New Jersey City University in Jersey City, New Jersey, has announced plans to begin varsity competition in wrestling for the 2020-2021 school year. The school of roughly 6,500 undergraduates will add men’s and women’s wrestling after competing as club teams in 2019-2020.
Gothic Knights Will Sponsor State of New Jersey’s First Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Program
May 01, 2019
By: Ira Thor
JERSEY CITY, N.J. (NJCUGothicKnights.com) | In a historic expansion of its athletic offerings New Jersey City University will add men’s and women’s wrestling as the latest sports in its lineup of intercollegiate athletic programs, Shawn Tucker, Director of Athletics and Associate Vice President, has announced. NJCU will become the first university in the state of New Jersey to sponsor an NCAA women’s wrestling program.
Each program will have its own full-time head coach. An extensive national search to fill each head coaching position will be conducted during the months of May and June.
The men’s and women’s wrestling programs will be club programs during the introductory 2019-20 academic year before being elevated to full varsity status in Fall 2020. Potential future conference affiliations will be determined during the 2019-20 year. Both programs will practice and compete at the John J. Moore Athletics and Fitness Center on campus.
“The addition of men’s and women’s wrestling to our intercollegiate athletics program is a significant moment in the history of our athletics department,” said NJCU President Dr. Sue Henderson, the current chair of the NCAA Division III President’s Council and Vice-Chair of the NCAA Board of Governors. “While assessing areas for potential growth within our athletics program over the last 12 months it became clear to our leadership that there were enormous opportunities within this popular sport. Men’s wrestling is currently well established, both in New Jersey’s high schools and within the NCAA championship structure. Meanwhile, wrestling is one of the fastest growing women’s sports in the United States and the world. With the introduction of the sport at our institution, we will be positioned well to capitalize on the movement and be at the forefront as leaders in another women’s sport, giving new opportunities to female student-athletes.”
“We are excited to make these historic additions to our intercollegiate athletics program,” said Tucker. “As our institution continues to grow and our athletic department continues to expand, wrestling is the ideal program to carry the banner for this new era in NJCU athletics. We firmly believe men’s and women’s wrestling are sports that naturally fit our campus. We believe the addition of both programs will generate excitement on campus and our entire university community will rally around both sports.”
Tucker continued: “New Jersey produces some of the best wrestling talent in the country and the addition of both men’s and women’s wrestling will give high school student-athletes in this state a viable option to continue competing in the sport they love on the next level right here in their home state at one of the fastest growing institutions in the state. NJCU will boost the profile of a sport long synonymous with the Garden State. While schools around the country have cut men’s wrestling in recent years, we are going in the other direction, adding men’s wrestling. Furthermore, by adding NCAA women’s wrestling, we are giving high school girls wrestlers, who are now recognized as an official sport by the NJSIAA, the historic opportunity to be pioneers in the sport on the collegiate level right here in their home state.”
The addition of men’s and women’s wrestling will be the 19th and 20th sports in NJCU’s growing athletic program and the seventh and eighth to be added since Tucker’s hiring in May, 2018. Men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field were reintroduced in June, 2018 and men’s and women’s tennis will be relaunched in Fall, 2019, it was announced on April 11.
However, unlike tennis and track and field, men’s and women’s wrestling have never been sponsored by NJCU in its athletics history which dates back to 1931-32.
With 20 sports, NJCU will sponsor the most sports of any school in the New Jersey Athletic Conference, equaling Ramapo and TCNJ, who each offer 20 sports. NJCU will become the 15th collegiate program in history at either the NCAA or NAIA levels to introduce both men’s and women’s wrestling in the same year and just the fifth in Division III history (Adrian, 2014; MacMurray, 2016; Westminster, 2016; Fontbonne, 2019).
Rutgers University men’s wrestling head coach Scott Goodale said: “The sport continues to grow at the college level and this is just a tremendous step to continue that growth. Women’s wrestling is thriving at the high school level and it’s great to have it move to the college level in this sport. Any time we add a program, both men’s and women’s, it’s a great day for our sport. Today is a great day.”
Women’s wrestling advocate Kyra Tirana Barry, the Team Leader for USA Wrestling Women’s Freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympics noted: “The addition of New Jersey’s first collegiate women’s program at NJCU couldn’t be better timed coming so quickly on the heels of the establishment of girls high schools wrestling in New Jersey.”
Barry, who serves as the Chair of Beat the Streets National and as a Beat the Streets NYC Board Member, added: “Every girl deserves the opportunity to wrestle in college. This is a needed and well-deserved opportunity to ensure that tri-state girls can continue to build upon New Jersey’s strong wrestling tradition. Beat the Streets welcomes the additional opportunity for our New York City wrestling student-athletes to continue their careers close to home.”
