The Seattle PI Fumbles on Women’s Wrestling

It must be silly season in the wake of yesterday’s story in the New York Times concerning the rise of women’s wrestling at the high school and collegiate level. Today, the Editorial Board at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer stepped into the breach created by the article in order to spew some more disinformation:

For all the interest high school students have in wrestling, colleges offer precious few opportunities for them to continue the sport. We’d like to think that will change, thanks to young women.

Girls’ growing interest in wrestling certainly is the freshest thing to happen in the overly long, often sidetracked arguments about how to save the sport at the college level. Many men’s wrestling coaches have wasted enormous amounts of time trying to blame the pioneering federal Title IX for their programs’ problems.

As The New York Times reports, some colleges are finally figuring out that there is opportunity in women’s wrestling. Jamestown College in climate-challenged North Dakota has enrolled four athletes from Hawaii for a new women’s wrestling program, one of eight in the nation.

Like Washington, Hawaii holds a girls high school wrestling championship tourney. Our state, in fact, is blessed with a remarkable number of outstanding high school wrestling programs. Now, young women are benefitting.

Young men and women should have more opportunities to continue a healthy sport at the varsity level in college. Colleges should see the women’s interest as a way to offer wrestling without detracting from the often-shaky gender balance of their athletic programs.

First off, the destruction of men’s wrestling programs as the result of the relentless application of the proportionality standard of Title IX is well documented, hence all the complaining the newspaper seems fed up with.

The overall health of men’s wrestling has little to do with the growth of the women’s sport. Instead, these are two separate and distinct issues, and tying them together makes no logical sense. Furthermore, the fact of the matter is that wrestling coaches at the college and high school level were the first to identify the growing demand for women’s wrestling, and have done their level best to encourage it.

Next, like yesterday’s Times article, this newspaper fails to recognize the fact that we’re now almost 36 years past the passage of Title IX and that we live in a very different world. Yes, back in the 1950s and 1960s women were denied equal opportunity in every sector of higher education. But with female graduation rates rocketing past men, and the establishment of thousands of athletic programs for women, that’s simply not the case anymore.

Even worse, the PI falls back on the old trope that these male wrestling coaches must be doing something to hold back the sport. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, wrestling coaches are the individuals most directly responsible for the expansion of the sport, pressing state athletic associations in Hawaii and Washington to add state tournaments for women.

And, as we noted yesterday, if any organization is holding back women’s wrestling, it’s the NCAA, a body that has yet to grant it “emerging” sports status, despite the fact that it is growing faster and has more participants than other sports the NCAA has already granted that designation to. Furthermore, as the Times also pointed out yesterday, athletic departments handcuffed by Title IX’s proportionality standard often opt to add women’s sports that have larger rosters in order to help reach defacto quotas, rather than make decisions based on actual interest.

In short, the PI could do a lot better than their latest effort. In the words of a colleague of mine, “I’d call the editorial insulting if it wasn’t so stupid.”

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