MacMurray bringing back men’s, introducing women’s wrestling

By Gary Scott on January 8, 2016 at 5:05am

Photo from MacMurray College.

MacMurray College plans on bringing back its men’s wrestling program and adding women’s wrestling next school year.

The move was announced Thursday afternoon. MacMurray Athletic Director Justin Fuhler says the men’s team will compete at the NCAA Division III level, but the NCAA doesn’t sponsor women’s wrestling. He says only 30 teams in the country have women’s teams.

Fuhler says the school decided to add women’s wrestling initially because of the federal Title IX rule that requires schools to have an equal number of athletic programs for men and women.

“As we continued to do research on it, we learned how much of an emerging sport women’s wrestling is, and as I even began to talk to some wrestling coaches in the area, we learned that they have female wrestlers participating here in the State of Illinois. Actually, Jacksonville High School has several female wrestlers who participate,” Fuhler says.

“And we decided that this is an option, the fact that there are so few colleges that offer women’s wrestling, that this is kind of an opportunity for us to get in front of an emerging program that we feel very excited about.”

The college’s men’s wrestling team had great success before it was disbanded in 2007. A press release indicates it stopped because “interest and support fell off.”

“During my time as athletic director, I’ve had a chance to talk with a lot of the wrestling alums that were here in the ‘60s, ‘70s, and even some from the ‘80s and ‘90s that went on, they were successful, and honestly, that was the biggest push behind this, was our alumni wanting to bring back this sport that they were very proud of, and they wanted to see it here at MacMurray,” he says.

Heavyweight Bob Kellogg was the NCAA national champion in his senior year in the 1966-1967 season, two years after finishing second place. MacMurray sports Hall of Famers Ron Otto and Fred Wideman also notched second-place finishes once each in their careers, in 1968 and 1976 respectively.

Fuhler adds part of the argument made for bringing wrestling back is that it will attract more students to MacMurray College.

“In the State of Illinois, we have over 15,000 high school wrestlers, and there are only twelve colleges that offer wrestling. So, it is a sport that we can see in the near future a lot of growth,” Fuhler says.

“To give you one more example, Millikin University in Decatur started wrestling last year, and in the first year, they brought in 40 students that are on the wrestling team. Being a school of 500-plus kids, 600 kids here at MacMurray, if we’re able to build the wrestling roster up into 30 to 40 kids, that’s a pretty good percentage of our total student population, and we wouldn’t have gotten those kids without wrestling,” he adds.

MacMurray will get help from the National Wrestling Coaches Association to hire a coach.

Fuhler adds the wrestling teams will not compete in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, but will start off as independent teams. The goal is to get into wrestling-only conferences eventually, similar to how the football team operates.

We will play the full interview with Fuhler on the Monday edition of “What’s On Your Mind?”