Otterbein Rolls Out the Mats for the First Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Program in Central Ohio
Posted Jun 27, 2023
Many athletes want to compete at the college level once they graduate from high school, but for women wrestlers the options are limited.
“Women’s wrestling is one of the fastest growing sports in the country. Right now, there are 50,000 participants at the high school level, and that number is increasing every year,” said Brent Rastetter, head coach of men’s wrestling at Otterbein. “More colleges are adding women’s wrestling, but there isn’t a lot of choice for women wrestlers yet.”
Now there is an exciting new option, as Otterbein has started recruiting athletes for its women’s wrestling team — the first collegiate program in central Ohio. The program will begin varsity competition during the 2024-25 academic year.
There are only 160 collegiate women’s wrestling teams in the U.S., with Otterbein now the 51st school in Division III and sixth across the state of Ohio. Otterbein will be the third Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) school to sponsor women’s wrestling.
Ohio, in particular, has seen a recent surge in participation in high school girls’ wrestling. The Ohio High School Athletic Association sponsored its first state championship in March 2023 and three of the state’s top four high school teams are in central Ohio, Otterbein’s back yard.
Vice President for Student Affairs Bill Fox knew the interest was there but wondered how to give these athletes the opportunity they deserved.
“When a call went out in May for Innovation Fund proposals — recruitment and retention boosting concepts aligned with Otterbein strengths and goals — Student Affairs saw the opportunity to propose the addition of women’s wrestling to offer these underserved women athletes the same opportunities as their male counterparts,” said Fox.
The proposal received broad support from the University’s leaders and was approved to be implemented immediately.
Since announcing the new program on June 15, Rastetter has fielded a steady stream of inquiries. “The response to our announcement has been overwhelmingly positive, from coaches and administrators to prospective student-athletes and families. This community is excited for the opportunity to support and be part of developing Otterbein’s women’s wrestling program.”
National Wrestling Coaches Association Executive Director Mike Moyer was enthusiastic in his support. “I want to applaud the extraordinary efforts of Otterbein University for recognizing the educational value and diversity that women’s wrestling will bring to campus. High school girl’s wrestling is exploding and intercollegiate programs are noted for their high percentage of first-generation college-bound students, who otherwise might not have a chance to pursue a degree. Anything that creates more opportunities for young, aspiring women to compete in college is something that we should all celebrate.”
For Fox, the diversity of the sport is the biggest draw. Across all three NCAA Divisions, wrestling has the highest percentage of first-generation college students of any sport. “Diversity makes a community stronger, whether that community is the team, the campus, or the classroom,” he said.
Building upon the positive team culture and tradition of success in Otterbein’s men’s wrestling program, Head Coach Rastetter is taking on a new role as director of wrestling operations as Otterbein opens the search for a leader for the women’s program and begins campus visits for prospective wrestlers.
“There has been so much good work done to grow this sport in central Ohio and beyond, and we hope that these athletes will come to Otterbein and help us make the first collegiate women’s wrestling program in our region one that recognizes and builds on their accomplishments and furthers their goals,” said Rastetter.
“I am grateful to Coach Rastetter and others for their vision and commitment to excellence as we build a competitive program that attracts wonderful future Cardinals to our campus,” Fox said. “I look forward to welcoming our women wrestlers to campus in Fall 2024!”
Any current or future Cardinal students or families who are interested in the women’s wrestling program should reach out to Coach Rastetter at firstname.lastname@example.org.