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NAIA Dakota Wesleyan in South Dakota to add women's wrestling for 2022-23

by Dakota Wesleyan Athletics

MITCHELL, S.D. – Dakota Wesleyan University Athletics will offer women's wrestling as a college sport for the 2022-23 athletic season as announced by Director of Athletics Jon Hart on September 1, 2021. Officially, DWU is the first higher education institution in South Dakota to add women's wrestling. The program will be the 18th sport for the Blue and White. The addition of the new sport is the result of a student-led initiative.

"We are extremely excited to add this opportunity for prospective students," stated Hart. "As women's wrestling continues to be an emerging sport in our region and across the United States, we look forward to officially adding it as DWU's 18th sport."

At the collegiate level, women's wrestling is recognized by roughly 80 NCAA and NAIA institutions and is a national championship sport sponsored by the NAIA. First supported by USA Wrestling, the inaugural college women's wrestling national championships were hosted by Missouri Valley College in 2004. In 2008, in cooperation with the NCAA and NAIA, teams formed the Women's Collegiate Wrestling Association (WCWA).

On a regional basis three other Great Plains Athletic Conference member institutions—Hastings, Jamestown and Midland—offer the sport to their student-athletes. The University of Jamestown has hosted the NAIA national championships over the previous three seasons. Outside of the GPAC, both the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) and Heart of America conferences offer the sport, with Jamestown and Midland competing in the KCAC.

DWU and other conference member schools are a part of Section 5 of the National Federation of State High School Associations, which governs both collegiate and high-school women's wrestling programs in the states of Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

At the high-school level the sport experienced its largest increase nationwide in 2019 and 2020, according to the NFHS, with nearly 30,000 high-school participants across the United States. The South Dakota High School Activities Association hosted its first state girls' championships in 2021. The event was held in February in Rapid City and included 13 weight classes across two divisions.

According to Hart, the intention for DWU's program is to launch with full participation at the beginning of the 2022 athletic season. The search for a full-time coach is underway.