Tonawanda wrestler Bailey Crouse signed Monday to continue her wrestling career at Gannon University in Erie, Pa., becoming the latest in a small but growing list of female wrestlers from Western New York to earn athletic scholarships.
Crouse won the 138-pound title at the inaugural New York State women’s invitational championships in February at Niagara County Community College. She is expected to compete at 136 pounds at Gannon.
“I have big plans and goals for myself,” Crouse said. “A national title is definitely on that list. But most importantly showing everyone that wrestling doesn’t have to stop after high school, there are many opportunities now for woman to continue competing. I can’t wait to see how many girls are going to join me on this journey.”
Perhaps the most famous of the group is Carlene Sluberski from Fredonia, who spent three years at the Olympic training site at Northern Michigan University before competing for Brock University in Ontario, where she became a four-time national champion in Canada.
Among others who have made the jump over the years are Logan Howard from Chautauqua Lake, who wrestled at King University in Tennessee; Mary Westman from Cattaraugus-Little Valley and Michelle Quiles from Fredonia, who both wrestled at the University of Jamestown in North Dakota; and Christa Hartinger from Lancaster, who became an All-American at Midland University in Nebraska.
Gannon recently completed its first season of women's wrestling under the direction of head coach Christen Dierken, a former U.S. national team member and four-time All-American at the University of Cumberlands in Kentucky.
Gannon ended its season with a 2-6 dual meet record, with both victories against Nassau Community College on Long Island. The Golden Knights placed 30th among 36 teams competing at the Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association National Championship in Marietta, Ga.
"The atmosphere of Gannon is honestly exactly what I am looking for," Crouse said. "It’s a small campus and I feel like I’m going to get to know so many more people. The coaches of both wrestling programs there are absolutely amazing. Just talking to them you can see that they are willing to put you first and push you towards your goals.
"I feel like being a part of the Gannon community, I’m going to be able to reach my full potential on the wrestling mat and in the classroom. And to me that’s what it’s all about."