A room full of roughly 20 girls ready to pin each other down is a unique experience, but women from around the country gather daily at UCC with that single purpose: to wrestle.
The wrestling room on campus is home to both the women’s and men’s practices. Asia DeWeese, the coach of UCC’s new women’s wrestling team, calls out a drill and they all get to work after a resounding group clap.
Last year, the team was a third of the size it is now. The team this year has had a growth spurt with a corresponding growth in spirits. “Going from a room with about six to eight girls and then it becoming a full room feels amazing. There’s more energy in the room,” said Moira Sheldon. Sheldon, the only returnee from last year’s team, is excited for the expansion of the team.
Wrestling has always been a largely male dominated sport, so seeing the numbers of girls who want to pursue wrestling in college shows how much the sport’s culture has changed. According to National Wrestling Coaches Association, currently 38 college teams are members of the Women’s College Wrestling Association. UCC is among these school’s.
Although every woman on the team has her own individual relationship with wrestling, most of them all share a similar opinion with the coach on how they feel about being a woman wrestler.
“Well, for me, I was always a tom boy. I liked it. I liked that it challenged me, that I could show that I belonged there. That women belonged there. It gave me the ability to be a strong woman,” said DeWeese who was one of the first women to be a part of a women’s U.S. wrestling nationals team.
She also spoke on the more difficult aspects of being a woman in wrestling. “There were several challenges, a lot of harassment,” DeWeese said.
Many women in this sport share a similar experience. The reaction they receive when they express their passion for wrestling is commonly surprise. “When I first started wrestling people were very surprised or didn’t believe me,” DeWeese said.
New team recruit Melissa Jacobs has experienced a similar response. “People are always surprised when I tell them I’m in a male dominated sport.”The increase in numbers for UCC’s team this year is a testament to the expansion of women’s place in wrestling and to the opportunities UCC offers. “I think it’s just grown exponentially both at the high school and college levels. In turn, that offers another outlet for women. It’s a great way to help bring out people’s self confidence. It gives them a place to compete but also a place to get an education,” said DeWeese.
The women’s wrestling team has their first meet on Saturday, Nov. 3 at the gym here on campus.