A cross section of business and community leaders from across the Palmetto State announced the formation of a statewide chapter of Wrestlers in Business Network.
The group’s goal is to develop networking and business opportunities, while serving as an advocate for the sport.
One of the overarching goals of this group is to promote women’s wrestling in South Carolina on the club, high school and college level, said Chris Collins, who is serving as the President for the South Carolina chapter of Wrestlers in Business Network. The group is the state chapter of the national organization of the same name and is working with Friends of Clemson Wrestling, National Wrestling Coaches Association and Wrestle like a Girl in promoting the sport.
The low costs, physical challenges and diversity of athletes make it an appealing draw for athletic programs, he said.
“We want to create more opportunities for young women to take part in wrestling and to encourage them to be successful,” Collins said. “On the eve of the Summer Olympics, we felt this was an opportune time to announce our plans.”
The state chapter of Wrestlers in Business Network will be holding events such as a golf tournament in the coming months to help raise funds and awareness for the sport. In addition, it is holding a membership drive through the start of August with 50% off through the start of August by using promo code 50%WIBNSCA at www.wrestlersinbusiness.org/southcarolina.
Sally Roberts, founder and CEO of Wrestle Like a Girl, said the efforts in South Carolina are another sign that girls’ and women’s wrestling is gaining more and more support. The number of girls wrestling at the high school level across the country has almost doubled in the past five years to 32,000 athletes, and the sport is gaining momentum.
“The sport is growing because wrestling is for everybody, there is a place for everyone, regardless of sex on the wrestling mat,” Roberts said. “It’s primed for growth. Interest creates opportunity and if we build it, they will come. If young women can see it, they can be it.”
Tim Morrissey, a former Clemson All-American wrestler and a founder of Friends of Clemson Wrestling, said more and more teens and women are taking part in wrestling. Clemson has a club wrestling program and there has been an increase in interest from women on campus to take part in the past few years.
“South Carolina is really a trailblazer when it comes to women’s wrestling,” he said.
The rise in women wrestling comes at an interesting juncture. Presbyterian College is the only South Carolina college to offer a Division I women’s wrestling.
Matt vandenBerg, president of Presbyterian College, said the school’s decision to add the first Division I women’s wrestling program was a strong one.
“As a former high school wrestler, I deeply appreciate the life lessons that wrestling imparted on me, including the criticality of mental toughness, discipline, focus, personal responsibility, and physical fitness in achieving excellence,” he said. “Girls and women deserve to benefit equally from wrestling’s invaluable lessons and educational opportunities. At PC, we believe sports are for everyone, and we are exceedingly proud to serve as a spark that sets the nation ablaze with enthusiasm for Division I women’s wrestling.”
Clemson had a varsity men’s program from 1975 to 1995 before it was dropped in order to get the school in compliance with Title IX, which requires equal funding for men’s and women’s athletics.
Matt Marcenelle, another founding member of Friends of Clemson Wrestling, said their organization was originally started in 2007 to bring former wrestlers back together for reunions, but by 2010 morphed into an organized effort to restart an official varsity program. In the past few years, the organization has become a champion of women’s wrestling.
“Wrestling is a sport that is very special. It teaches people so many things that stay with them through the rest of their lives,” Marcenelle said.
Collins, who wrestled collegiately at the University of North Carolina, said the group’s main aim is to promote and educate about the sport in South Carolina. By teaching people about it, the next steps would be to create more opportunities for high school teams and more college teams.
According to stats from the National Wrestling Coaches Association, the number of women who wrestle in high school grew from 804 to 21,124 between 1994 and 2019; The NJCAA announced it would recognize Women’s Wrestling as an emerging sport in 2020; in 2019 the Committee on Women’s Athletics recommended Emerging Sports Status for Women’s Wrestling to the NCAA; there are more than 70 collegiate programs in the country and women’s wrestling is now an Olympic sports.
In addition, 32 states sanction an official scholastic high school championship: Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
The South Carolina High School League is current reviewing the future of sanctioning girls wrestling, but right now any females who want to wrestle, must do so on “boys” teams. In 2020, Mya’ah Vincent of Irmo High School became the first woman to win an individual state championship in South Carolina.
“We are excited to help grow the sport in South Carolina and foster the appreciation for wrestling here,” Collins said.
About Wrestlers in Business Network
Wrestlers in Business Network is a non-profit organization that strives to unite the thousands of wrestlers that have retired from the sport and are now in their respective careers. It started as a networking group on LinkedIn. Since then, the group has evolved into a more prominent, member-focused organization that cares about supporting current & former wrestlers and the sport. Get more at www.wrestlersinbusiness.org.