Texas Wesleyan plans to move forward quickly in adding men’s and women’s wrestling.
Athletic Director Ricky Dotson said the plan is to have a coach by Jan. 1, 2019, start recruiting immediately after that, and start competing in the fall.
Wesleyan announced that the university would add the teams in an email sent out Nov. 20. This was seven days after university President Frederick Slabach said in the November town hall that the board of trustees was working to approve the addition of the sport.
Dotson said wrestling was added because of the proximity of competing schools and because it is an emerging sport in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
“Wrestling is the fastest growing, Texas is the fastest growing state in terms of high school participation,” Dotson said. “There is starting to be a lot of numbers and a lot of ability for us to be able to recruit locally and within the state of Texas.”
In an email, Slabach said the school is excited about adding men’s and women’s wrestling.
“A key part of our 2020 Vision strategic plan is to enhance our student experiences and steadily grow enrollment,” he wrote. “Wrestling supports both efforts, while providing students with the opportunity to participate in wrestling at the collegiate level while earning their degree.”
Dotson said Wesleyan decided to move forward with wrestling instead of lacrosse to meet Title IX regulations because most schools that compete in the sport are on the East Coast or in the Midwest. In order to meet regulations, Wesleyan needed to add a program for women after adding football.
“We were trying to find a viable sport that would help us with bringing women and creating more opportunities for women and at the same time, growing our athletic program,” Dotson said. “As we looked at things and did our research, it was amazing how clear it became that wrestling was a direction that we wanted to go in.”
Dotson said Wesleyan would only be the second university in the state to offer a scholarship program for wrestling. The other school is Wayland Baptist University in Plainview. Wayland is in the same conference as Wesleyan.
“There was not program in the Dallas-Fort Worth area,” he said. “Ironically, there is like 114 public high schools that compete in wrestling just in DFW. So the opportunity to recruit kids is here right in our backyard.”
Wayland Baptist’s head wrestling coach Aaron Meister wrote in an email that it is good to see Wesleyan move forward with the program.
“We’re excited to finally have an NAIA in-state rival. Wayland has waited for nine years for this to happen,” Meister wrote. “To have another team that’s only five hours away that we can dual is great.”
Meister wrote that Texas Wesleyan will strengthen the Sooner Athletic Conference that both schools will be competing in.
“The Sooner Athletic Conference has had to seek affiliate members to meet the six team minimum conference requirement,” he wrote. “Now that Arizona Christian and Texas Wesleyan have added wrestling our conference will not have to seek other schools to join our conference.”
Dotson said that the wrestling program will start out with around 40 students and will gradually grow.
“When you count men and women, Wayland Baptist has about 78 or 80 or something like that,” he said. “We would like to have somewhere between 40 and 60.”
Dotson said the scholarships will be similar to that of the other athletic programs on campus.
“The NAIA has a maximum level of scholarships for certain sports; our particular athletic programs have about half of what the NAIA allows so we are actually below 50 percent in what we offer for scholarships,” he said. “Right now, wresting will fall right in line with that.”
The biggest obstacle in getting the wrestling program started, Dotson said, is finding a facility to put it in.
“I think the biggest issue for us is trying to figure out a facility where we can put them, and they can have adequate practice time and the space that they need,” he said.
Dotson said he looks forward to the addition of the program because not only will it increase enrollment, but it will bring the student body together.
“The one comment that I get from everyone when I have said that is, is that it is a tremendous sport for your student body and everywhere that they have wrestling, that the student body really gets into it,” he said. “It is a sport where there is a lot of yelling and screaming and people are really in to it.”
The wrestling program will be a win for everybody, Dotson said.