Wrestling for Change

In 2019, Hastings College announced they would be starting a women’s wrestling program. This past year, Hastings College fulfilled that promise when they delivered the inaugural season of their Broncos Women’s Wrestling team. Coached by Cara Romeike, an NAIA national runner up herself, the team fielded nine barrier breaking wrestlers. 

The impact of what the creation of the team meant in the wider conversation of the sports was not lost on the athletes. Many of the girls were the first girls at their high schools to wrestle. They have faced criticism and skepticism from their communities all through their wrestling careers. “I really wanted to wrestle since middle school, but I was told I couldn’t just because I was female,” Junior Jacqueline Carreras said. “I never had the opportunity until now, thanks to my coach.” Romeike said that many of her wrestlers didn’t realize that wrestling collegiately was even an option for women until she made contact with them. 

The move was made as women’s wrestling continues to grow around the country. Hastings College is the 63rd college or university to start a women’s wrestling program. Director of Athletics B.J. Pumroy believes that Nebraska’s formidable market of college wrestling programs make it a natural home for the team. He expects that the sport will soon be sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Pumroy’s prediction is a safe one to make. During the 2018-19 wrestling season, there were 168 female high school wrestlers in Nebraska alone. In the same season, 21,124 girls competed in high school wrestling across the nation. As more institutions add programs, the stigma and negative perception of women’s wrestling around the country is being chipped away. 

The team’s nine wrestlers competed across several weight classes. Three of the team’s wrestlers wrestled in the 2021 NAIA National Invitational which saw hundreds of female athletes from across the country competing over two days. Though this past season’s roster was bare compared to many of its competitors, the Broncos’ coach expects a full off season of recruiting should fill the roster with wrestlers at each weight class. If the recent commitment announcements by the Broncos Women’s Wrestling Twitter account is anything to go by, Romeike is making good on that promise.

These women have overcome countless obstacles throughout their wrestling careers knowing that their sacrifice now will be the stepping stone for countless girls in the future who want to compete in the sport of wrestling. They recognize that societal stigma around girls participating will continue to dissipate as more and more girls compete and sports organizations around the country continue to adopt women’s wrestling programs. They know the cause is worth it.

It’s not often an athlete gets to say they were a part of the first ever team their school fielded in a sport. But nine Hastings College Broncos had the courage to step out and take on that mantle. The weight of this moment is not lost on Romeike, “I’m so grateful to be able to coach and grow a new program [...] Ultimately I just feel like I’m part of history, growing the sport of wrestling and getting to be a part of something so much greater than me.”

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