KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Women’s wrestling will have “Invitational” sport status in the NAIA beginning in the 2018-19 academic year, a decision that was approved unanimously by the NAIA’s National Administrative Council over the weekend at the national convention.
Invitational status officially puts women’s wrestling under NAIA purview — meaning the sport will begin competing and developing the protocols and framework needed for championship status, and 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.
This year, 19 NAIA member institutions sponsored women’s wrestling, more than any other intercollegiate athletics association. That number is anticipated to jump to 25 by 2018-19.
“The NAIA is proud to be the first intercollegiate athletics association to officially recognize women’s wrestling,” NAIA President and CEO Jim Carr said. “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.”
SOU’s women’s wrestling program has been around for three full seasons, a period in which Cascade Conference institutions Eastern Oregon and Warner Pacific have also added the sport.
The teams currently compete in the Women’s College Wrestling Association, which also includes NCAA and National Junior College Athletic Association institutions.
“The NAIA and WCWA will work together to find the best resolution for women’s wrestling,” SOU director of wrestling Mike Ritchey said. “We can’t just branch off completely on our own at this point without decimating other women’s wrestling divisions, so we want to lead in this process. It’ll be a transitional period.”