Gannon University Adds Women’s Wrestling
ERIE, Pa. – Gannon Director of Athletics Lisa Goddard McGuirk has announced the addition of women’s wrestling as the University’s 22nd varsity sport with 2018-19 serving as the inaugural season. Gannon is the first school in the state of Pennsylvania to offer women’s wrestling as a four-year intercollegiate program.
“We are excited for the opportunity to support a growing sport and provide an opportunity for women to continue to compete at the varsity collegiate level,” said Goddard McGuirk. “Gannon’s wrestling program has a history of excellence that continues today and under Don Henry‘s leadership, that success and tradition of excellence will be experienced by our women’s wrestling student-athletes.”
Women’s wrestling becomes the first varsity athletics program to be added at Gannon since 2013 when the acrobatics and tumbling and competitive cheer programs became varsity sports. Gannon is expected to begin its first season of competition in November with an approximate roster of 20 student-athletes. The official competition season is November-March. The Lady Knights will become the 39th school to sponsor the emerging sport.
In contrast to the men’s sport which wrestles under folkstyle rules, the women’s sport will compete with freestyle rules which represent one of the two olympic-style formats. Although not an official NCAA varsity sport at this time, women’s wrestling is currently in the process of trying to achieve NCAA emerging sport status. The Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association (WCWA), in conjunction with the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA), provides oversight as the governing body for the up-and-coming sport.
“On behalf of the NWCA Board of Directors, I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to the Gannon University administration for their leadership and pioneering efforts to establish the first intercollegiate women’s wrestling program in Pennsylvania,” said NWCA Executive Director Mike Moyer. “There are over 1,000 girls competing in high schools throughout Pennsylvania and bordering states and now, we have the first four-year intercollegiate wrestling program to accommodate this growing interest.”
The Gannon women’s program will offer scholarship opportunities and be under the guidance of NWCA Hall of Fame coach Don Henry. A national search will begin immediately for a women’s coach.
“Adding women’s wrestling will be a tremendous asset to the University and the region,” said Henry. “It is a great thing to promote wrestling here at Gannon and nationally. We have great facilities in place and outstanding academic programs. We will also be pioneers as the first women’s program in Pennsylvania which we believe will spark others to add the sport.”
Women’s wrestling has experienced notable growth nationally and within the state of Pennsylvania at the high school level. Since 1994, the number of women participating in high school wrestling nationally has grown from 804 to 14,587 and the number of high schools that sponsor wrestling has grown from 8,559 to 10,629. Women’s wrestling has been an olympic sport since 2004 with Helen Maroulis winning the first gold medal for the United States in 2016.