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A female wrestler has been blocked from competing against men. Now the ACLU is involved.
Marina Goocher had a successful high school career wrestling against male competition, but NCWA rules prohibit her from doing so in college at the University of Michigan Dearborn. (Image source: David Herndon's YouTube video screenshot)

A female wrestler has been blocked from competing against men. Now the ACLU is involved.

University of Michigan-Dearborn wrestler Marina Goocher has won two National Collegiate Wrestling Association women’s championships. Now, she wants to take her shot at the men’s title.

But NCWA policy clearly forbids women from practicing or competing against men.

So, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Women’s Law Center and the Women’s Sports Foundation are fighting to change the policy. Here is the full letter from the ACLU to the NCWA.

What does the policy say?

From the NCWA Best Practices:

"This should go with out saying, but from time to time questions arise concerning male vs. female competition.

The rule is simple.  Women wrestle women, men wrestle men in practice and competition. Period.

Our rules and insurance coverages do not permit male vs. female practice or competition.

This type of combative activity is not covered under your NCWA provided insurance.

Any competition or combative practice will void your liability and injury coverage.

The NCWA has developed two separate and distinct divisions for the purpose of providing men and women the opportunity to compete in wrestling at the college level while protecting athletes from injury or possible abuse.

Based upon your individual school policy, men and women may practice in the same wrestling room, but must have a combative practice partner of the same sex." 

Why does she want to do this?

Her college doesn’t have a women’s team, and there are no other female wrestlers in Goocher’s weight class in her NCWA region. As a result, she can't compete during the regular season; she can only wrestle in postseason tournaments.

She said she has been welcomed and supported by the men’s team at UM-Dearborn, and only the NCWA policy is keeping her from competing.

“Ever since I can remember, wrestling has been a central part of my life and my identity,” Goocher said in a statement. “When I enrolled in college, the wrestling coach and the wrestlers, all of whom were men, warmly welcomed me because they knew I could help the team win. But right now, as the wrestling season begins, I have to sit on the bench the entire regular season simply because I am a woman.”

Goocher won more than 100 matches against males in high school, and an ACLU attorney thinks the NCWA policy is based on outdated stereotypes.

“NCWA’s rule is based on antiquated gender stereotypes, including assumptions about differences in strength between male and female athletes and outdated notions about the propriety of physical contact between men and women,” said Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project.

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