As one of the world’s oldest sports and centerpiece of the Olympics, wrestling is rooted in deep traditions and valued throughout many cultures. In the United States collegiate wrestling is known as folkstyle and due to a few recent changes and expansions, recruiting is expanding and changing right before our eyes.
The expansion of Women’s wrestling into Power 5 Conference schools is a game-changing innovation for a multitude of reasons.
First and foremost, women's college wrestling is creating opportunities for women that would traditionally have to go to smaller schools in the NAIA or NWCA to compete with the best female athletes. Now, women will be able to be recruited to Power 5 Conferences for wrestling when schools sponsor them.
The University of Iowa is the prime example of this. They are currently attracting top female talent at both the high school and collegiate transfer levels, to develop their team and wrestling room.
Besides the opportunities that the introduction of women's wrestling, it will also benefit the men's sport. With additional opportunities for women at certain schools, more roster sports will open up to men with the Title IX rules and legislations that need to be followed. This is a win for every potential collegiate wrestler.
Another recent decision that has offered more opportunities to college wrestlers is the NCAA's approval of individual NIL deals, or the allowance of student-athletes to benefit monetarily off of their Name, Image, and Likeness. These deals allow student-athletes to be compensated for endorsing brands or their image being used in partnerships off of the wrestling mat.
Besides the obvious financial benefits that come with this for student-athletes, it is now a recruiting tool at multiple levels. Certain states have approved NIL deals for high school athletes, allowing these potential recruits to come in with their own pre-established personal brand when being recruited.
Pennsylvania, which is largely considered the top state in the country for youth and high school wrestling, just approved these deals for high school athletes. With the NCAA approving these deals, as long as they fall within the acceptable parameters laid out by the NCAA.
Universities throughout the country have started developing NIL departments to help their student-athletes have contracts/partnerships reviewed, all while helping current and potential student-athletes find deals for them to benefit off of. This is an attraction for any athlete who is being recruited. Knowing they can come in and receive support in finding deals will attract athletes to universities based on potential compensation that they could receive while attending that specified university.
These deals tie in with another major factor in wrestling recruiting which is Regional Training Centers. These centers help student-athletes prepare and continue training for the Olympic Styles, Greco-Roman and Freestyle, during and after their collegiate folkstyle careers. These deals can turn into sponsorships and jobs upon graduation which will allow the athlete to continue competing and pursuing their dreams.
For wrestlers it does not have to be just at a Regional Training Center. Roman Bravo-Young has been announced for signing with a top MMA manager. Gable Stevenson has signed with the development program of the WWE. These are two other common routes for top collegiate wrestlers to go after graduation.
The University of Iowa, who recently added Women’s Wrestling while hiring a top coach, has a regional training center - The Hawkeye Wrestling Club. This will allow women to train with men while competing to make World and Olympic teams. The Hawkeyes also have a NIL Program to help their student-athletes with these deals; this program is called “Flight.”
They are not the only University offering these opportunities for male and female wrestling recruits but they are definitely at the forefront of the expansion and opportunities that are coming for future and current collegiate wrestlers. The current expansion and overhaul of collegiate athletics is leaving the sky as the limit for recruits and current collegiate student-athletes.