This weekend Oklahoma got their first girls’ four-time state champion as Choctaw’s Peyton Hand closed out her high school career winning the 115 LB title with an 11-3 decision over Coweta’s Aiyanna Perkins. The unfortunate underlying storyline within that is she will be attending college in a different state. I’ve spoken to her about it some, and I don’t think it’s directly a situation where she would have stayed in state had more opportunities been available, but there’s certainly that possibility with a number of girls from our state.
As it currently stands we have two girls wrestling programs in Oklahoma. One NAIA program with OCU and one NJCAA program with Carl Albert State who is currently in their first season. This past year we had 516 girls entered into the two OSSAA regionals. Most of us as wrestling folks that frequent this site understand what’s going on in the sport. It’s growing at a remarkable rate. That 516 is up from 204 just two years prior. And that # is of course expected to grow and expand moving forward.
With only two programs in the state, those 516 girls only have two options to stay close to home and wrestle. And of those options there are only a handful of scholarships available for any of those girls. All this compared to Iowa, which is a very similar sized state and has 20 women’s college wrestling programs across all of the divisions.
I have poked around with various athletic directors and coaches at the colleges around the state with programs and I do think there are some at least considering the possibility. UCO has no immediate plans to add any programs, but they’ve got an Athletic Director that understands the growth of women’s wrestling and has had some influence on it’s expansion in other roles of his, and NEO has told me they are in the “preliminary” stages of discussions regarding adding a women’s program.
On the D1 front, things don’t look promising. OU didn’t respond when I asked and Oklahoma State Athletic Director Chad Weiberg was asked this week about the prospect of adding a women’s wrestling program there and the prospect seems grim.
The unfortunate thing is we’re losing a number of kids to other states with this. It’s unfortunate enough when considering their wrestling skills are leaving the state but when viewing it in the broader scope of our state, we’re also losing good kids and people that could have a long-term positive influence on our state.
What can we do about it? We can obviously email our congresspeople, school administrators, etc… to see what influence we can have to add new programs. But as much as anything, I think we need to support the opportunities that already do exist here and keep those programs strong. Try and attend OCU and Carl Albert’s duals if you can, donate to their programs, and follow them on social media… Every little thing helps. And do the same thing for any other upstart programs we’re lucky enough to get.
But we really do need to pull together as a wrestling community here in Oklahoma and support women’s college wrestling as the opportunities right now in our state for these girls are alarmingly low.