KANSAS CITY, Mo. — At its national convention here on Saturday, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics approved adding women’s wrestling as an invitational sport beginning in the 2018-19 academic year.
The decision was unanimously approved on Saturday by the NAIA’s National Administrative Council at the association's national convention.
The University of Providence in Great Falls — an NAIA school — added women's wrestling in January, 2017 and just completed its first season. The team finished tied for 15th in the nation at the Women's Collegiate Wrestling Association National Championships.
“The NAIA is proud to be the first intercollegiate athletics association to officially recognize women’s wrestling,” said NAIA President & CEO Jim Carr in a press release. “This is a great opportunity to empower female student-athletes both athletically and academically. The recent growth of the sport indicates it will have a strong future with our association.”
The NAIA has more member institutions sponsoring women’s wrestling than any other intercollegiate athletics association. This year, 19 schools offered women’s wrestling and it’s anticipated that the 2018-19 academic year will have 25 teams.
“The National Wrestling Coaches Association is grateful for the NAIA's leadership and pioneering efforts as the first collegiate governing body to recognize women’s wrestling as an invitational sport,” said Mike Moyer, executive director of NWCA in the release. “We look forward to working with the NAIA and its member institutions to establish many more intercollegiate women’s teams moving forward.”
Invitational status officially puts women’s wrestling under NAIA purview. The sport will begin competing and developing the protocols and framework needed for championship status. A national women’s wrestling invitational will be hosted annually. Once a sport has 40 teams and has completed two years at invitational status, it may apply for championship status.