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Navigating limited opportunities in women’s wrestling

Earlier this year, Reed High School held Northern Nevada’s first ever state-sanctioned girls’ wrestling competition. KUNR Youth Media’s Kade Collins spoke to Celina Cooke, a state champion and recent graduate of Reed High, about the female wrestling scene.

Celina Cooke faces the camera with her right hand raised in a "Rock On" symbol in a blue singlet in front of a white background.
Nick Stewart
KUNR Public Radio
Celina Cooke poses for the camera in her Reed High singlet.

Celina Cooke is a regional star in girls’ wrestling. As Cooke competed throughout high school, she watched her school’s program expand from eight girls to 20. Despite new opportunities on a local level, Cooke feels that there is a lack of opportunity nationally. In her junior year, Cooke started her search for a college team to join, but she was underwhelmed.

“Women’s wrestling is an emerging sport recognized collegiately, but as for options, the options are very limited,” Cooke said.

According to the National Wrestling Coaches Association, it’s one of the fastest-growing sports in the U.S., but there are only 64 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) women’s teams. There are only four Division I schools.

For perspective, NCAA men’s wrestling has 81 D-I programs.

Cooke described the ideal relationship between male and female teams.

“I’m a big believer that women’s wrestling and men’s wrestling should be a copacetic relationship," Cooke said. "For example, the school I’m signed to, the men’s and women’s teams are really close without sharing the same coach, so they’re clearly two separate programs, but they still help each other to be better.”

Out of her selection pool, Cooke signed to Colorado Mesa University. She’s set to wrestle for Mesa’s team this upcoming season and help move women’s sports more into the spotlight.

Kade Collins is a reporter for KUNR Youth Media and a recent graduate of the Academy of Arts, Careers, and Technology, and a freshman at the University of Nevada, Reno. KUNR Youth Media is a special partnership with the Washoe County School District and Report for America to train the next generation of journalists.

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