Iowa coach Tom Brands: It's time for NCAA to support women's wrestling

Aaron Young
Hawk Central

University of Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands wrote a letter to the NCAA that addresses how "it is long overdue for women to share in the opportunities afforded by this great sport."

Iowa head coach Tom Brands speaks to reporters during wrestling media day at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015.

In his letter dated June 27, Brands notes the "storied wrestling legacy" at Iowa: 23 NCAA team championships, 80-plus individual national titles, 100-plus All-Americans and several World and Olympic champs.

"For more than 100 years, the University of Iowa has recognized the benefits of wrestling and has seen firsthand how the sport impacts athletes of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds," Brands wrote.

But the 13th-year Hawkeye coach wants the NCAA to let women join in nationally at the collegiate level.

"To empower women both athletically and academically," Brands wrote, "we call upon the NCAA to support female wrestling, beginning with recognizing women's wrestling under emerging sport status for the upcoming season."

Chris Brewer, assistant sports information director at Iowa, confirmed in a text message Monday night that the letter is authentic.

RELATED: Inside the relentlessly intricate world of Iowa's Tom Brands

The NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics is in charge of identifying and managing the progress of emerging sports for women. What exactly is considered an emerging sport, though? 

"An emerging sport is a women’s sport recognized by the NCAA that is intended to help schools provide more athletics opportunities for women and more sport-sponsorship options for the institutions, and also help that sport achieve NCAA championship status," the NCAA said.

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According to the NCAA, "bylaws require that emerging sports must gain championship status within 10 years or show steady progress toward that goal to remain on the list."

The NCAA Emerging Sports for Women program was created in 1994 to provide a fast track for eligible women’s sports to become full-fledged NCAA championship events. So far, five sports have reached NCAA championship status: rowing, ice hockey, water polo, bowling and beach volleyball.

There are currently three sports still in consideration: equestrian, rugby and triathlon.

Last year, 13,496 girls nationwide wrestled, according to the Federation of State High School Associations. Six states host state girls' wrestling tournaments, while Iowa and 38 other states allow girls to wrestle on boys’ teams.

MORE: Could Iowa sanction girls' high school wrestling?

Terry Steiner, head coach of the U.S. women's national team, told the Register in February that "women's wrestling has been the fastest growing sport at the high school level."

“If we’re really trying to grow the numbers, you can’t ask a girl to come onto a boys’ team," Steiner said.

" ... The only way to truly grow it is to separate it.”

More information about the NCAA Emerging Sports for Women process can be found here.

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