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UM-Dearborn student's fight to wrestle co-ed stalls at league office

UM-Dearborn restler Marina Goocher
Courtesy of the ACLU of Michigan
UM-Dearborn wrestler Marina Goocher

The organization that oversees college wrestling at the club sports level is standing by its policy forbidding co-ed wrestling in sanctioned competitions.

Marina Goocher is a junior at the University of Michigan –Dearborn. She's the only woman on the school's club wrestling team, and the only female wrestler in the league's Midwest conference of schools.

But Goocher doesn't get to wrestle in league competitions. She has asked the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA) to change its rules, and allow her to wrestle men.

The only time in her collegiate career Goocher has had a chance to wrestle is at national NCWA competitions, where there are other women competing. In her first two years at UM-Dearborn, she has won the national championship twice.

But the group is standing by its current policy so far. “The NCWA is designed to build a women’s league, not have women wrestle men,” said NCWA Executive Director Jim Giunta.

On Tuesday, the NCWA responded to a letter sent on Goocher’s behalf by the Michigan ACLU, the National Women’s Law Center, and the Women’s Sports Foundation. It asked the NCWA to change its policy so that Goocher would have more chances to wrestle during the season.

They arue that Goocher is effectively sidelined during league competitions because she’s a woman. “Women wrestlers like Marina shouldn’t have to forego equal opportunities just because there isn’t enough female participation in the sport,” said Bonsitu Kitaba of the Michigan ACLU.

Giunta argues that having distinct men's and women's divisions within the NCWA helps promote the growth of women’s wrestling, and requiring schools to have a separate women's club team could spur more interest from other women on campus.

But the ACLU says Goocher should have the same opportunities to wrestle without being individually tasked with growing a women's team from the ground up. Kitaba says the ACLU still wants try and work out a solution with the NCWA, but is also evaluating all its options, including a potential lawsuit.

Goocher said in an interview with Michigan Radio’s Stateside that she feels supported by her coach and male teammates at UM-Dearborn, and just wants the same opportunities to wrestle as her teammates. 

You can read the ACLU’s letter to the NCWA here, and the NCWA’s response here

Tyler Scott is the weekend afternoon host at Michigan Public, though you can often hear him filling in at other times during the week. Tyler started in radio at age 18, as a board operator at WMLM 1520AM in Alma, Michigan, where he later became host of The Morning Show.
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