Van Kley: Penn State growing wrestling in Pennsylvania

Updated: October 6, 2010

Bryan Van Kley

It is so exciting that a new high school and college season is just around the corner. We trust you’re gearing up for November as well.

You’ll find a number of very engaging, though-provoking articles in this issue. The U.S. had a very disappointing performance at the World Championships in Russia earlier this month. Long-time coach and wrestler Dan Gable and Beat the Streets founder Al Bevilacqua give their opinions as to the state of wrestling in this country. Also check out U.S. freestyle coach Zeke Jones’ analysis of the Worlds on page 37.
WIN also welcomes Title IX expert Leo Kocher back into the magazine. You’ll find a Title IX update from him on page 30.
There are so many positive things going on in our sport as well. Please take special note of National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) Executive Director Mike Moyer’s annual report on page 32 in regards to advances which have happened in wrestling on a number of different fronts. Also check out the National Collegiate Wrestling Association update on page 54 to see the number of schools adding club programs this fall.

The Penn State Conference
Some additional exciting news that came across my desk recently was the number of wrestling programs being added at Penn State University’s branch campuses. Former Penn State coach John Fritz is now the director for the Penn State University Athletic Conference.
Of the 19 four-year branch campuses around the state, five of them now either have added wrestling in the last year or have plans to add the program.

John Fritz

Penn State DuBois completed its first year of competition last year. The school of approximately 1,000 students, located an hour west of the State College campus, has approximately 30 members on its inaugural team. Penn State DuBois is competing in the NCWA this year, and will compete in the nationals for club teams.
Based on wrestling’s popularity in the state of Pennsylvania and Fritz’s gentle prodding of the school’s chancellors, four other teams are now following suit. Penn State Greater Alleghany, Penn State Kensington Penn State Beaver and Penn College are all in the process of starting their programs. All but Penn College are in the Pittsburgh area, Penn is an hour east of State College. The programs will begin either this fall or fall of 2011, depending on how soon a coach can be hired.
Fritz thinks more schools will add the sport once they see the level of interest.
“There isn’t any part of Pennsylvania that doesn’t have strong wrestling. The numbers at the younger levels are very good. People talk about wrestling as a dying sport. I think just the contrary, people are seeing what a great sport it is,” he said. “For years we didn’t get all the information out there about it because wrestling coaches aren’t ones to blow their own horns. I think it’s only going to go in one direction, it’s only going to grow.”
Fritz, a former NCAA champ at Penn State, hopes the PSUAC can get eight of its branches to have wrestling so they can have their own post-season tournament. Most of them will start out as National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA) teams. Fritz said it’s possible in the future that some of the branch-campus programs may make the jump up to NCAA Division III.
Penn College, an affiliate technical school of the main Penn State campus, had 50 kids show up when they organized a meeting this fall to see who may be interested in going out for the team. Fritz said it says a lot about the number of athletes just interested in having an opportunity to train and compete, as none of the campuses currently offer athletic scholarships.
Three of the four teams in the process of getting their program started are still looking for head coaches. Fritz said the coaching positions are a great opportunity for someone looking to get into college coaching.
With more people speaking the same message about the benefits of wrestling and an increase demand for college opportunities, let’s hope the momentum continues to build in other areas of the country.

FCA looks for National Director
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) has opened up a national search for the position of National Director of FCA Wrestling. This highly-motivated and experienced leader will serve as the full-time professional administrator for the recently formed FCA Wrestling.
FCA Wrestling became the eighth national sports ministry for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Each of these FCA national sports ministries focuses on providing ministry to a community of people who are united around a particular sport by offering opportunities to serve athletes and coaches in that particular sport.
Last year, long-time wrestling leader Joe Boardwine served as the first National Director of FCA Wrestling, and successfully developed the foundation for the growth of this exciting new program. During his time as National Director, Joe built the momentum for FCA Wrestling and the next leader will be called to keep that momentum going. Boardwine resigned to accept the position as the head wrestling coach at Campbell University, a Div. I wrestling program in North Carolina.
Since the announcement of the plan to develop FCA Wrestling in September 2008, the organization has quickly established the foundation for this new ministry. Jeff Pratt was named Leadership Board Chairman for FCA Wrestling, and an impressive Leadership Board of wrestling leaders has stepped forward to help provide direction and support for FCA Wrestling.
“This is a big-time position for a big-time leader who will make a big-time impact on wrestling for a long time. This is a huge opportunity for somebody who is called to leadership,” said Tim Johnson, FCA Vice President of the Midwest Region.