In the wrestling room, on the second floor of Koehler Fieldhouse, the men are trained by coach Anibal Nieves. In this black, red and grey place the athletes are running, stretching and of course wrestling. And it is this specific place they will share next Fall with a brand new women’s wrestling team.
The warrior family expands and Nieves is one of the reasons why. He earned All-America accolades at East Stroudsburg University in 1989 and wrestled twice at the Olympic Games in 1992 and 1996.
“I knew the development of wrestling to women would happen at ESU…but not that quicker !” he explained.
During the interview for his current job, one year ago, Director of Athletics Gary Gray saw something interesting in the coach’s resume: he was currently teaching this sport to college girls.
“He was very interesting and has the background,” said Gray.
Therefore, numbers and interests were looked at. It was found out that since 1994, the number of women who wrestled in high school has grown from 804 to 16,562.
This growing of women wrestling, out of other reasons, was seen as an opportunity: « We can be successful in this sport and we are very excited about it. »
Coach Nieves explained that women’s wrestling at the college level is in the process of development in the US and especially in the East. According to him, the mentality is the reason why it was postponed.
“Here, some people don’t get it.” As it is a contact sport, involving grabbing and touching, people are often asking him how can he teaches this to women.
“I teach them as I do for the men.” Coach looks at women as an athlete and for him, it is the same than with men.
The Women’s College Wrestling Association started in the late 90s with a small group of colleges and is now composed of around 30 colleges which shows how fast it grows and how mentality is changing.
“Expand women’s sports has always been a priority for ESU,” said the Director. Indeed, 56% of undergraduates students are females so the faculty makes sure to represent them well. Currently, there are seven men’s sports and eleven women’s team sports for students athletes.
Means have been unlocked to develop this new team. For instance, a new graduate assistant, Anna Ernst, is helping coach organizing practices, recruiting and so on.
For this first year, the team will hopefully be composed of 20 athletes from local high schools. They are targeting close states such as New Jersey, Massachusetts and of course Pennsylvania.
“A lot of women’s wrestling team at the college level are out west. So having this here for girls in this part of the country is a good opportunity.”
The women’s team and the men’s team will train separately as they have different strength and don’t move the same. However, the two teams are meant to meet together for certain technical days.
“The launching of this new team won’t hurt the men’s team, » said Gray, « I think our guys will be the biggest supporters of the women’s wrestling team.”
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