What’s Leading Wrestling’s Future?

In a Cleveland Plain Dealer article titled, “Women may hold key to future of wrestling: Olympics Watch”, reporter Tim Warsinskey asks: “Can women save wrestling?”

An alternative way to understand the current wrestling landscape is: “What caused the demise of the sport’s teams?” and subsequently, “What is the most effective, far-reaching  prescription to negate the root of the problem?”

Therein lies our two-part answer: Title IX enforcement via proportionality and gender quotas as the cause, and Title IX reform as a way to correct the current path.

Warsinskey acknowledges that Title IX implementation is responsible for cutting wrestling teams, but he fails to paint the whole picture. He writes, “For decades, wrestling coaches and fans cursed Title IX because it put collegiate men’s programs on the chopping block in the name of gender equity. In order to close the gap between men’s and women’s scholarships, which the federal act requires, many colleges resorted to eliminating men’s wrestling.”

The wrestling community didn’t “curse” Title IX because it intended to create equal opportunities for both men and women. Rather understandably, it has expressed extreme disappointment that the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ three-part test has incentivized schools to rely on proportionality for compliance. The only way to achieve proportionate numbers is the use of gender quotas. They dictate how many girls and how many boys are allowed to play sports in a given school, and if the numbers don’t match, say goodbye to men’s sports (women’s sports are also casualties). As wrestlers knows all too well, their sport is a popular choice to cut.

The American Sports Council has repeatedly questioned whether we can continue to accept a situation in which so many opportunities in various sports are offered as an either/or basis. Are we really offering equal opportunities to both genders if teams are cut solely on the basis of gender? Can we really sustain sports with our current enforcement methods?

The answer to all of the above is resoundingly no.

Instead of calling for reform, Warsinskey wishfully believes that “In the long run, women could play an important role in the sport’s hoped-for rejuvenation, but that day remains a long way off. It’s not a sprint to the finish. It’s an ultramarathon.”

There is no question that the growth of female wrestlers or females who are interested in eventually taking up the sport is exciting, encouraging and an enormously positive development. No one or nothing should impede them from competing and excelling at wrestling if that’s what they choose to pursue.

But the more wrestlers, the better; that philosophy includes men, too. Wrestling as a whole will not bounce back until gender quotas are kicked out of athletics and proportionality is no longer the standard for measuring whether equal opportunities (not equal outcomes) exist. Once that happens, we will see a growth in the number of wrestling teams.

There are hundreds of thousands of boys competing at all ages who want the chance to wrestle in college and for those that dream big, in the Olympics. Unfortunately, the endless cuts to men’s wrestling programs are quite dissuasive and interfere with their plans. We must change how we look at and meet Title IX requirements (not just for wrestling, but for sports and society in general). That’s the only way we’re going to see the type of problems facing wrestlers disappear.

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