Andrey Golovanov/AFP/Getty Images
Women wrestling at the 2007 World Championship in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Oklahoma City University, home of the Stars, has a new team in its constellation. Besides old standards such as baseball, basketball, golf and soccer, the private university this year now has a women's wrestling team.
"We announced it in 2007," says Jim Abbott, the athletic director for the university. "Now it's 2008 and we've finished our first year and been very successful at it."
Oklahoma City is one of only eight colleges nationwide to offer women's wrestling as a varsity sport. Larger schools have been hesitant to add women's wrestling to their sports programs.
Part of the reason for that, Abbott says, is cultural. He pointed to his family as having a typical reaction to the idea of female wrestlers. "My phone rang; it was my brother-in-law," Abbott says. The first question: Would he be coaching mud wrestling or oil wrestling? "You can imagine I wasn't very pleased."
But Oklahoma City's better instincts prevailed. Helping the school's decision was the fact that women's wrestling was made an Olympic sport in 2004. To indicate the well of support, Abbott says almost 5,000 girls wrestled in high school but only a handful are able to continue in college. He says offering women's wrestling gives schools like his a chance to broaden their education and tap a new pool of tuition-paying recruits.
"I didn't know what to expect," Abbott says. But after a year of teaching the lady wrestlers, he's convinced.
"Wrestling is no different than any other sport we play. These young women work hard every day. They work just as hard and are just as serious as any other student athlete."