February 3, 2020
By Stephen Stonebraker
When you do an in depth thorough study on the history of collegiate wrestling you soon learn how important it is to the sport for conferences to officially sponsor. In many cases a conference making a decision to sponsor wrestling leads to schools within that conference adding programs. The SEC for example made a decision to sponsor wrestling in the 1969-1970 season. During the twelve year span that was SEC wretling, Florida, Kentucky, Alabama and Louisiana State all added wrestling programs.
Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well. When a conference decides to no longer sponsor wrestling, this often leads to schools deciding to drop wrestling. SEC again being a perfect example. Dropping wrestling as a sponsored sport after the 1980-1981 season eventually lead to all of the remaining programs dropping as well. It’s tough for programs to exist in a conference where wrestling is not sponsored and athletic directors eager to drop the sport love to use, “Not a conference sport” as an excuse. From Colonial Athletic Association to Big Sky to Western Athletic Conference it is an excuse I’ve seen many times.
So trust me when I say WHAC (Wolverine Hoosier Athletic Conference) adding wrestling as an official sport of the conference could be HUGE for the sport of wrestling.
Right now there are eighteen teams in the WHAC. Only four of them have varsity wrestling. Cleary, Indiana Tech, Lourdes & Siena Heights. This leaves room for tremendous growth in NAIA wrestling. A total of fourteen teams that we could see add varsity wrestling within the next few years.
This is fantastic potential news, especially in the state of Michigan. We’re talking Aquinas, Concordia, Cornerstone, Lawrence Tech, Madonna, Rochester, Michigan-Dearborn, & Spring Arbor all adding programs. Is it realistic to think that we could see eight new NAIA wrestling programs in Michigan within the next five years? Honestly, I don’t see why not. Michigan-Dearborn has had a competitive club program in the NCWA for years now. Cornerstone had a program that competed in the NCCAA (National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association) for a number of years.
As to Ohio, Northwestern Ohio, Huntington and Mount Vernon Nazerene would all three be excellent additions. The greatest or second greatest (Pennsylvanians will fight to the death on this statement, come back as zombies and continue to fight you) producer of high school wrestlers can never have enough in state colleges for the talent it produces. Huntington like Cornerstone also competed in the NCCAA.
Then we have three teams from Indiana. Bethel, Goshen and the one I’m most excited about is Taylor.
Taylor at one time was an NAIA powerhouse and there’s absolutely no reason why they couldn’t be again. For a ten year span from the early 70’s through the early 80’s Taylor was extremely tough in wrestling. Winners of the 1971 and 1972 Hoosier Buckeye Conference, the Trojans placed in the top 10 at the NAIA tournament on four occasions. This included 15 All Americans, two NAIA runner ups and a two time national champion.
As soon as I saw NWCA Twitter post that the WHAC was going to add wrestling I immediately thought of Taylor. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see all fourteen teams add wrestling but I can’t help but be extra excited at the idea of Taylor wrestling being reinstated!