Life will add women’s wrestling to is growing athletic department, the University recently announced. The program will be a scholarship sport that anticipates competing in the 2014-15 season, becoming the first and only women’s college wrestling program in the state of Georgia.
Womens’ wrestling becomes another recent addition to Life’s athletics, joining undergraduate men’s rugby, women’s cross country and men’s wrestling to its growing list of teams.
“We’ve been looking to expand our athletics department and wanted more opportunities for women,” said Life’s Director of Communications Craig Dekshenieks. “As Life has evolved and grown we’ve wanted a more authentic university experience for our students. Adding program’s such as women’s wrestling helps us with that.”
According to the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA), the number of women who wrestle in high school has grown from about 800 to more than 7,000 since 1994, creating a demand for opportunities beyond that level. Life wants to be at the forefront of that increased growth in Georgia.
“We’re really excited to start a female program at Life,” Life men’s wrestling coach Mike Miller said. “It will be a good addition and (Athletic director and men’s baskeball coach John Barrett) has been really supportive.”
Miller added that the university plans to hire another coach specifically for the women’s team. He and assistant coach Ron Gorman will help with training, preparation and scheduling for as long as they’re needed.
“Starting a women’s wrestling program is a dream come true for me and coach Gorman,” Miller said. “It will bring more recognition to Life and expand the number of collegiate women’s wrestling teams from 23 to 24, getting it even closer to becoming an officially sanctioned NAIA sport.”
If the women’s wrestling team follows the same path as the men’s it will become successful much sooner than later.
Trey Hicks placed fifth at 184 pounds at the NAIA championships to become the Running Eagles’ first wrestling All-American. This season, Life’s men’s team will host a NAIA regional qualifier two weeks before the national tournament.
Team Georgia Wrestling, a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the sport of amateur wrestling in the state, is a huge proponent of women’s wrestling, according to a release. The organization helped provide wrestling mats for Life’s men’s team, and this past summer, Team Georgia held its practices at Life in preparation for high school national tournaments in which the team competed.
“Team Georgia supports wrestling overall in Georgia and Life and Team Georgia have had a great relationship since the beginning,” Miller said. “It’s important that we support each other. One of their goals is to give as many opportunities as possible to male and female wrestlers in Georgia and we want that too.”
Life expects to sign its first scholarship athletes later this year. Miller anticipates that the team will have roughly 10 to 12 members in its first season before expanding to about 25 in year two. The program is expected to compete in the Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association (WCWA), which is the governing body for women’s college wrestling and part of the NWCA.
The WCWA competes in freestyle Olympic wrestling and has the following weight classes in pounds: 101, 109, 116, 123, 130, 136, 143, 155, 170 and 191. Women’s wrestling has recently been recognized as an Olympic sport.
“Going from three sports a couple of years ago to eight in the next two years is very exciting,” Dekshenieks said. “This is great for the students on campus.”