Select Page

A motivated group of new Titans is eager to help start a UWO women’s wrestling program this fall.

There is a future biomedical engineer. A prospective elementary teacher or two. Marketing, nursing, an array of other majors: all well represented. 

But the common thread and passion in this trailblazing group of Titans is something entirely new to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh: women’s wrestling. 

Delaney Rapp of Imperial, Missouri, found a university with biomedical engineering and women’s wrestling.

Nearly 30 inbound Titans comprise the inaugural UWO Women’s Wrestling team—a squad of student-athletes from 10 different states, each drawn to the opportunity to engage in a quality UWO education and experience while launching a sport they are enthusiastic about as it expands throughout the nation. 

“Oshkosh is definitely the perfect fit for me,” said Delaney Rapp, 18, of Imperial, Missouri, a suburb outside of St. Louis.  

“Finding a university with both biomedical engineering and women’s wrestling is no easy feat,” Rapp said. “(Women’s Wrestling) Coach Costa and Dr. (Greg) Kleinheinz have been so helpful, and the campus and student body are in the sweet spot for size: not too big, not too small. I’m so excited to become a Titan!” 

Several UWO women wrestlers, Rapp among them, have already connected, participating in a late-June camp structured around their Titan Takeoff orientation visit. It gave them, Women’s Wrestling Head Coach Jared Costa and his crew opportunity to gear up for the 2024-2025 school year and begin building the culture necessary to launch a successful team.  

“One of the things I’m telling all of them right now is that there is a buzzword: culture,” Costa said. “This is our culture: family, hard work and all of that. Culture is the team. Now that they will all be here, all the goals and the culture are finally going to be in front of us. I am ready to go. I have been talking about it for 10 months… It’s exciting.”  

Costa said the team motto has already spawned the pending season hashtag: #BeThe1st 

Cassidy Vanden Heuvel of Kaukauna said opportunities at UWO are “endless.”

Remarkable growth 

In total, the inaugural women’s wrestling team will include 26 student-athletes. They hail from Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas and, of course, Wisconsin.  

The student-athletes and UWO Athletics will be the latest to advance a sport that is growing exponentially after the COVID-19 pandemic, Costa said.  

“When I first started coaching women’s wrestling in fall 2021, there were just about 15,000 girls in high school wrestling,” he said. “This past year more than 55,000 was the estimate.” 

When UWO decided to join the movement and Costa was chosen to build the program, he launched a national search for recruits, tapping into high school coaching and alumni networks to identify hundreds of potential student-athletes.  

High school wrestlers around the country are hungry for college opportunities as the sport’s landscape dramatically changes. In Wisconsin, UWO will be the fourth team to add the sport, joining Lakeland University, Carthage College and UW-Stevens Point, which just finished 10th in NCAA Division III ranks. Costa said the NCAA will formally consider women’s wrestling as a Division III sport this coming winter. It’s expected to inspire more new programs around the country. So, the timing is prime to launch a UWO team, he said.  

“It was exciting. It was a long journey. But it was what I expected,” he said, noting the UWO campus’s position, size and program array—in addition to the opportunity to launch a team—as key selling points for his student-athletes. “… One of the statistics I really like from this year is that, out of 34 girls who visited campus, 26 came. It’s a city, but it’s not overwhelming when you’re on campus. One of things I focused on was to bring in great people. You love wrestling. You love school. You love life. It just kind of snowballed. Once we got one, we got two, then three… soon enough, it was 26.”  

Capturing the excitement, in student-athletes’ words 

Sophia Garza of La Vernia, Texas, is excited to be part of a new wrestling program and its engineering program.

Costa and Athletics colleagues wasted no time in capturing and amplifying the inaugural team’s excitement through social media. 

“I chose UWO for a multitude of reasons,” said team member Sophia Garza of La Vernia, Texas. “Some being how excited I am as a Texas girl to have the opportunity to be part of the new women’s wrestling program and the engineering program that UWO offers. On top of all that, the town is beautiful.”  

“I picked UWO because of the coach and family,” said Tahonesty Donnell of Milwaukee. “I believe no matter which college I attend, I’ll do great, but UWO is it! I’m honored to be accepted! I can’t wait to reach my goals!”  

Mya Delleree, 18, of Ozaukee, first wrestled competitively in sixth grade. The opportunity to continue at UWO, while pursuing an elementary school teaching degree, kept the university in her sights. And it didn’t hurt that she had a few Titan-alumni high school teachers who nudged her UWO’s way.  

“It definitely drove me to Oshkosh,” Delleree said, noting her early experience as a teacher’s assistant and assistant wrestling coach for younger students. “… It’s just brought me a lot of joy to see them learn and grow.”  

Costa said the team launches with many of its student-athletes exiting high school at a 3.0 GPA or above. “We want to be the national team GPA champions,” he said, emphasizing UWO Athletics’ commitment to academically anchored and successful Titans.  

“We’re winning in other sports, Costa said. “Our academics are strong—engineering, nursing, education… (Students) see those opportunities, too. They are strong academically, but they want to push each other.”  

Tahonesty Donnell of Milwaukee, said she was honored to be accepted to UWO!

Season’s launch rapidly approaching 

The UWO women’s wrestling season begins Oct. 10 with the team’s first practice.  

“It’s exciting to add a growing sport that has immediately drawn so many gifted student-athletes from around the country,” Assistant Chancellor, Athletics Darryl Sims said. “We expect the UWO and broader communities to respond and help support these Titans when women’s wrestling launches later this year.” 

The first competition is set for Nov. 2 at UW-Stevens Point. UWO will host three home duals in Kolf Sports Center, starting with Nov. 16 in an event also featuring the UWO men’s team. The first home women’s will be on Nov. 21 vs. Carthage College. The team will also host Northern Michigan on Dec. 6.  

Experiencing that first home event will be a thrill, Delleree said.  

“It’s going to be exciting for everybody’s families to be there,” she said. 

Costa said his and the UWO team’s anticipation is only heightened by the continuing national surge in the sport. Wisconsin collegiate competitor programs are sure to blossom in the years to come.  

“There is an inaugural phase growing the sport in which colleges are adding and adding and adding,” he said. “High schools are growing, growing, growing. I still look at us as that pioneer program… We’re still one of those trailblazers that can put the sport on the map. We have that opportunity to give thousands of girls more chances to wrestle.”  

Rapp said the excitement is real as is the early support behind a brand-new team of student-athletes eager to continue the sport’s advancement as they pursue degrees and career fields they see themselves in well into the future.  

She said it is “cool to set the culture for wrestling and start up the new biomedical engineering degree.”  

“I came here because everyone was outgoing, and everyone wanted me to succeed,” she said. 

Learn more:

UWO women’s wrestling

UWO athletics