January 27, 2013

SEPPINNI: Wrestling With Equal Opportunity: Bring Women’s Wrestling to Cornell

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My little sister, Olivia, is a champion. She has been wrestling competitively for six years. As captain of an otherwise all-boys varsity high school wrestling team, she has placed first in four tournaments this year and is top-ranked in California in her weight class. But why should you care? Perhaps I’m just an extremely proud big brother. While this might be true, the reason I mention all of this is because there is something important at stake — that oft-repeated Cornell motto, “Any person, any study.” Currently, women cannot wrestle at Cornell. Women who want to attend our university and find instruction in wrestling are unable to do so, unlike their male counterparts.

Were she to attend Cornell University next year, my sister, and thousands of young women like her, would be forced to end their athletic careers because the University does not have a women’s wrestling team. Establishing a Cornell University women’s wrestling team would provide opportunities for aspiring young women to pursue their athletic interests and allow the University to more fully embody Ezra Cornell’s founding vision.

Women’s wrestling is among the fastest growing sports in the world. In 2004, women’s wrestling became an Olympic sport. Clarissa Chun of the United States won a bronze medal in the 2012 London Olympic Games. De­spite these advances, there are scant opportunities for talented female wrestlers to pursue their sport after graduating from high school. Cornell already has one of the top wrestling programs in the United States. The established resources and facilities that exist for the men provide the University with an uniquely privileged starting point from which a successful women’s team could be built at a relatively low cost.

Women’s teams already exist at Cornell in sports such as basketball, ice hockey and lacrosse. Why not expand Cornell’s varsity athletic offerings to include women’s wrestling and, by doing so, attract more of the world’s smartest athletes to the University?

Cornell has the proud distinction of being the first co-educational Ivy League school. This obliges the University to increase co-educational opportunities wherever it is within reason to do so. Perhaps if Cornell establishes a women’s wrestling team and begins producing Olympic champions every few years, other Ivy League schools will take note. Imagine the pride one would feel knowing that her or his alma mater initiated the change that incorporated a previously nationally excluded sport into an established athletic conference, such as the Ivy League.

If you agree that Cornell should establish a women’s wrestling team, I urge you to call and email President Skorton ((607) 255-5201, president@cornell.edu) and Cornell’s athletic director, Andy Noel ((607) 255-8832, jan16@cornell.edu) to voice your support.

It’s not a matter of if varsity women’s wrestling will become a mainstay on U.S. college campuses; this will eventually happen.  What is at stake is whether Cornell will be known as the university that precipitated and accelerated this change.

Original Author: S.D. Seppinni