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UM Dearborn woman wrestler fights for chance to compete against men

Courtesy of the ACLU of Michigan
Wrestler Marina Goocher

She wants to wrestle with the University of Michigan-Dearborn men’s team, but the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA) says its rules are clear: “Women wrestle women, men wrestle men in practice and competition. Period.”

Now wrestler Marina Goocher has the ACLU on her side in her fight to compete against the men. That includes staff attorney Bonsitu Kitaba with the ACLU of Michigan.

Listen to their conversation with Stateside’s Cynthia Canty above, or read highlights from their discussion below.

On why Goocher wants to be on the men’s team

“With NCWA, there’s not an equal opportunity for men and females in wrestling, which means that throughout the season, the guys have the ability to compete multiple times.”

“And, since I’m only technically allowed to wrestle females, I can still be on the team, but I have to be benched and can’t wrestle until nationals. So basically, even though there’s a whole bunch of guys in my area to wrestle, I have to sit around and I can only compete the one time, which is nationals.

“So I’m kind of fighting for, like, equal opportunities. So that’s why I want to be able to wrestle guys, just because I want to be able to wrestle. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a guy or a girl.”

On what’s in the letter the ACLU, the National Women’s Law Center, and the Women’s Sports Foundation sent to the NCWA 

“The letter that we sent to the National Collegiate Wrestling Association essentially outlines Marina’s story and highlights that she is a national championship wrestler, but because there are no other women on the U of M-Dearborn team, and actually no other women wrestlers in the Great Lakes Conference in which her team competes, she is precluded from wrestling during the regular season and only has one opportunity at the end of the year to compete.”

“And ... the law is clear that women should be given equal opportunities to participate in athletics, including contact sports like wrestling, even if there are no women’s teams.”

“So the letter goes through and highlights what NCWA’s policies are – like you stated, ‘Women wrestle women, men wrestle men. Period’ – and how that actually deprives many women across that athletic association of an opportunity to compete on the same playing field as their male counterparts.”

Listen above for the full conversation. You'll hear what the National Collegiate Athletic Association has to do with Goocher's fight to wrestle.

Stateside reached out to the National Collegiate Wrestling Association, based in Dallas. Here’s what we heard back in an email:

The core mission of the NCWA is to expand collegiate wrestling opportunities for all participants. The NCWA encourages and supports wrestling programs developed through university sports club departments so that more student-athletes may pursue their athletic, academic, and leadership goals. The NCWA provides equal opportunities for men and women to excel and be awarded All-American honors and encourages universities to develop and grow both men’s and women’s programs. The NCWA is a privately held association that promotes the sport of amateur wrestling at all levels. It receives no state or federal money and is principally composed of volunteers, mostly wrestling enthusiasts, coaches, and former wrestlers. The NCWA supports both its men’s and women’s divisions equally and is the only governing body that offers equal opportunity to both men and women to compete in wrestling at the college level. We do wish we had been afforded time to respond to the ACLU’s letter before its distribution to the media. Having championed women in wrestling since before forming the women’s division in 2006 the NCWA is proud of the strength, growth, and diversity of its women’s programs and takes seriously charges of discrimination. — Jim Giunta, executive director of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association

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