Wrestling College Search

Use the filter on the left to narrow down colleges. Scroll right using the table under the map to find more detailed data on selectivity, affordability, graduation, student demographics, and on academic programs.

Common questions about recruiting and wrestling in college

What are the goals of college athletics?

The U.S. has a unique system for athletics. Instead of isolating high-potential athletes into training centers for elite athletes, most athletes pursue their sport through college athletics, as governed by the NCAA, NJCAA, or the NAIA.

American athletes, specifically wrestlers, are disadvantaged compared to their international counterparts because they have to balance athletics and academics at the same time– they can’t just focus on wrestling. Just like in high school, athletes in college must stay eligible to compete. Most talented wrestlers who don’t pan out in college fail because of academics or social issues, not because they can’t compete athletically.

On the other hand, the American system provides the ability for athletes to get a college degree and be more prepared to transition to life after sports. In addition, by separating colleges into different divisions, the college-based system also provides a much greater opportunity for athletes of all different levels to continue to play their sport at collegiate level. Thus, wide participation and balance with academics are two unique hallmarks of the American system of athletics.

Playing sports in college is about allowing your pursuit of excellence in your sport to enrich your college experience and to allow you to get a degree to prepare yourself for the transition to life after college. So when you think about wrestling in college, keep the full package in mind. How much do you want to commit to the athletics portion of your college experience? What are your academic and other extracurricular interests and goals? What are your financial limitations and other responsibilities? Your college decision should balance each of these considerations.

What do the different divisions mean?

College athletics is divided into 5 major divisions. Just like most high school states have separate divisions based on the size of the high school at the state tournament, college athletics is divided into divisions in order to roughly group colleges based on the amount of resources each college is willing to put into athletics. In this way, similarly-resourced teams can compete against each other and colleges can maintain an even playing field.

While there are overlaps between the quality of teams in each division, NCAA Division I universities spend the most resources on athletics and typically recruit the highest ability wrestlers and place the greatest demand on the athlete’s time. NCAA Division I programs have a maximum of 9.9 scholarships to give out. NCAA Division II can give out a maximum of 9 scholarships and NAIA schools have a maximum of 8 scholarships. Read more on wrestling scholarships here. Keep in mind, however, that just because a division allows schools to give out a certain number of scholarships, colleges need to fund those scholarships and not all colleges fund their wrestling teams to the maximum. For example, it is not uncommon for a Division I wrestling team to only have 3.5 scholarships, just because they are not fully funded by their colleges.

NCAA Division III schools are typically smaller, private schools that cannot give out scholarships to athletes. Yes, athletes can qualify for financial aid or academic scholarships, but they are treated just like any students in terms of college affordability.

Finally, NJCAA and the CCCAA represents 2-year community and technical colleges. NJCAA Division I colleges can provide scholarships to cover tuition, fees, and room & board, while Division II colleges can only cover tuition and fees. CCCAA & NJCAA Division III colleges can’t provide any athletic scholarships at all. CCCAA & NJCAA colleges are all two-year colleges, meaning that athletes can only compete for two years while pursuing an associate degree. Many athletes will plan to wrestle two years at a NJCAA school while getting an associates degree and then transfer to a 4-year college at the NCAA Division I, II, or III level or within the NAIA.

Division Overview


Division I - athletic scholarships & minimum admissions standards set by the NCAA

Division II - athletic scholarships & minimum admissions standards set by the NCAA

Division III - no athletic scholarships or minimum admissions standards set by the NCAA

NAIA - athletic scholarships & minimum admissions standards set by the NAIA

NJCAA (Divisions I, II, and III) and the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA).

Division I & II provide scholarships, while Division III and the CCCAA do not.

Read more on how college athletics is divided into divisions:

NCAA profile of 3 divisions

NCAA Want to Play College Sports

Prep Scholars explaining NCAA Divisions 1:3

Smart Athlete divisional explanation

Is college wrestling for me?

Most likely yes! If you are passionate about wrestling and want to continue to pursue it in college, than you can likely find a college to do that. The main consideration for wrestling in college is simply your dedication & time commitment. Remember, almost every college wrestler was a high school state placer or at least qualifier. To compete against that level of competition, you will need to commit a huge amount of time to the sport. No matter how good you are, if you don’t love the sport you likely won’t be successful at the next level.

The biggest difference between Big Time Division I wrestling and wrestling in the other divisions is probably the full year commitment. Division I wrestlers are training in high volume, not only during the season, but 10-11 months out of the year. No matter how good you were in high school, to be successful at the DI level you will need to match that training volume.

Top wrestlers in the other divisions may be doing the same thing, but it’s often not as structured or as much of an expectation for the entire team. In fact, for NCAA DIII teams, coaches are not allowed to work with the team on the mat in the off season, though many teams get around this through regional training centers. That doesn’t mean that athletes can’t work out on their own, but the focus is on providing a balanced college experience so that athletes can focus on academics and on other interests.

