Florida A&M University goes down in history as the longest active Historically Black College & University (HBCU) in the nation with a collegiate wrestling men’s and women’s wrestling program. However, FAMU is the first and only HBCU to have a women’s wrestling team.
In 2000, FAMU professor Thomas White started the wrestling program for women and joined the National Collegiate Wrestlers Association (NCWA). He is still with the program today and has built it up alongside secondary coach, Fred Simmons.
The wrestling program at FAMU is also open to women at Tallahassee Community College and Florida State University. The team wrestles against other universities with strong programs such as The University of Central Florida, The University of South Florida and The University of Florida.
Wrestling at FAMU is not sponsored by the athletic program and coaches are not paid by the university. This program is purely run on the love of the sport and the coaches’ relentless dedication to create national champions.
The team practices at the campus recreational center from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Since the coaches are faculty and staff on campus, they must work around their teaching schedules to maintain the commitment to both their job and team.
FAMU student wrestler, Asia Rona, a third-year political science major, has been wrestling for the team for three years and wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I wanted to wrestle at FAMU because it is an amazing program,” said Rona. “Wrestling at FAMU allows me to compete at a national level while also having the opportunity to experience learning at the number one HBCU to engage in all the culture and opportunities the university provides.”
A driving factor for the team is the dedication and support from the two coaches. The time, effort, and support they have given over the years to the program has shaped young women into amazing athletes.
Just four years ago, in tournaments the women on the team had to wrestle boys in their weight class because women’s wrestling is limited. Wrestling is often underrepresented at HBCUs, but FAMU is doing their part to keep their women recognized and active.
An anonymous FAMU student felt that the women’s wrestling team doesn’t receive the recognition they deserve.
“It seems a little unfair that FAMU athletics doesn’t support the wrestling team or sponsor them like other teams,” said the source. “I’ve been to a match or two and it’s just sad because they have potential and great athletes. If they get the support they need, I think the program will strengthen tremendously.”
It has been challenging for the women at FAMU to grow their program without solid support, but their underlying resilience to better the team everyday and establish a better program with the help of their coaches still prevails.
The next event for women’s wrestling is the Annual Seminole Rattler Invitational Tournament. It will take place Saturday, February 17th at 9am in the campus recreational center. The rest of their schedule can be found on their Instagram page @famuwrestling.
The women’s team is always looking for and accepting new and experienced wrestlers. For more information visit their Instagram page.