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.
|Division Level||Number of Teams||Total Athletes in Division||Average Team Size||Scholarships Limit Per Team||Scholarship Limit Type|
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.