Originally published in Castine Patriot, January 19, 2023
MMA to elevate club wrestling to varsity status for men and women
Maine Maritime Academy is adding wrestling to its roster of men’s and women’s varsity sport offerings. The move was announced by Maine Maritime President Jerry Paul January 17, according to a press release.
Men’s and women’s wrestling is currently a club sport at the Academy, competing in the National Club Wrestling Association. The program will continue in the NCWA for one more year before moving to NCAA competition in the 2024-2025 season.
“As a long-time former wrestler I know the unique aspects of this sport and the special athletes who call it their own,” said Paul. “We are particularly proud to restore this varsity tradition for young men at the Academy while becoming the first institution in the state to offer a women’s wrestling program, creating opportunities for the athletes competing in America’s fastest growing sport. MMA is a perfect platform for the success of all committed wrestlers to make their mark at the college level while earning a world-class degree and building for a prosperous professional career.”
Tricia Carver, MMA Associate Director of Athletics and Senior Woman Administrator , said, “To announce the addition of wrestling—women’s AND men’s—in 2023 as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX is perhaps the greatest honor we can give the piece of legislation that changed everything for women in sports.”
Last season, the club fielded 18 wrestlers, including the Academy’s first female wrestler, Jenna Willard. In the 2021-2022 campaign, the team competed in five regular season Invitationals before qualifying for the NCWA Northeast Conference Championship. At the tournament, six wrestlers qualified for the NCWA National Championship held in Texas, and Willard was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler in the Women’s Division.
Wrestling is part of the sports tradition at the Academy. Maine Maritime fielded a men’s wrestling team from 1967 to 1979. The Academy has five Hall of Fame members that were associated with wrestling, including William Mottola, who the Mariners Athletics Hall of Fame is named after. The Mariners restarted wrestling as a club program for the 2018-2019 season.
Maine Maritime will look to hire a coach for each team this spring with a planned start date in July to continue to expand the rosters as the programs transition into varsity sports.