Generally, at the Big-time Division I level, wrestling will have to be your top priority in order to be able to compete. At the other levels, you will still need to work very hard to be successful, but there is more wiggle room to achieve your full potential in academics and to pursue other interests.

What level of college wrestling is for me?

So you have determined that you want to wrestle in college, but at what level? Many athletes don’t give this question enough attention, but it’s vitally important to match your expectations, skills, and dedication level with the division and level where you will compete.

This advice applies if you are interested in starting during your college career. There is nothing wrong with attending a college because it’s the best overall fit for you in terms of location, academics, environment, and affordability, even if starting in that program is a long shot. It all depends on balancing what you want out of wrestling with what you want out of the other parts of college.

For athletes who want to start and be competitive athletically, the chart below provides a recommended divisional fit based on an athlete’s demonstrated ability and their dedication to the sport.

For example, for athletes with DI ability and who are fully dedicated to making wrestling their top priority in college, we recommend that they consider Big-time DI programs (see below for an explanation). However, for athletes with tweener ability levels, and full dedication, we recommend that they consider lower-level DI programs or programs in other divisions.

DI Ability wrestlers have placed or come close to placing in the top 8 at the top national tournaments. National tournaments right now include Super 32, Fargo, NHSCA Jr. Nationals, and in-season tournaments such as Ironman, Beast, Powerade, and Kansas City Stampede. High ability wrestlers that can compete at the Big-time DI level should be consistently placing or making deep runs to Day 2 of these tournaments with at least 3, 4, or 5 wins. These wrestlers are also winning or placing highly in their state tournaments. However, because the competition at different state tournaments varies, national tournaments are a good judge of potential for wrestling at Big-time DI programs.

Tweener ability wrestlers may be placing highly or even winning their state tournaments, especially in weaker states. They are likely middle to low placers in the most competitive state tournaments. However, they are marginally competitive at national tournaments, usually winning between 1 and 3 matches. Lower Level DI schools and colleges from other divisions recruit a lot of tweener athletes. These are athletes that will be able to start for Lower Level DI programs and compete in those conferences eventually. A high goal could be to qualify for nationals during their career. With hard work, these athletes could also be studs, competing for all-American status in the other divisions.

Other division ability wrestlers are state qualifiers or low-level placers at the most competitive state tournaments, or high placers, even champs in less competitive states and divisions. Like tweener-ability wrestlers, these wrestlers are typically not competitive in national level tournaments, typically winning between 0 and 1 matches. These athletes have the talent to compete outside of DI (DII, DIII, NAIA, NJCAA), but likely would not be competitive at the DI level.

Dedication – At the end of the day, it all comes down to dedication and work ethic. Even athletes with Big-time DI skills will struggle at that level if they don’t have the work ethic and love for wrestling to make it their top priority and train at a high volume all year. However, if they still want to wrestle in college, they can still be highly successful in other divisions. To be clear, by full dedication we mean getting extra workouts throughout the competition year, training (nearly) just as hard in the offseason, and taking off-season wrestling tournaments seriously. By not full dedication, we mean working hard during the year, but viewing the off-season as an off-season where training volume decreases substantially.

Big-time DI– There are 76 DI wrestling programs currently. Big-time DI are programs include approximately the top 60 in the rankings. Anyone on this list: https://www.flowrestling.org/rankings/7981809-2022-23-ncaa-di-rankings/43643-penn-state or in the top 60ish here: https://www.wrestlestat.com/rankings/dual can be considered a Big-time DI program.

Lower Level DI - The bottom 15 or so teams in the DI rankings.These teams may have athletic support and talent that is more comparable with higher level teams from the other divisions.

A rule of thumb - Of course a lot of other intangibles go into calculating an athlete’s potential in a sport, but the table above provides a rough guide to help you be realistic about where you will fit in. A rough rule of thumb is that college coaches will give you the best indication of your potential to fit in at that team and at that level. If a college coach is not recruiting you hard (see answers below) then you are not their main target. That doesn’t mean they won’t recruit you at all, but if they are not offering you substantial scholarship money or making it clear that you will be the guy at that weight class, than they are probably doing it for somebody else. Our piece of advice is to go to a program where you are recruited as the main target at a particular weight class. You will receive the most individualized attention, be in a good position to be successful at that level of competition, and thus most likely have the most enjoyable student-athlete experience in college.

How do I reach out to college coaches?

Because college coaches are the best judge of your potential to fit in with a particular team and at a particular level (division), a good strategy is to reach out to a number of college coaches. They will “show” you what level you should be targeting for college athletics.

