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School spirit skyrockets during JCU’s first women’s wrestling match

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JCU Sports Information Department
On Nov. 1, JCU’s first women’s wrestling team charged the mats.

On Wed., Nov. 1, history was made at JCU. This year marks the first year that the school has had a women’s wrestling team and the team had their first match in JCU’s main gym against Lourdes University.

Before the match, students, alumni, donors, high school students and other community members could all be seen flocking to the gym. The noise of cheering fans could be heard from far down the hall.

Bella Benz ‘24, who is a member of the team and also the team manager of both the women’s and men’s wrestling teams, stated that “the amount of people there to support us was the most amount I’ve seen at a John Carroll wrestling event and that speaks volumes. It meant so much to those girls who haven’t been supported like that by their schools or otherwise. None of us were expecting it to be that many people, and it really just makes you feel good.”

The atmosphere during the event was electric. The Sweet Carrollines, JCU’s womens’ a capella group, sang the national anthem before the game and the John Carroll University Dance Team performed a hip-hop routine during the match’s halftime. Additionally, thumb wrestling took place during breaks and there was a tug-of-war game between the men’s basketball and men’s wrestling teams. JCU athletics also gave out vintage jackets from the ‘80s to the loudest fan in the crowd. There truly was something to entertain every fan and raise school spirit to new heights.

Looking at the build-up to this historic night, the prep work began last year when the team was being assembled. Benz shared that Coach Hawald was the key factor in bringing women’s wrestling to JCU. “He stuck his neck out for us, and he said ‘I want this women’s program. We need a women’s program.’”

Benz further explained her appreciation for him, stating that “he fought for us every day and he still continues to do so.”

A culmination of his efforts came last year when it was officially decided that women’s wrestling would debut at JCU during the 2023-2024 academic year. With this officially decided, last year was used to recruit for the program, which Benz shared that she was able to help with, as she is the only non-freshman on the team.

Benz also described some of the hurdles that this new program went through. She shared that “with any new program, there is always pushback. Women’s wrestling in general, while it’s on the rise right now, wasn’t always as greatly accepted, especially in the NCAA.”

This lack of support is one reason why the turnout at the match was so appreciated. Benz further shared that “women wrestlers are strong and they are fighters. They have not had it easy; they live in a man’s world.”

Support for this new team also comes from the JCU men’s wrestling team. Aiden Ashburn ‘26, a wrestler for the men’s team said “the addition of women’s wrestling in JCU athletics is a positive and exciting addition that enhanced the overall athletic program.”

Thomas Lunt ‘26, also a member of the men’s team, commented on the sport overall. “I think it is great to grow the sport of wrestling as a whole.” Benz shared how much the support from the men’s team has meant and how special it has been to work with a men’s team that wants to see them grow.

Looking to the program’s future, Benz shared that she hopes the program continues to grow, that the team will have some qualifiers for nationals and that the trajectory of excitement for wrestling continues to grow. Fans can help to achieve this last goal by attending the team’s next home match which is a tri-meet on Dec. 10.

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About the Contributor
Bella Congelio
Bella Congelio, Opinion Editor
Bella Congelio is a sophomore English major from Elyria, Ohio. She has a concentration in professional writing and is minoring in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. In addition to being a campus beat reporter for The Carroll News, she is a member of the Sweet Carrollines and the Theater Club. In her free time, Bella is always reading a book, loves to cook and bake, and is always listening to music.

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