Kristen Walsh heard about the opportunity and she couldn't pass it up.
The 2016 Carey High School graduate recently became the first member of the new Nassau Community College women's wrestling program.
"My boyfriend sent me an article about the new team and I was definitely excited right away," Walsh said. "I wrestled in high school, but afterwards it was hard to find a place to wrestle. I'm really excited for the team at Nassau -- I was looking for a place to wrestle for a while."
That search is over for girls in the New York area who are seeking a nearby option to get on the mat at the college level.
According to Paul Schmidt, Director of Wrestling and Men's Head Coach at Nassau, there has been a buzz on campus ever since the addition of the women's squad was announced.
"There has been interest throughout the college, especially with the staff," Schmidt said. "They're all excited - even people with no interest in wrestling have been stopping me to talk about it. We think we can do well -- with Sam Thomas as the head coach, coach Vougar [Oroudjov's] expertise and the training opportunities we have, including with our men's team. We'll definitely compete this year, even if it's in open tournaments and we expect to have maybe 20 wrestlers next year on the women's side. I really believe we can have a lot of success."
Helping to drive that success is the support of the Nassau CC administration and of the NYWAY organization, which pledged $4500 over three years from the NYWAY President's Wrestling Fund, a fund that is earmarked for the growth and promotion of college wrestling in the Empire State.
"Our mission at NYWAY is to build, connect and invest in the sport of wrestling here in New York," said NYWAY President Adam Burgos. "This three year commitment allows NYWAY to build a relationship with Nassau Community College and is the first step in connecting our organization with the college wrestling community. Our vision is to have boy and girl athletes graduate as wrestlers. The addition of a varsity female freestyle program here in New York provides one more opportunity after graduation for our NYWAY members."
Indeed, staying close to home was attractive to Walsh -- and NYWAY Girls Director Gary McDowell believes that will continue to be a big draw in a state in which girls wrestling continues to grow.
After all, from 2014-15 to 2016-17, the number of girls registered with NYWAY increased by almost 45%. Of course, it's no secret that female wrestlers from the Empire State have been making an impact on the national stage. Here's just one of many possible examples: New York featured 13 female All-Americans at Fargo both last year and this summer.
"Five or six years ago, my girls started wrestling," McDowell said. "We had to travel to Michigan and out West to compete against other girls. Now there are events much closer to home. The NYWAY State tournament in 2016 had over 100 wrestlers in the girls divisions. We're excited that we'll have a freestyle clinician for the girls at our NYWAY Kickoff this year. It's amazing to see the growth of girls wrestling in New York and around the country. The new women's program at Nassau shows there's lots more to come for girls wrestling in New York. I'm so happy that NYWAY is working with a Nassau program that is giving girls an amazing opportunity to continue their education and wrestling in their home state."
Walsh can't wait to take advantage of that opportunity.
"This week, we'll start to do some drilling," she said. "I'm really looking forward to learning from the coaches and I'm excited to compete, which I haven't done in a while. It should be a lot of fun. For the girls out there, come wrestle with us at Nassau."