HAYS, Kan. (KSNW) — Fort Hays State University is adding women’s wrestling to its athletics program, with competition beginning in 2024-25.

Fort Hays State will be the first NCAA school in Kansas to offer the sport as a varsity program in intercollegiate athletics. FHSU will also be the first school in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) to add the sport.

FHSU President Tisa Mason made the announcement Wednesday. The addition will give Fort Hays State 17 intercollegiate athletic programs — nine women’s and eight men’s.

This is the first addition to FHSU athletics since men’s and women’s soccer began competition in 2011.

When the 2024-25 academic year comes, Fort Hays State will have three sports during the winter season in which both genders compete, including wrestling, basketball, and indoor track and field.

The university has begun the search for a head coach. Once hired, the coach will have at least a year to recruit and build a roster.

Women’s wrestling is an NCAA Emerging Sport. There are currently 63 women’s wrestling programs at NCAA member institutions either established or in the process of being added, aside from the announcement by FHSU today, which includes four NCAA Division I schools, 25 NCAA Division II schools, and 34 NCAA Division III schools.

Currently, all three NCAA divisions are part of the National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Coalition (NCWWC), which completed its third year of holding the NCWWC National Championships in 2022. McKendree University (Ill.), which is an NCAA Division II affiliate, has won the national team title all three years of the championship’s existence. Last year, 40 teams competed in four regional qualifiers for the NCWWC Championships.

There are currently six women’s wrestling programs at the collegiate level in Kansas right now. Baker University, Central Christian College, Friends University, Ottawa University, and University of Saint Mary compete are members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). Northwest Kansas Technical College is a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).

The NAIA will hold its inaugural Women’s Wrestling Championship in 2023. For three years (2020-2022), the organization has held a National Wrestling Invitational and it will transition to championship status this year. According to the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) website, there are 42 women’s wrestling schools affiliated with the NAIA. Women’s wrestling is still an emerging sport at the NJCAA level, like the NCAA.

Kansas is one of the fastest-growing states in the nation for girls wrestling. Last year, Kansas had over 1,400 participants in girls wrestling at the high school level. This year will mark the fourth year the state activities association will hold a state championship for girls wrestling. All classifications were included in the inaugural state championship three years ago, but there have been two championship classifications with 5-6A classes combined and 1-4A classes combined for the past two years.