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Wrestling Scholarships for College

Here’s the unfiltered truth about full-ride wrestling scholarships: they’re rare. The main reason being that men’s wrestling is an equivalency sport. In other words, NCAA Division 1 and 2 coaches are given a pool of scholarship money and can divide it up among recruits and current wrestlers however they like. So instead of offering full rides to a few wrestlers, it’s more common for them to divide their funds into partial scholarships across multiple athletes. Even though NCAA Division 3 coaches can’t offer athletic aid, they tend to create scholarship packages with other sources of money. In this section, we uncover all the facts when it comes to scholarships for wrestling.   

How many college scholarships are offered for wrestling?

Division Level Number of Teams Total Athletes in Divsion Average Team Size Scholarships Limit Per Team Scholarship Limit Type
NCAA D1 78 2,461 32 9.9 Equivalency
NCAA D2 64 1,929 33 9 Equivalency
NCAA D3 109 2,828 27 - N/A
NAIA 61 1,806 31 8 Equivalency
NJCAA 62 894 21 20 Equivalency
NCWA 162 650 22 - N/A
Totals 536 10,568 29    

Men’s wrestling is an equivalency sport, which means there isn’t a strict number of athletes who need to be on scholarship. Instead, each division is given an allocated number of scholarships and the coach decides how to divide the money up. For example, if there are 32 people on a team, instead of offering 9 full rides, the coach can choose to award partial scholarships to several athletes. For this reason, most men’s wrestlers are on partial athletic scholarships. Keep in mind, though, that these scholarship limits are the maximum amount coaches can offer. Some programs aren’t fully funded and may have fewer wrestling scholarships than listed above. 

The NCAA D1 Council adopted legislation that loosened regulation regarding need-based aid and academic scholarships that are not tied to athletic ability. Effective August 1, 2020, teams in equivalency sports like wrestling will not have any athletes’ need- and academic-based aid count against a team’s maximum athletic scholarship limit. Before this new rule, athletes had to meet certain criteria for their additional aid to not be counted against a team’s athletic scholarship limit.

Wrestling teams will still have a maximum athletic scholarship cap, but student-athletes can seek to add as much need-based aid and academic scholarships as they can secure. With school and family budgets being impacted by COVID-19, this rule change should allow wrestling programs that have the funds to extend more money to families and athletes that need it—especially at private colleges with higher tuition.

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How hard is it to get a wrestling scholarship?

In short: It isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible either. There are roughly 10,500 men’s wrestling athletes across 536 programs from NCAA Division 1 to the NCWA. If we break it down to the two NCAA divisions with athletic scholarships, it comes out to 4,390 athletes competing for 1,310 wrestling scholarships.  spots. From an NAIA perspective, we’re talking 1,806 athletes competing for 488 wrestling scholarships. Any way you look at it, the competition is fierce.

Plus, the number of high school men’s wrestlers has grown in the past two years, while the number of roster spots in NCAA Division 1 has historically declined from 2,754 athletes in 2000 to 2,461 today. Recruits looking to secure an athletic scholarship need to do their research, stand out academically, stay proactive in their recruiting and extend their search. For example, student-athletes may find that a Division 3 financial package made up of other forms of aid, such as academic scholarships and grants, cuts college costs the most.

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How to get a wrestling scholarship

Student-athletes can improve their chances of being awarded an athletic scholarship by targeting schools that are a good fit for them, keeping their grades up and anticipating which weight classes coaches will recruit. Keep these tips in mind:  

  1. Research first. Know the key differences in the division levels. NCAA Division 1, Division 2, NAIA and NJCAA programs offer athletic scholarships, while NCAA Division 3 programs provide scholarship packages made up of academic scholarships, need-based aid and merit-based scholarships. Division 3 and NAIA programs are typically smaller, private schools.

     
  2. Know the athletic requirements. College coaches prioritize wrestling scholarships to recruits who have the ability to score points both at the state and national level. For example, a recruit who can continuously score points against elite competition would be ranked higher than a wrestler who has won more total matches but has scored fewer overall points. Maximizing your point potential in high school, in addition to being nationally ranked, will improve your chances of securing a roster spot.

     
  3. Excel academically. College coaches are looking for student-athletes. They consider a recruit’s academic standing just as seriously as their athletic ability. Plus, high test scores and a solid GPA can land you additional academic aid. If you’re interested in D1 or D2, remember to sign up for the NCAA Eligibility Center.

