Article originally posted on JCUsports.com
For the first time in a decade, John Carroll University Athletics is adding a varsity sport.
Women's Wrestling will become the 24th varsity sport at John Carroll, with competition anticipated to begin with the 2023-24 academic year.
John Carroll is the first Jesuit university in the United States to offer women's wrestling.
"We are deeply committed to creating opportunities for female student-athletes at JCU, especially as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX," said Al Miciak, President of John Carroll University. "Adding women's wrestling is an excellent opportunity for our university and I commend Coach Mark Hawald, Michelle Morgan, and our athletic administration for their leadership on this initiative."
With the addition, John Carroll also becomes the first school in the Ohio Athletic Conference to offer women's wrestling. John Carroll's welcoming of women's wrestling occurs less than a month after the 50th anniversary of Title IX. The addition demonstrates JCU's dedication to providing opportunities for female student-athletes.
"This is a historic moment for John Carroll Athletics," said Senior Director of Athletics Michelle Morgan. "Wrestling has a strong tradition not only at JCU, but in the state of Ohio. We are thrilled to provide more opportunities for talented women to compete in athletics at John Carroll. This is a major step as we look to offer diversified opportunities for current and prospective John Carroll students."
In 2020, women's wrestling was recognized by the NCAA as an emerging sport for women. Per the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA), JCU joins over 100 colleges to offer the sport.
In recent years, JCU Wrestling has been thriving, with an excellent 2021-22 campaign under Head Coach Mark Hawald. The Blue Streaks enjoyed many milestones, concluding with tallying two All-Americans at the 2022 NCAA Division III Championships, including NCAA runner-up Andrew Perelka.
Hawald will serve as head coach for both the men's and women's wrestling programs. In the very near future, an Associate Head Coach for Women's Wrestling will be hired to help guide the program into its inaugural season.
"For almost 60 years, wrestling at John Carroll has shaped generations of men. Now, we have the opportunity to impact generations of women and mold women leaders," said Hawald. "What this university and wrestling program have to offer is special. The timing is perfect. I've worked very hard towards this goal, and it's exciting to see it come together. It would not be a reality without the support of folks across campus. A special thank you to Al Miciak, Michelle Morgan, Katie Hine, the Board of Directors, and my alumni advisory board."
Dating back to the days of Tony DeCarlo '66G, JCU Wrestling has been a local and national powerhouse. To this day, JCU Wrestling claims the only National Championship in school history, winning the 1975 NCAA Championship.
During the illustrious history of the program, John Carroll has tallied 16 top-ten NCAA finishes, 16 individual NCAA Champions, 31 conference championships, and over 100 All-Americans, including two at the 2022 NCAA Division III Championships. And off the mats, the Blue Streaks have produced very successful alumni in a wide variety of fields.
Ohio is also a hotbed of wrestling, frequently producing national champions at all levels of NCAA competition. In January 2022, the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) added women's wrestling. In March 2023, the inaugural OHSAA girls wrestling state tournament will be held alongside the three divisions of the boys wrestling state tournament at the Schottenstein Center at The Ohio State University. According to the NWCA, 34 states sanction an official scholastic state championship and over 28,000 high school student-athletes compete nationwide. Women's wrestling has been an Olympic Sport since 2004.
Women's wrestling is the first sport JCU has added since announcing the arrival of lacrosse in the summer of 2012.
"The Ohio Athletic Conference has a long history of success in the sport of men's wrestling and I am excited to see our OAC schools thinking about how to build on that success in support of their women's athletic programs," said Sarah Otey, Commissioner of the OAC. "Women's wrestling will be the perfect addition to John Carroll's existing slate of highly competitive women's programs – and will offer a great opportunity for Ohio high schoolers to wrestle collegiately in their home state."
Women's wrestling is rapidly expanding as a sport, especially in Division III and the Midwest. During the 2021-22 season, Division III schools that finished in the top ten of the National Collegiate Women's Wrestling Championships included North Central, Augsburg, and Adrian. Other schools in the region that offer wrestling include Albion, Aurora, and Hiram.
The Blue Streaks will look to build a competitive schedule, with at least two home dual meets in the inaugural season. John Carroll will look to be highly competitive on a national level with top teams.
Also in the works are facility upgrades, which will positively impact all student-athletes at JCU.
As the first Jesuit university in the country to offer women's wrestling, John Carroll hopes to be leaders regionally and nationally in the push to grow the sport. Per US News & World Report's Regional University rankings, John Carroll will be the highest ranked regional university to offer women's wrestling.
The next step for the program will be hiring an Associate Head Coach, and recruiting the first class of women's wrestlers.