Taking the initiative to reaching out to coaches yourself is especially important for athletes who are not at the DI ability level. Athletes placing at national tournaments will get a lot of calls from DI coaches. They will be recruited, whether they want to be or not. But tweener and other division athletes need to do more work to get on to coaches radars.

The good news is that getting on coaches' radars is not hard. Simply fill out the recruiting questionnaire on the university website & email the head coach. The email doesn’t have to be long, just a few sentences that include the following information:

  • Your name

  • High school, state

  • Wrestling results (just results at the state tournament)

  • Academics (GPA and academic interests (ie. potential major))

  • Your phone number so that they can contact you.

If the coach does not respond to you, then they are either not interested or not a good coach. Either way you probably don’t want to wrestle there. Move on to focus on the coaches that do respond to you. We recommend sending emails to approximately 10-15 programs that you may be interested in during the spring of your junior year (after states) through the fall of your senior year.

How can I tell if a coach is interested in me?

A coach that is interested in you will maintain fairly consistent contact with you, likely by phone/text. They may watch you wrestle at national/state-level tournaments, and they will try to get you on a campus visit. In the end coaches who are interested in you will try to get you to commit to their school– likely as soon as possible. To do this they will usually have to offer you scholarship money (for Divisions I, II, NAIA, and NJCAA), a slot for admissions (for highly selective institutions). Remember, DIII coaches can’t offer scholarships.

Typically the recruiting process goes something like this:

  1. Coach and athlete are introduced. Either the coach reaches out, they are introduced by a high school coach or mutual connection, or the athlete emails the coach.

  2. Coaches that are interested will begin texting the athlete and find time for a phone/video call.

  3. Coach will try to set up a campus visit for the athlete. An official visit is typically an overnight one where the student stays with current athletes in the dorms. Coaches are not allowed to pay for transportation or food as part of the visit.

  4. Coaches will follow athlete’s results throughout the competition season, and make an offer in exchange for an early commitment that the athlete will attend that school (and not apply anywhere else).

    1. For divisions that provide scholarships the coach will typically offer scholarship money to the athletes they are most interested in.

    2. For divisions that don’t provide scholarships, there isn’t much that the coach can offer, except at high selective colleges where they can provide some (often limited) support in the admission process. That limited support is contingent on an early decision application, meaning the athlete can’t apply anywhere else.

Coaches are not interested if:

  • They are not in consistent phone/text contact, at least every couple of weeks.

  • They did not respond to your outreach email.

  • They responded to your outreach email, but sent you information about their summer camps. Coaches make money on summer camps, so the more athletes they have the better for them.

  • They responded to your outreach email, but did not follow up with substantial phone contact, offer of a visit, and discussion about scholarship money or an early decision application.

Common mistakes that athletes make is confusing some kind of response or contact with coaches with “being recruited” or a coach being interested. Again if the coach isn’t texting you frequently without prompting from you, hasn’t arranged for an overnight visit to campus, and hasn’t made an offer in exchange for an early commitment, then you aren’t high on their priority list.

How do I know what colleges to consider and which coaches to reach out to?

Potential college athletes have several aspects to consider: matching their athletic goals with the level of the program and division and the quality of the coach, the academic side of the college, and the total affordability of the college.

Matching your athletic goals with the program

Do you want to start or would you be happy to just be on the team? It’s important to match your athletic level and your dedication with the division & program. A simple rule of thumb is that wrestling at the Division I level is not right for most athletes. To wrestle at the NCAA Division I level a potential athlete should have sufficient wrestling ability and be willing to make wrestling their top priority. Both of those conditions need to be met to play big-time college sports. Otherwise, Division II, III, NAIA, or NJCAA is the right option for most high school athletes looking to wrestle in college.

The coach

Wrestling for a good coach makes all of the difference. However, it’s so hard to know how a coach will be once you actually start college. This is another reason the visit is so important. Make sure you ask the current athletes tough questions about the coaching staff.

The school

Athletes should also consider the “fit” of the university. This includes the location, academics, and other extracurricular opportunities available at the school. The best way to know this is to visit the school, and take an “official” visit where you stay overnight with current athletes, as well as take an official admissions tour.

The financial side

No matter how much you like the school and the coach, the college needs to be affordable for your family. This is a larger challenge for low-income families, and at the DIII level where most schools (though not all) are private and the schools do not give scholarships. Even in divisions where college can provide scholarships, few wrestling scholarships are “full scholarships.” Your family will need to have tough conversations with the coaching staff about the total cost of college once the athletic scholarship, academic scholarships, need-based financial aid have been added together.

Our advice: the athlete should drive the process

Given these factors, use the search at the top of this webpage to narrow down a list of colleges that fit most of these criteria. Start close, searching for colleges in your state or nearby region(s) to find colleges that have wrestling programs in the divisions you are looking for, have the level of selectivity you want, have strong programs in your major of interest, and work for you financially.

