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Editor’s note: This is 41st in a series counting down the Top 50 moments in Iowa Hawkeyes women’s athletics history in the 50 days leading up to the 50th anniversary of Title IX in June.
Iowa did something in September 2021 no other Power Five athletics department had done — add a women’s wrestling program.
The addition of women’s wrestling was part of the settlement of a Title IX lawsuit, hastening the creation of Iowa’s 13th women’s sport, although athletics director Gary Barta said it was already under consideration.
“As we were looking ahead at those two trends — the emergence of women's wrestling and the growing trend of more women enrolling in college — this just looked like, at that time pre-COVID, like this was something that we would be doing at some time in the future,” Barta said at the time.
The new sport at Iowa came amid women’s wrestling’s prolific growth at the high school level. Participation increased from 6,134 girls in 2009-10 to 21,124 in 2018-19 — the most recent year with numbers available — according to National Federation of State High School Associations data.
Mike Moyer, the executive director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association, called Iowa a “trailblazer” for being the first to add the growing sport.
“Creating this new opportunity for women wrestlers at a university with so much history and tradition in wrestling builds incredible momentum for our sport,” Moyer said in a news release. “Most important, this means more opportunities for more students. This is a win we should all be celebrating.”
About two months after the announcement, Iowa hired two-time Olympian Clarissa Chun as its first head coach. Chun joined the Hawkeyes after working as an assistant coach on the U.S. women’s national team since 2017.
Iowa remains the only Power Five program to sponsor women’s wrestling although Chun has been hopeful more will follow.
“I hope 2024 at the very latest,” Chun told The Gazette in May. “I really challenge everyone to get going, and hopefully next year somebody comes up and steps up to the plate.”
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