Wrestling is growing in Connecticut.
Sacred Heart University, home to the state’s only Division I wrestling program and one of three remaining D1 programs in New England, announced that they will be fielding a varsity women’s wrestling team in the fall of 2021.
John Clark, the head coach of the men’s program, also said the school is working to establish a regional training center for men and women at the school in Fairfield.
The school is looking for a coach to lead the women’s program and hopes to hire that coach in January. Clark, who will continue as coach of Sacred Heart’s men’s program, will be the Director of Operations for both wrestling programs.
“This is a goal I had since I started three years ago,” Clark said. “This is great for women, this is great for Sacred Heart. This is great for so many people.”
“I think it’s important that the NCAA recently labeled women’s wrestling as an emerging sport,” Clark said. “But even before that, I saw the potential. Anything that guys can do, girls can do, too. This is an equal opportunity.”
Clark has worked for the past year on launching the woman’s program, which will be the second Division I women’s wrestling program in the nation.
“We see tremendous opportunity here,” Clark said. “If I had to start a program from scratch, I don’t know how much better of a location you could put that program than right here. New York, New Jersey and New England are rich in talent and quantity in terms of both men and women wrestlers.
The National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) has already helped in organizing the new program.
“The NWCA was thrilled to help facilitate the solicitation of substantial start-up funds in support of this historic announcement. Included in this support was a very generous gift-in-kind donation of uniforms from adidas/wrestling,” said Mike Moyer, executive director of the NWCA.
Women’s wrestling will be the 33rd varsity sport at Sacred Heart and the 20th for women.
Clark said the school is still working out details about the regional training center, which would provide an opportunity for men and women to train all year long. There would be programs for wrestlers at the scholastic level and wrestlers looking to train to compete at the international and Olympic levels.
The only current women’s wrestling program sponsored by a school at the Division I level is Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina.