Wartburg College Adding Women’s Wrestling To Athletic Program
Girls wrestling is the fast-growing high school sport in Iowa, with the number of participates growing from barely 60 to over 700 in the past five years.
While the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union hasn't yet sanctioned girl's wrestling, athletic officials at some colleges and universities are hoping to take advantage of the sport's popularity and give young women another opportunity to excel.
The University of Iowa last month announced plans to add women's wrestling to its athletic program, with competition starting in the 2023-24 season. There are currently over 100 colleges across the country offering women's wrestling, but Iowa is only the third Division I school to do so and the first from a Power Five conference.
With 24 National Championships, the Hawkeyes are the premier program at the top of college wrestling in the country.
In Division III, Wartburg College in Waverly is known for its dominance in men’s wrestling. The Knights have won 14 national titles since 1996 and 12 national dual titles since 2003. Wartburg, coached by Eric Keller since 2010, has placed either first or second in the nation 22 of the past 29 years. At least two Wartburg wrestlers have won individual national titles 12 of the last 18 seasons.
The Knights are 38-time conference champions, including 28 in the last 29 seasons. They held a winning streak over current league opponents in dual competitions from 1993 to 2020.
Wartburg is now giving women the chance to compete on the mat. School officials announced Monday plans to add women's wrestling to the Knights' athletic roster, making Wartburg the first American Rivers Conference school to offer the sport. Competition will begin in the 2022-23 season.
“We are excited to add this new program and look forward to providing women the opportunity to join in the Wartburg wrestling tradition,” interim athletic director Ryan Callahan said.
Currently, Wartburg is the only NCAA Division III school in Iowa offering a women’s wrestling program. Wartburg plans to begin an immediate search for a new women's wrestling coach, school officials said. They also announced that Keller will be promoted to director of wrestling, allowing him to oversee both programs while retaining his coaching duties with the men’s team.
“This is an extremely exciting time for both women’s wrestling and Wartburg College," Keller said. "Wartburg wrestling has always had an expectation of excellence, striving to be great in everything we do. I am fired up about this new chapter in history and for the opportunity to grow women’s wrestling in the state of Iowa and across the nation.”