The Field House. College Sports coverage from The Denver Post’s Kyle Fredrickson.
Girls in Colorado who grow up and aspire to earn college scholarships on the wrestling mat will now have an option to compete closer to home.
Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction will offer Division II women’s wrestling starting this fall, the school announced recently, with its search for a head coach underway. The team will operate as part of the Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association, a national governing body with eligibility rules similar to the NCAA. The WCWA currently supports 38 college programs spread out between D-II, D-III, NAIA and NJCAA. It also hosts a national tournament that draws more than 200 athletes, according to its website.
CMU is the first member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and one of only about 15 programs in the western U.S. to join the WCWA. CMU will also make scholarships available for its new team with the size and total number dictated by the head coach, a school spokesman said.
Girls wrestling is not currently sanctioned by the Colorado High School Activities Association, but it does allow for girls to compete as part of boys’ teams and CHSAA offers several all-girl tournaments that are not considered varsity events. At Colorado State, the Rams have a women’s wrestling club team.
The sport’s popularity among girls has skyrocketed over the last several years, according to the National Federation of State High School Association’s annual survey. In 2010-11, a total of 7,351 girls participated in high school wrestling. In 2016-17, that number rose to 14,587 as part of an upward trend that dates back more than two decades.
“We are and will become an even more sought-after wrestling program by diversifying our program and offering a female team that provides access and opportunities to young women that few other colleges do,” CMU men’s wrestling coach Chuck Pipher said in a news release. “I am thrilled for this expansion of our program and the growth of popularity of a sport I dearly love.”