When the University of Iowa announced the introduction of a women’s wrestling program, it immediately opened up the sport’s landscape for female wrestlers looking to take their skills to the collegiate world.
The world of women’s wrestling existed before Iowa, but lacked the authoritarian “takeover” presence that one of the NCAA’s Mount Rushmore wrestling schools possesses.
“When Iowa announced a women’s program, they made a statement,” Gallardo explained. “They told all the other Power Five schools that they were putting them on notice. ‘We’re locked up and loaded, where are you all?'”
Similar to MMA, women’s wrestling doesn’t elicit groans of disgust when brought up, and Iowa’s decision wasn’t welcomed by the community, but there has always been a palpable line of distinction between the comfort of male athletes and that of women. .
Even if the women’s division doesn’t catch fire from the start, the collective “luxury” of the men’s teams is likely to retain and attract new athletes itself.
“If you add a woman to a men’s program, it’s like, ‘Well now we have to find her a locker room and a weigh-in spot, we have to find her this or that,'” Gallardo said. “I think that’s where the ‘tension’ is which almost feels like bureaucracy. It’s very frustrating. I worked at World Team Trials when it was back at NC State, I think in 2019. I had the superlative to work this tournament. I don’t know for the men, but I know that the women had to dress in the toilets. I don’t know if there was a locker room dedicated for them.
Gallardo believes the sport of women’s wrestling recently reached a monumental height that made Iowa’s decision all the more perfect. It’s no longer a sport for parents to rally around “the son they never had”. It has become a sport that women seek and achieve like never before.
“We’re now getting to the point where these young women aren’t just struggling because their brothers struggled or their dad or their uncle,” Gallardo says. “They become the first person in their family to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to do this.’ It’s really great to see them coping in a traditionally male-dominated space.
Iowa fans will no longer have to travel to Lindenwood University to wrestle out of high school, and women will no longer wrestle for playing time. In five years, Gallardo believes more power wrestling universities will embrace women’s programs and that girls starting out in the sport will have the heroes they never had before. Ten years from now, NCAA women’s wrestling could be in the same position as the UFC. Women headlining pay per views, women earning performance bonuses and women stealing the show in a sport that was once exclusively male.
“It’s so important for people to see people who look like them in these spaces. When little girls say: “She looks like me” or “She went through what I went through”. She walked the path that I am walking right now. Having this camaraderie is so special. Having this role model is so important for young women.
For the biggest action in combat sports, sign up TODAY for UFC BATTLE PASS!