CRETE, NE — A new team takes the mat at Doane University.

The school introduced a women’s wrestling program this year, and they’re off to a fast start. After two tournaments, the team has compiled 38 individual wins and three individual championships.

Doane Director of Wrestling Dana Vote talks about early season success.

"It says a lot," he said. "Those girls have done an outstanding job of buying into the program and believing in the coaches and the training and the success is paying off already."

Cristelle Rodriguez, a freshman from Clovis, California has claimed two of those individual championships. She’s also earned conference women’s wrestler of the week honors.

"It felt amazing," Rodriguez said of the weekly award. "I haven't wrestled for awhile so coming back and getting that really boosted my confidence for wrestling and made me more confident in my skill."

She says everyone on the roster is focused on getting the team off to a strong start.

"It's a been a great experience," Rodriguez said. "A great bonding experience with everybody. Everyone is really positive here and we life each other up. It's been good."

Fellow freshman Karina Vang, also from California has also captured an individual title this year and picked up conference women’s wrestler of the week honors.

"It was weird," Vang said of discovering she had won women's wrestler of the week. "I was just scrolling on social media and it was like, 'Oh that's me!' Then everybody starting sharing it and I felt happy because it just kind of gave me that recognition of, 'Hey, you're doing a good job here.'"

The young program is a young team, all but two on roster of 18 are freshman. Vote says that gives them plenty of room to grow this group as the program gets up and running.

"The biggest thing for us is we just want to help them grow as young ladies and grow into women that can be successful in the world when they get out of here," Vote said. "I think it's just getting them to buy into the process and having confidence in themselves to continue to see that success."

Doane also relaunched its men’s wrestling program in 2013 and has grown it into a team that won back-to-back Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) championships in 2021 and 22.

Now the women are hopeful to add their own banners inside Butler Gymnasium.

"I've seen what [Vote] has done with the men's team and I'm excited to see what he's going to do with the women's team and for the progress to come and for us to put in the work to put a banner up," Vang said.

Doane women's wrestling is competing in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) this season as not enough GPAC affiliated schools have a women's wrestling program to officially declare a conference sport.