Beginning in the fall, the Gannon University community will have two new varsity sports teams to cheer for.
The school will introduce both a women’s wrestling team and a third classification of competitive cheer in the 2018-2019 academic year.
Lisa Goddard McGuirk, director of athletics, said that introducing a collegiate women’s wrestling program at Gannon will help bridge the gap between amateur and professional levels of competition.
Current statistics estimate that over 14,000 women compete in women’s wrestling at the high school level, and the sport has also been part of the Olympics since 2004.
Gannon will become the 39th program nationally and the first in Pennsylvania to offer women’s wrestling to its students.
Women’s wrestling is currently under review by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for official “emerging sport” status. The Gannon wrestling program will be governed by the Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association and the National Wrestling Coaches Association for its inaugural season.
According to men’s wrestling coach Don Henry, a national search will be posted for the new coaching position within the next few weeks. Henry will maintain his coaching position on the men’s team next season, but until a new coach is hired to oversee the women’s program, he will also serve as the contact for women recruits.
Gunner Loughman, a senior secondary education major and wrestler on the men’s team, said he is looking forward to adding a women’s counterpart next year.
“Growing up, I always wondered why women’s teams were so niche,” he said. “I think it’s a great opportunity and I’m really excited to see how it turns out.”
The competitive cheer team will also be expanding its program next semester.
Currently, Gannon boasts both an all-girl and a co-ed squad, and the team will be adding a third “game day” team in preparation for the April 2019 national championships.
According to Meghan Foran, head coach of the competitive cheer team, the game day competition combines aspects of both cheer and dance. To prepare for the second aspect, the team plans to hire a coach who specializes in dance technique and choreography.
The oversight bodies of collegiate competitive cheerleading, the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) and National Dance Alliance (NDA), will introduce the game day classification at their national championship in April.
Foran said she is excited that Gannon will be fielding a team in the formative stages of the sport.
“We’ll be coming in fairly early, which I think will be great for us,” she said. “It is a really natural fit, and it is a cool new opportunity for us.”
The game day squad has the potential to be either co-ed or all-girl, and Foran said that its classification may alternate depending on the demographic of recruiting classes.
Regardless, the team will have the chance to compete at many of the same competitions of the two more traditional existing competitive cheer squads.
Foran and McGuirk emphasized that Gannon’s club dance team will still operate next year regardless of the addition of the new game day competitive cheer squad, and students interested in dancing at Gannon will now have greater opportunities to decide whether they would like to compete at the varsity or club level.
McGuirk said she is extremely excited to see how the two new teams take shape over the next year.
“To be able to step forward and allow student-athletes to pursue their goals…made sense for us,” she said. “It is all about creating additional opportunities and experiences for prospective students.”