Make a list of 10-15 colleges and email each of their coaches. This is the most comprehensive way to drive the recruiting process. It allows you to put your needs first by getting a good idea about the types of colleges you are interested in, while also allowing college coaches to recruit you and to provide you information on how you would fit into their teams.

How is applying to college different as an athlete?

In three main ways:

  • Potential support in the admissions process (this is most important at academically selective colleges)

  • Potential financial support through scholarship (but keep in mind that some colleges such as in-state public universities or private colleges with good financial aid or merit scholarship packages may be affordable for you even without athletic scholarships)

  • Necessity to clear academic hurdles based on the NCAA clearinghouse (for Divisions I & II).

Everything else is still the same. The athlete still needs to complete the application and apply for financial aid by filing the FAFSA and/or CSS Profile. You still need to make a comprehensive decision that evaluates both the affordability of the college along with the academic and athletic fit.

Mainly, the coach will become your champion at the school. They will help you understand exactly what you need to do and will advise you on how to apply to maximize your chance of admission.

How is the college experience different as an athlete?

Time, time, time. College is an exciting time with new and more challenging academics and a lot of new social opportunities. However, playing a sport in college will require a significant time commitment. The time commitment increases at higher levels of competition, but the time commitment for college athletics for any level is substantial.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

It’s not all about the scholarship

Most wrestling scholarships are not full, meaning not all of the costs of college will be covered. Most families afford college through a combination of athletic and academic scholarships and need-based financial aid. At the NCAA DIII level, there are no athletic scholarships, so affordability will be based on academic scholarships and need-based financial aid, same as any other student.

Keep in mind that for most wrestlers, the best strategy for an affordable college is being a good student and getting academic scholarships.

For low income students, the best strategy for affordability is to be a good student, and to apply to colleges with good financial aid (% of need-met), as well as in-state public universities, or colleges within commuting distance so that you can live at home and not pay room & board fees.

Not getting a fair exchange in terms of what a coach is offering for your commitment

However, at the same time, if a coach has scholarships available and is not offering you one, then they are likely offering that money to somebody else. Coaches need multiple options for each weight class. They have a preferred athlete, who is getting the best deal, and then they have 1-2 other athletes who they can’t give much scholarship money to (because they have a limit of 9 or 9.9 and that money went to the preferred athlete). So they try to sell you on themselves, their program, and how you will become the best wrestler you can be if you attend that program. Keep in mind however, that they are telling the same thing to 1-2 other athletes.

The recruitment process is an exchange between an offer by the coaches and a commitment to attend by the athlete. The coach wants you to commit, but what are they offering in return? This can be scholarship money, an idea of how you will fit in on the team, and/or support in the admissions process. If the coach isn’t offering you anything for your commitment, then they may be trying to get you cheap.

Our advice (if your goal is starting) is to go to a program where you are the preferred athlete (the main target), and not get sold on a program where you are seen as a back-up or an insurance policy in case the preferred athlete falters. Typically athletes grow (improve) the most and have the most fun when they are competitive (winning) against their competition, they are the preferred athlete for their weight class, and they like the college outside of the wrestling room.

Thinking you are being recruited when you are not.

While coaches trying to get you “cheap” is a problem, especially at higher levels, another problem is an athlete who mistakes any kind of communication from a coach as interest.

If the coach isn’t texting you frequently without prompting from you, hasn’t arranged for an overnight visit to campus, and hasn’t made an offer in exchange for an early commitment, then you aren’t high on their priority list.

Coaches are not interested if:

  • They are not in consistent phone/text contact, at least every couple of weeks.

  • They did not respond to your outreach email.

  • They responded to your outreach email, but sent you information about their summer camps. Coaches make money on summer camps, so the more athletes they have the better for them.

  • They responded to your outreach email, but did not follow up with substantial phone contact, offer of a visit, and discussion about scholarship money or an early decision application.

  • You received mail/email from the college or from the wrestling program advertising camps, clinics, or other events at the college.

Not weighing your priorities and making a wholistic decision

At the end of the day, wrestling is just part of the college experience. You need to decide if it will be the most important part of your college experience, or an equal part of your college experience along with academic and other interests. Our advice is to choose based on your priorities– based on what is most important to you. At the same time, try to find a place(s) that can satisfy most of your requirements. If academics is a priority, than there are plenty of strong academic colleges with strong programs in your major within each athletic division. If wrestling is your top priority than make sure to pick a program where the coach and teammates share your commitment. However, don’t forget about the academic and other dimensions of a college when making your choice. And try to go somewhere where you are the target or preferred athlete at a college where you fit in and where you can pursue a degree that will help you long term.