STORY BY CAYDEN SANDERS
PHOTO COURTESY FHSU ATHLETICS
Fort Hays State University announced the addition of the first women’s collegiate wrestling team in the state of Kansas and the MIAA at a press conference on Wednesday morning. With the news, Fort Hays joins 63 other colleges in America that offer the sport, including just 25 NCAA DII schools.
Recently the athletics department was looking for a new Men’s Wrestling coach, and current head coach
FHSU Head Men’s Wrestling Coach, Erik Wince, said he pushed the idea in his hiring process.
“When I got hired, we started talking about the addition of women wrestling at Fort Hays State Wrestling, as I pushed the idea of adding it,” Wince said to Tiger Media Network. “The administration wanted to add the sport but didn’t have everything set up to proceed with until now.”
FHSU Athletic Director Curtis Hammeke said the next step the FHSU Administration needs to take in this process would be to find the right coach for Fort Hays to draw in athletes for the program.
Fort Hays not only has to find a new coach, but the administration will also need to look at adding a new locker room in Gross Memorial Collusiem. The team does not have a locker room at the moment, but the athletic department is willing to make the renovation request for the new sport.
“With the addition of the complex renovations out by Lewis field, we plan to move outdoor coaches and their offices out to that building, and with that, it will free up some room to rearrange and put some renovations into the program,” Hammeke said to Tiger Media Network.
The athletics administration hopes to have more student-athletes join in the next school year as they expect to start recruiting right after finding their first head coach for the program. Wince spoke up about having new student-athletes coming to Fort Hays State.
“We will be looking at athletes within the state of Kansas because the high school and middle school levels are going, but also look at having athletes from a regional level with our regional tuition will help us recruit regionally as well,” he said.
With that, the Fort Hays administration said there would be scholarships awarded to athletes who come to Fort Hays State University. Currently, the NCAA allows a school to offer nine scholarships to men’s wrestlers, while the women’s programs are allowed to have ten. At this moment, Fort Hays does not have a number of scholarships that will be awarded in the first inaugural season.
In addition to building a new women’s program, Wince thinks the addition will be an excellent opportunity for the men’s team as they will both be competing together not only for All-Americans on the mat but also in the classroom. Wince said he also hopes to get Tiger wrestlers to try and be a part of the American Wrestling team, as that has been his goal since joining the FHSU staff in 2020.
MIAA Commissioner Mike Racey was also present at the press conference and spoke on behalf of the MIAA regarding FHSU creating a women’s wrestling program – which will be the first in the league.
“We [The MIAA] are excited to have Fort Hays be the first to offer women’s wrestling; we feel that having Fort Hays having a program here soon, other schools within the MIAA will have women wrestling as well,” Racy said to TMN.
Racy said he hopes to have other institutions within the MIAA follow suit by adding women’s wrestling. He also hopes MIAA schools that don’t have men’s wrestling to consider adding the program within the next couple of years. Currently, the MIAA only has five wrestling teams in its conference on the men’s side: Central Missouri, Central Oklahoma, Nebraska Kearney, Newman, and Fort Hays State.
“The MIAA is excited that we are starting to see Women’s Wrestling start becoming a popular sport throughout the country; we want to be one of the conferences to lead in this historic moment,” Racy said. “If other schools follow up with what Fort Hays is leading in, I expect to see others coming within the next couple of months, and in the next few short years, we will have a conference schedule of teams, with a championship on the line within the 2025 or 2026 seasons at the latest.”
Until then, the FHSU women’s wrestling program will see a mixed competition schedule for the first couple of years, similar to what was done with men’s and women’s soccer when they were added.
“In the first couple of years of soccer being around, we had NAIA schools and some other teams; I expect the same thing with women’s wrestling,” Hammeke said.
Wince thinks there will still be opportunities for great competition as he believes the program will see other DII teams in Chadron State and Colorado Mesa when the program starts.
“Not only that, but I could see Fort Hays taking on a big and new program of Iowa Universities Women’s wrestling program, as the Hawkeyes are one of four division I programs with women’s wrestling in the nation,” Wince said.