Effort to increase enrollment spurs decision to add women's wrestling at UWSP

STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) -- About a year ago, while facing a decline in enrollment, administrators at UW-Stevens Point made the decision to begin looking into adding new sports at the university. It was Pointers head wrestling coach Johnny Johnson who first suggested the idea of adding a women's wrestling program.

"I actually proposed it to our athletic director to consider and look at the possibility of adding women's wrestling because I know it's an emerging sport and I've been around wrestling for a long time and just seen how much its grown," Johnson said. "I thought it would be a good fit for us."

It didn't take long for those involved, including UWSP Athletic Director Brad Duckworth, to realize that women's wrestling wasn't just a good fit, it was a perfect fit.

"The more we started looking through and checking off the boxes of what we wanted in sport expansion, women's wrestling hit every target," Duckworth said. "Then as I talked to coach Johnson more, the excitement grew, his excitement to coach the team grew. We had the infrastructure, and the next thing you knew, we had a team."

Johnson will now serve as head coach for both the men's and women's teams, starting next year.

"They (women) wrestle a different style than college men do, but that style isn't going to be a problem for me because that's what I wrestled when I was done competing for college. I was wrestling freestyle internationally. So that's not going to be a real big issue for me," Johnson said.

It doesn't look like finding future Pointers has been an issue either. UWSP is the first public university in the Midwest to offer women's wrestling. Giving potential recruits an affordable opportunity to continue their academic and athletic career.

"Having an opportunity to meet with the first ever recruit who came to campus for women's wrestling was a surreal feeling. To tell her and her family, no matter what happens, you're the first ever on campus visit for a sport at Stevens Point. That's crazy," Duckworth said.

Should things go well, and Duckworth believes it will, there's always a chance that more sports could be added at UWSP in the coming years.

"There are sports out there on both genders, men and women, that make sense for Stevens Point to have."