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USA Wrestling has surpassed 100,000-athlete members this week, a big achievement during pandemic

by Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling

This week, USA Wrestling passed the 100,000 athlete member mark for the 2020-21 membership year, a milestone of note considering the challenges faced in conducting wrestling activity during the worst worldwide health pandemic in over a century.

The membership season began on September 1, 2020, a time when much of the world, including the sports community, had been shut down or severely restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It took the effort of the entire wrestling community, including leaders at every level of the sport, to find creative and safe ways for wrestling training and competition to return.

“Probably more this year than ever, our state associations have been challenged to provide opportunities for wrestlers nationwide, and our volunteer leaders and coaches nationwide have done just that this year. In the month of March alone, there were over 20 youth state folkstyle tournaments held across the country, which provided countless highlights and great memories for our members,” said Tony Black, USA Wrestling State Services Director.

When the pandemic hit, USA Wrestling quickly established a COVID-19 Advisory Committee of health, medical and government experts to educate USA Wrestling and assist in its decision-making process. USA Wrestling then added three more special COVID-19 committees: Public Relations and Messaging Committee, Collegiate Wrestling COVID-19 Sustainability Planning Committee and the Return to Practice and Competition Committee.

Early in the pandemic, with assistance from its COVID-19 committees, USA Wrestling developed two important documents to guide the wrestling and sports community in conducting wrestling activity in a safe and responsible manner, the Return to the Mat Guidelines and the Return to Competition Guidelines. The principle was to use these guidelines, work directly with local and state health and government officials, and follow the regulations set in place in the communities where competitions were being held.

After holding a few multi-state competitions in the summer of 2020 utilizing the safety guidelines, USA Wrestling was able to successfully conduct some national-level tournaments in the fall of 2020. Heading into April 2021, USA Wrestling has been able to bring back its full traditional national and regional competition schedule for the remainder of the 2020-21 season.

“Our state associations continue to embrace our commitment to providing a safe environment for kids through the implementation and enforcement of USA Wrestling policies. Many in the youth sports community have shied away from this area in light of the SafeSport Act passed in 2018, but it’s been different for USA Wrestling and our state associations and clubs,” said Black.

The first year that USA Wrestling was able to reach the 100,000 athlete member mark was during the 1989-1990 membership year, a level which the organization has surpassed every year since. The organization was able to crack the 200,000 athlete member mark in the 2017-18 membership year. USA Wrestling set a record of 214,830 athlete members during the 2018-19 membership year.

In 2019-20, a season in which the COVID-19 pandemic hit with six months left in the membership year, the final number of USA Wrestling athlete members was 194,302. Most of USA Wrestling’s athlete membership had already come in before March 2020 when the nation began to shut down due to the coronavirus.

As of 4:00 p.m. Mountain Time today, USA Wrestling had reached 101,939 athlete members and 22,626 leaders members (Coaches/Officials). There were 3,048 chartered clubs and 707 sanctioned events for the membership season. While these totals do not match recent seasons prior to the pandemic, they show an impressive rebound for the organization, especially in recent months.

With the number of COVID-19 vaccinations increasing all across the nation, and many of the restrictions on the state and local levels being relaxed or removed, USA Wrestling expects to see continued membership growth for the final five months of the current membership season, as well as in the new 2021-22 fiscal year which begins on September 1, 2021.