opportunities of this great sport.”
The school is expected to name a head coach in the coming year, with Brands being involved in the search. However, the two programs will remain separate.
“The women will have their own practice times,” Brands said. “The women will have their own head coach. The women will have their own structure. They will run their program as they see fit. We will hire a coach. It will be the best coach in America. Look out.”
While the pandemic halted discussions to add women’s wrestling, it also sped up the decision. When Iowa cut their women’s swimming and diving program last spring, a Title IX lawsuit filed by several women’s swimmers led to the program being reinstated. Additionally, the lawsuit included the addition of a women’s sport.
“In general, it was about Title IX, and specifically it was about adding women’s sports, the counting of women’s sports,” Barta said of the settlement. “We had already agreed on reinstating women’s swimming permanently. Part of the agreement was adding a women’s sport, and we chose women’s wrestling, for all of the obvious reasons.”
The roster size is expected to be 30 to 35 wrestlers, with 10 scholarships being offered and divided among participants.
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