     
  4. Keep your options open. Don’t overlook a division just because it isn’t Division 1. There are several competitive programs—from Division 2 to NJCAA—that could offer a better financial package than Division 1. For example, you might find that a Division 3 package, made up of grants and academic aid, brings college costs down significantly. Not to mention there’s more wrestling scholarships available per team at junior colleges. 

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Are there full ride wrestling scholarships?

While full-ride wrestling scholarships are possible, they aren’t the norm. Wrestling is an equivalency sport, so instead of having a specific number of athletes on scholarship, coaches are given a pool of money and they’re allowed to divvy it up among as many recruits and current roster athletes as they want. Therefore, they typically award partial scholarships, which means athletes still need to pay for part of their education.

At the NCAA Division 1 level, coaches have a maximum of 9.9 scholarships per team, Division 2 has 9 scholarships, and NAIA coaches have 8 scholarships. The most opportunity is at the NJCAA level, where coaches have 20 scholarships per team. 

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How many scholarships for D1 wrestling? 

  • D1 wrestling scholarships per team: 9.9
  • Total number of D1 wrestling teams: 76
  • Average team size: 32

Athletic scholarships from NCAA Division 1 wrestling programs are difficult to come by. Only one percent of high school athletes go on to compete at this level. Coaches can give out a maximum of 9.9 scholarships per year, and they usually divide this up into partial scholarships. Keep in mind that some wrestling programs aren’t fully funded, so coaches may have fewer than the maximum allowed.

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NCAA Division 2 men’s wrestling scholarships

  • D2 wrestling scholarships per team: 9
  • Total number of D2 wrestling teams: 62
  • Average team size: 33

Like NCAA Division 1, NCAA Division 2 coaches also follow the equivalency method. They can award a maximum of 9 scholarships per team. While partial scholarships can cover tuition, they typically aren’t enough to pay for all college costs. That’s why student-athletes should also apply for FAFSA and seek out academic scholarships, grants and merit-based scholarships at the schools they’re interested in.

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NCAA Division 3 men’s wrestling scholarships

  • D3 wrestling scholarships per team: 0
  • Total number of D3 wrestling teams: 105
  • Average team size: 27

Even though NCAA Division 3 schools can’t offer athletic scholarships, they leverage other types of aid the recruit might qualify for, such as academic scholarships, merit-based aid and grants, to create a competitive scholarship package. With Division 3 being mostly made up of small private schools, they tend to have these kinds of funds readily available. In fact, 82 percent of all Division 3 athletes receive some form of aid.

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NAIA men’s wrestling scholarships 

  • NAIA wrestling scholarships per team: 8
  • Total number of NAIA wrestling teams: 61
  • Average team size: 31

NAIA follows the same equivalency guidelines as the NCAA when offering athletic scholarships. Coaches at this level have 8 scholarships per team and mostly offer partial scholarships to their athletes. However, top performers could receive a wrestling scholarship that covers 75 percent of their tuition or more.  

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Wrestling scholarship requirements

Every potential NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 college-athlete is required to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center and submit their transcripts and SAT/ACT test scores, as well as answer questions pertaining to their amateur status. To secure a roster spot and athletic scholarship, student-athletes must meet the academic requirements and be cleared by the Eligibility Center. 

While the requirements differ slightly between Division 1 and Division 2, the overall method for determining eligibility is the same: student-athletes must pass 16 core courses throughout high school, maintain a minimum GPA in these core courses and pass the NCAA Sliding Scale. Learn more about the specific Eligibility Center requirements to get a sense of what GPA and test scores you need. 

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Best colleges for wrestling scholarships

We’ve compiled a list of the best colleges for wrestling scholarships across all three NCAA division levels. Recruits interested in these programs should visit the team’s roster to determine if they’re an athletic fit and learn more about the coach’s recruiting method, such as which areas they recruit in. 

  • NCAA Division 1: North Carolina, Stanford, University of Michigan, Duke, Princeton, University of Virginia, University of Wisconsin, Ohio State and Harvard
  • NCAA Division 2: Colorado School of Mines, Augustana University—South Dakota, Gannon University, University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Indianapolis and Coker College
  • NCAA Division 3: John Hopkins University, Washington & Lee University, New York University, University of Chicago, Case Western Reserve University and the College of New Jersey

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