NJCU will become the 109th Division III men’s wrestling program and the fourth in the state of New Jersey, joining Centenary, Stevens, and TCNJ. NJCU will also be the seventh collegiate men’s wrestling program in the state of New Jersey at either the Division I, II or III levels. Princeton, Rider and Rutgers also sponsor the sport on the Division I level. As of the 2018-19 year, 246 total men’s wrestling programs are sponsored throughout all NCAA Divisions (75 in Division I, 63 in Division II and 108 Division III).
NJCU is the first new men’s program to be launched in New Jersey since Centenary introduced the sport in 1997; Stevens brought the sport back in 2004 after discontinuing it in the early 1990s.
Meanwhile, NJCU will continue its tradition of being a pioneer in women’s athletics when it adds women’s wrestling. In 2000, NJCU became the first NCAA Division III women’s bowling program in the United States.
Mike Moyer, the executive director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association said: “This is a great day for wrestling! The NJCU administration has displayed exemplary leadership in their pioneering efforts to be the first college in New Jersey to add both a men’s and women’s intercollegiate wrestling team. In particular, the addition of the women’s team will undoubtedly inspire many other colleges and universities in the region to add varsity women’s wrestling as well. The timing of this could not have been better being that this announcement comes immediately following the first ever and very successful NJSIAA sanctioned state wrestling championship for high school girls.”
Currently, 48 colleges and universities in the United States sponsor women’s wrestling on the varsity level, with another 14 planning to add the sport within the next two years. Most are members of the Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association, which administers the sport while it awaits official status by national collegiate organizations. Teams compete in freestyle formats in 10 weight classes, ranging from 101 to 191 pounds.
Seven NCAA Division III schools—Adrian (Mich.), Ferrum (Va.), Lakeland (Wis.), MacMurray (Ill.), Pacific (Ore.), Schreiner (Texas) and Westminster (Mo.)—currently offer women’s wrestling on the varsity level, with Augsburg (Minn.), Delaware Valley (Pa.), Fontbonne (Mo.), North Central (Ill.), and Wisconsin-Stevens Point adding the sport in 2019.
Lori Ayres, the co-director of USA Women’s Wrestling in New Jersey whose work helped lead to the sponsorship of girls wrestling on the high school level, said: “I think what NJCU is doing is really exciting and it will further the opportunities we are building for our girls. It’s a new way of thinking. In the past, resources were not provided until there was more participation. But it’s the other way around. What we are learning is that to build participation, there need to be opportunities. There is so much excitement around what is going on right now; to see little girls come out and wrestle at the youth level demonstrates that. With NJCU coming on board with men’s and women’s wrestling, we can really ride the wave to promote freestyle wrestling and work together with USA Wrestling New Jersey to create training programs.”
Ayres, noting that high school girls in New Jersey currently compete in folkstyle wrestling, added: “We hope the addition of the first collegiate program like this here in New Jersey is the next step to help build freestyle wrestling for girls on the high school level.”
New Jersey has long been considered one of the elite states in the country for high school boys wrestling with the sport among the most popular spectator sports. However, in October 2018, New Jersey made history when high school girls wrestling was unanimously approved by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), making New Jersey the first state in the Northeast to offer the sport and the 12th state in the United States. This winter, the Garden State Classic was the first full-fledged girls high school wrestling tournament ever held in New Jersey and in February 2019, New Jersey girl wrestlers competed in high school region tournaments for the first time ever.
Several wrestling organizations, including Wrestle Like A Girl, Inc., the National Wrestling Coaches Association, USA Wrestling, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, have petitioned the NCAA to add wrestling to its list of “emerging sports” for women, which could significantly speed the sport’s growth at the collegiate level. In recent years, the NWCA has added a 16-team women’s wrestling dual-meet championship to its annual Multi-Divisional National Duals event each January.
According to the NWCA, the number of girls who wrestle at the high school level has grown from 804 in 1994 to 16,562 in 2018, and 15 states now sponsor high school girls wrestling championships.
Women’s wrestling has been an Olympic sport since 2004, with competition currently in six freestyle weight classes. American women’s wrestlers have earned five medals (one gold, one silver, three bronze) in Olympic competition.
States and territories that currently sponsor high school girls wrestling and a state high school championship include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, Hawaii, and Washington.
Collegiate programs to introduce men’s and women’s wrestling in the same year:
Adrian (Division III) – 2014
Central Methodist (NAIA) – 2019
Eastern Oregon (NAIA) – 2016
Emmanuel (Division II, started NAIA) – 2014
Fontbonne (Division III) – 2019
MacMurray (Division III) – 2016 – (men’s reinstated after being cut in 2007)
Menlo (NAIA) -2001
Ottawa (NAIA) – 2014
Presbyterian (Division I) – 2019
St. Mary (NAIA) – 2016
Texas Wesleyan (NAIA) – 2019
Umpqua CC (NJCAA) – 2017
Warner Pacific (NAIA) – 2014
Wayland Baptist (NAIA) – 2009
Westminster (Division III) – 2016
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