Huntingdon to launch wrestling program - Montgomery Alabama news.

Huntingdon to launch wrestling program

Huntingdon College President J. Cameron West announced Wednesday the addition of wrestling as an intercollegiate sport for men in Huntingdon's NCAA-Division III athletic program. With the announcement, Huntingdon becomes the only four-year college in the state to offer the sport.

West also introduced U.S. Naval Academy graduate and U.S. Navy retiree Tom Storey to serve as head coach for the program. Storey will begin recruitment of student-athletes immediately. Storey, who won state and regional wrestling championships at the high school and college levels, also won Armed Forces and University championships at the Open level. He comes to Huntingdon with 18 years of wrestling experience and 8 years of coaching experience at all levels of the sport. "I just retired after 20 years of military service and my thought was to go back to my hometown of Coudersport, Pennsylvania, and help with wrestling programs there—then I learned about Huntingdon's program," said Storey. "I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to be the ambassador for collegiate wrestling in Alabama. I look forward to building the Huntingdon wrestling program and to making this a place where talented young men in this region can build their skills."

According to Storey, there are 90 high school wrestling teams in Alabama and 2700 wrestlers, but no four-year college programs in the state to which these students may aspire. Nationwide, programs at the high school level have grown steadily since the early 1990s, but collegiate involvement with the sport hasn't kept pace, especially in the South. Following months of discussion, the International Olympic Committee voted earlier this week to retain wrestling—one of the original eight rings in the Olympic logo—as a sport until at least 2024.

"This is a big deal for Huntingdon College and for the sport of wrestling in Alabama," Huntingdon athletic director Mike Turk said. "We are proud to be the only four-year school in the state to offer wrestling. There are a lot of kids in this state, and surrounding states, who would like to have an opportunity to continue to wrestle at the collegiate level. This will provide an opportunity for them to participate in a sport they are passionate about at a school that is closer to home."

Internationally respected as the icon in college and Olympic wrestling, Dan Gable was on campus to share in the announcement. Gable amassed a record of 182-1 during his prep and college careers, then added titles in the 1971 Pan American Games, the 1972 Tbilisi Tournament, the 1971 World Championships, six Midlands Open championships, and the 1972 gold medal in the Munich Summer Olympic games, which he earned without ever surrendering a point to his opponents. When his wrestling career was complete, he joined the coaching staff at the University of Iowa, leading the program to a career record of 355-21-5. The Hawkeyes won 25 consecutive Big Ten championships, 21 with Gable as head coach and 4 under his leadership as assistant coach and administrator. He also served as three-time U.S. Olympic head coach and two-time assistant freestyle coach, and coached six World teams and ten World Cup teams, among a long list of coaching accolades. Gable was inducted into the U.S.A. Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1980 and to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1985. Gannett News Services named him the top wrestler of the 20th century, and he also garnered respect as one of the "100 Golden Olympians," the top champions of all time. He is now a motivational speaker. Said Gable, "Three days ago we had the announcement from the International Olympic Committee that they will continue to offer wrestling through 2024. Two days ago ESPN decided they would air all of the NCAA wrestling championships. Today we have this announcement at Huntingdon, showing that internationally and in the United States, the sport is growing." Speaking to the dozens of young wrestlers from wrestling teams across Alabama who were present for the announcement, Gable affirmed the discipline necessary, both academically and on the mats, for success in college athletics.

Noting that national interest in the sport has grown steadily since a slump in the 1980s, National Wrestling Coaches Association executive director Mike Moyer said the time is right for Huntingdon to begin the sport in Alabama. Moyer and Jeff Waters, president of the U.S. Wrestling Foundation, were instrumental in the formation of the Huntingdon program, the one-hundredth NWCA program established since 2001. The NWCA facilitated a fundraising effort to contribute toward start-up costs of the program. Moyer noted a lead gift from Feldmeier Equipment and other gifts from the Unus Foundation, United States Wrestling Foundation, Brute Manufacturing, and Arkansas businessman Greg Hatcher, in total more than $40,000.

Waters said, "We are thrilled to be able to support Huntingdon College as it adds a varsity wrestling program. This continues the partnership between the Foundation, USA Wrestling, and the NWCA as we pursue our mission to add college wrestling programs throughout the United States."

Storey said that the sport's addition will benefit the entire Huntingdon community. "Wrestling is a life sport," said Storey, "because not only do students participate in the sport, but they also make decisions about nutrition and fitness and wellness that guide their lives. It's a year-round sport that demands discipline and dedication, and it accommodates men of various sizes, shapes, and skill levels. Wrestling teaches men to serve their sport and to make a healthy lifestyle permeate their lives, rather than just perfecting certain skills. The wrestling mindset is a natural match with Huntingdon's focus on service."

Wrestling is a winter sport at the college level. Huntingdon's team will begin competition in October 2014.

Huntingdon College, grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition of the United Methodist Church, is committed to nurturing growth in faith, wisdom, and service and to graduating individuals prepared to succeed in a rapidly changing world. Founded in 1854, Huntingdon is a coeducational liberal arts college. The College motto is "Enter to grow in wisdom; go forth to apply wisdom in service." Wrestling joins the roster of NCAA-III sports at Huntingdon, which include men's baseball, basketball, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, and tennis and women's basketball, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, and volleyball. Huntingdon is a member of the NCAA-Division III USA-South Athletic Conference.

INFORMATION SOURCE: Huntingdon University Athletics Dept.

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