Iowa Athletics to add women’s wrestling in 2023-24 academic year

Iowa is the first Power Five school to announce the addition of women’s wrestling at the Division I varsity level.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa’s 165-pound Alex Marinelli grapples with Nebraska’s Peyton Robb during a wrestling dual meet between No. 1 Iowa and No. 6 Nebraska at Carver Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. No. 2 Marinelli defeated No. 18 Robb by decision, 9-3, and the Hawkeyes defeated the Cornhuskers, 31-6.

Chloe Peterson, Assistant Sports Editor

Iowa Athletics announced Thursday morning that it will add women’s wrestling as a Division I varsity sport starting in the 2023-24 academic year.

Iowa will be the first Power Five institution to sponsor women’s wrestling at the varsity level. 

“This is an exciting day for the university, our department and the sport of women’s wrestling,” Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said in a release. “Our wrestling history and success makes this a perfect fit. We are confident that at Iowa, our women’s wrestling student-athletes will have the opportunity to compete at the highest level athletically and academically.”

The NCAA classified women’s wrestling as an emerging sport for Division I, II, and III in 2020. There are currently 45 intercollegiate women’s wrestling programs, including five in Iowa: Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant, Waldorf University in Forest City, and William Penn University in Oskaloosa all compete in the NAIA division, and Indian Hills Community College is in the NJCAA.

Iowa held a high school state tournament with 600 girls wrestling in 2020. Currently, 32 states sanction girls wrestling at the high school level.

“This is important to a lot of people for a lot of reasons,” Iowa men’s wrestling head coach Tom Brands said in a release. “This is historic. This needed to happen and it’s appropriate that it is happening first at the University of Iowa. There is no greater place in the world to wrestle than Iowa City, Iowa, and with our new wrestling facility we are prepared to offer world-class training for both our Hawkeye men and women.”

Iowa Athletics previously announced Carver Circle campaign — aimed to raise money for a new, state-of-the-art wrestling facility. The wrestling facility will house both the men’s and women’s wrestling programs, and be connected by tunnel to Carver-Hawkeye Arena. There is not yet a timetable on when the facility will be completed.

The facility will include locker rooms, coaches office spaces, and training space for the men’s and women’s programs. 

Iowa will ultimately offer 22 varsity sports with the addition of women’s wrestling — 14 for women and 8 men’s sports.

The addition of women’s wrestling comes as the University of Iowa reached a settlement with four women’s swimmers — along with two other female athletes involved in wrestling and rugby — who sued the UI in September 2020 for noncompliance of Title IX.

Members of Hawkeye women’s swimming and diving filed the lawsuit after the athletic department announced it was set to cut the sport at the end of the 2020-21 academic year because of a budget deficit caused by COVID-19.

Initially, Barta said Iowa Athletics was facing a budget deficit of around $75 million. After the Big Ten restarted football for the fall 2020 season, the deficit shrank to $40-60 million.

Barta said cutting women’s swimming and diving, along with men’s swimming and diving, tennis, and gymnastics would save the department around $5 million annually.

The swimmers alleged that Iowa is noncompliant with Title IX and opportunities for women athletes. Women made up 53.56 percent of the student body, the lawsuit said, but only received 50.77 percent of the athletic opportunities in 2018-19.

Iowa reinstated women’s swimming and diving in February 2020, but men’s swimming and diving, tennis, and gymnastics stalled at the varsity level at the end of the 2020-21 school year.

Former president Bruce Harreld announced the UI main campus would loan the athletics department $50 million dollars on April 5. According to the university, the money will come from the UI’s cash reserves, and the typically-self sustaining athletics department will pay the loan back in 10-15 years.

Harreld also ended a deal that previously required the athletics department to send the UI main campus $2 million in direct support annually.

Barta projected at a Feb. 15 press conference that start-up and annual costs for women’s wrestling would be somewhere between $750,000 and $1.5 million

“We are committed to gender equity and Title IX compliance,” Barta said in the release. “As the national landscape related to enrollment continues to change, adding women’s wrestling puts us in a better position for the future.”

Barta and Brands will hold a press conference at Carver-Hawkeye Arena Thursday at 11:30 a.m.

This is a developing story. Check back to for updates.