Meteoric rise of girls and women’s wrestling on display at Men’s and Women’s Freestyle World Cup in Coralville, Iowa, Dec. 10-11

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Dymond Guilford (USA) action image
Dymond Guilford (USA) will be among the stars on display at the World Cup in Coralville.

November 23, 2022 – It’s a series of fortunate events—a synergy that can’t easily be explained.

Women’s wrestling is surging in popularity around the world, and Iowa City will likely be credited for taking it to the next level. That’s because for the first time ever, men and women will wrestle side by side on an international stage at the 2022 Men’s and Women’s Freestyle World Cup, December 9-11 at the Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa.

The event will take place a little over a year after the University of Iowa became the first NCAA Division I, Power Five conference institution to add women’s wrestling to its athletic program and just months before women’s wrestling will become a fully sanctioned program.

“It’s hard to define the magnitude of this event,” said Clarissa Chun, head coach of the UI women’s wrestling team. “It’s so special and unique that the World Cup is being hosted in Coralville and to know that as it grows, this inaugural event for men and women will always be remembered as starting right here.”

In the past year, the state of Iowa, the University of Iowa, and the world have seen the interest in women’s wrestling grow exponentially—both in participants and spectators, said Think Iowa City President Joshua Schamberger.

Earlier this year, the Iowa Girls’ High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU) officially sanctioned the sport of wrestling for the 2022-23 season. Nearly 2,200 girls now wrestle at the high-school level, according to IGHSAU. Four years ago, that number was just 150.

Chun, a two-time Olympian, has seen firsthand the rise of the sport she loves. She was among the most accomplished international wrestlers on the mat. During her wrestling career, she won five U.S. Open titles, took fifth at the 2008 Beijing Games, and earned a bronze medal at the 2012 London Games. In June, Chun was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member—one of only four females to have received Distinguished Member honors.

“It’s amazing to hear women come up to me and say, ‘I would have loved to wrestle,’” Chun said. “And that’s sad. You can see they have pure love for the sport and want a place to wrestle. The energy at the Iowa State Girls Wrestling Tournament in January gave me chills.”

UI Associate Director of Marketing and Multimedia Kelsey Laverdiere has watched the excitement in women’s athletics multiply with the hiring of Chun. She says it’s been an honor to help trailblaze marketing efforts for women’s athletics and women’s wrestling. “And to know this is happening during the 50-year anniversary of Title IX makes it even more amazing,” she said.

Laverdiere is the executive producer of the film Unshakeable Belief: The Dr. Christine Grant Story, which documents Grant’s work to create equal opportunities for women in college athletics and other state-funded entities. Grant was a Title IX pioneer and the UI’s first women’s athletic director.

During her time at the UI, Laverdiere has helped run several World Cups. She says none have come close to generating the same level of excitement as bringing men and women together for one event at this year’s World Cup. Earlier this month, University of Iowa senior Felicity Taylor was chosen for the United States roster for the World Cup. Taylor has a storied history on the mat—she was a member of the U23 World Team, where she took fifth place at the World Championships in Spain.

Chun says Taylor is ecstatic for the opportunity to compete for Team USA. “Competing on the world stage in front of her family and friends, being from Iowa, and watching it all happen in her own backyard is really special for her.”

With Taylor’s announcement and the inaugural season of UI women’s wrestling fast approaching, Laverdiere sees the momentum building for girls and women in the sport.

“They are going to rock the world and it’s going to help all the other women’s teams garner the attention and support they deserve,” Laverdiere said.

To learn more about the Freestyle and Women’s Wrestling World Cup and to purchase tickets, visit worldcupiowacity.com

About the World Cup
Men’s and women’s freestyle World Cup wrestlers from the United States, Ukraine, Japan, China, Georgia, Iran, and Mongolia will compete on the international stage in Coralville, Iowa, Dec. 9-11. The World Cup is the annual international dual-meet championships. The top five countries to qualify for the Men’s Freestyle World Cup include the United States, Iran, Japan, Georgia, and Mongolia. The top five countries for the women’s teams are Japan, the United States, China, Mongolia, and Ukraine.

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