By JACK VANASSCHE, Sports Editor
Marina Goocher has won two straight NCWA individual national championships as a member of the University of Michigan-Dearborn club wrestling team without wrestling a single match during the regular season.
Because of a clause in the National Club Wrestling Association’s insurance policy, six-time national champion Marina Goocher, and all other female wrestlers in the association, are unable to wrestle men.
Female wrestlers are, by rule, allowed to wrestle other female wrestlers, but with so few women’s club wrestling programs in the country, it is incredibly inconvenient logistically. The closest women’s program Goocher could compete against is in Tennessee.
Goocher, who had over 100 wins against men and women throughout her high school career, first found out she would not be able to wrestle at her first tournament last year.
Before Fall Brawl, an individual meet that UM-Dearborn hosts at Henry Ford College, Goocher said she did her homework to make sure she could compete.
“I really, really wanted to wrestle, so what I did was check on the rule book and checked on the insurance policy and made sure that I would be able to wrestle,” she said. “If anybody told me I can’t, I’d show them the rule book and ask them where it says that.”
To not draw any extra attention to herself, Goocher said she borrowed her brother’s beanie to blend in.
“I passed through registration I thought, ‘Yes, now I just have to weigh in and I made it.’”
But an announcement over the loudspeaker called Goocher back to the registration table, where she knew she was going to dig in for a fight.
Sure enough, a league official informed Marina that she could not wrestle in the meet.
“I pull out my rule book, and I’m like, ‘Please show me where?’”
She didn’t let up until the official went to UM-Dearborn coach Grant MacKenzie and insisted he take Marina.
“She just put up a scene and finally he looked at me and was like ‘Grant, what is she doing?’
“She drove this guy nuts,” MacKenzie said. “He was ready to pull his hair out.”
The incident was bizarre to Goocher, who had never needed to take an extra step when it came to wrestling as a girl. In the Michigan High School Athletic Association, Goocher could travel with her Riverview High School squad and hit the mats just like the men could.
“It was really annoying, because everyone knows that I should be able to wrestle. I’ve been wrestling guys forever,” she said.
But the incident sparked an idea in Marina’s head, as giving up was never an option for her.
She filed a case with the American Civil Liberties Union, commonly known as the ACLU. There, Goocher has followed the long legal process of hearing back in between breakthroughs with the case.
According to Goocher, the case was originally assumed to be a quick because of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
However, the ACLU has since contacted Goocher and explained that this case was more complex, and that it may take more time to process. Unlike the MHSAA, the NCWA is completely privately funded, therefore it does not fall under the coverage of Title IX.
For Goocher, she would love to be able to wrestle men and women before graduating in two years. But if her case is not solved until her wrestling days are almost up, she hopes that future women get chances that she didn’t have.
“Let’s say this thing finally gets figured out, and they let me in my senior year. Even though I wouldn’t be able to wrestle, other girls would get the opportunity that I didn’t. They won’t get discriminated against for their gender in wrestling.”