STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW)- UW-Stevens Point has a new team on the mat, the first of their kind in the entire Midwest.
The UW-Stevens Point women's wrestling team at a practice in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, on December 5, 2019. (WSAW)
"We do have a vision in mind that we want to be at in a few years,” said Johnny Johnson, UWSP wrestling head coach.
Nekoosa native Brooke Thurber knew UWSP was where she wanted to go to college. However, in doing so, she never had the opportunity to pursue her passion, wrestling, at the collegiate level.
That is until this year.
"It's really just been an amazing experience,” said Thurber. “I never thought I was going to get the opportunity to be on a women's wrestling team."
UWSP is the first public institution in the Midwest to offer women's wrestling as a sanctioned sport.
When the idea of adding new sports was raised by the Pointers athletic department over a year ago, Johnson, head coach of UWSP wrestling for 20 plus seasons, envisioned a unique opportunity he could offer to young women that wasn't feasible before.
"Most of the collegiate programs out there are at private institutions,” Johnson explained. “So quite honestly from a financial standpoint when you're looking at college athletes going to school that aren't getting scholarships, the cost of school is a big difference."
The team has experienced growing pains, but also made progress already in their young season. Just as important as wins and losses though, is the opportunity to be trail-blazers for other potential women's wrestling programs across the area.
"I think it's cool that we were the first public school,” said Thurber. “And I'm hoping a lot more other public schools give that opportunity to more girls that maybe don't have the opportunities because of the expenses of private colleges."
"The amount of girls that are wrestling now out there is growing so fast that they're going to need places to go,” says Johnson. “They're going to need opportunities to compete at the collegiate level, and I do hope that more programs add."
As for that vision Johnson mentioned before, he has a very clear idea about what it looks like.
“Our goal is that after they graduate, get their degree and go on, that they're better people because of the things that they learned through wrestling. If you happen to win titles along the way, that's kind of the icing on the cake."