The state of Arkansas is becoming a hotbed for new college wrestling programs.
Williams Baptist College in the northeast portion of the state is the latest to announce the launch of a men’s wrestling program, according to a report at the Amateur Wrestling News website Wednesday, Aug. 21.
The school, a four-year, private liberal arts college in Walnut Ridge, Ark., plans to start recruiting now with plans to put a team on the mat for the 2014-15 school year. The new wrestling program, the Eagles, will compete in the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics).
The Williams Baptist wrestling program is expected to have more than 25 athletes when in full swing, according to the school's press statement. Home matches will take place in WBC's Southerland-Mabee Center, with another campus facility to be used for team practices. It will become the eighth varsity sport at Williams, which also offers men's basketball, baseball and soccer, and women's basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball.
"Wrestling is a great next step as we continue expansion of the Williams athletic program," said WBC Athletic Director Jeff Rider. "It is a good fit for our college, and it's a growing sport in the state of Arkansas."
The college credits Greg Hatcher, owner of the Hatcher Agency insurance firm in Little Rock, with helping WBC establish its wrestling program. Hatcher, who is a wrestling advocate, is funding mats, uniforms and other equipment to assist in getting the team started.
Mike Moyer, executive director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association, also visited WBC to assist in the launch.
"Wrestling will give Williams exposure to the thousands of high school wrestlers looking for a place to compete. As a result, they will end up getting a liberal arts education at a faith-based school, which will help develop future leaders. Wrestling will bring to Williams students who would have never considered the college without a wrestling program," Hatcher commented.
"Mr. Hatcher has been a huge help in getting a wrestling team started, both with his generosity and his guidance," said WBC President Dr. Tom Jones. "Wrestling is a sport that builds character and discipline, blending perfectly with our mission to provide an excellent, holistically Christian, liberal arts education, while compassionately shaping student lives."
In less than four years, five colleges in Arkansas have announced the addition of wrestling programs. Just last month, Lyon College in Batesville, Ark. revealed it would be starting both men’s and women’s wrestling programs. Other Arkansas schools to welcome wrestling to their sports rosters in recent years include Ouachita Baptist (announced in Dec. 2009), Central Baptist (March 2010), and Arkansas Baptist (June 2011). This growth in collegiate wrestling in Arkansas is all the more impressive, given that the state did not have high school wrestling until 2008, according to Amateur Wrestling News.
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