Ottawa University is adding both men's and women's wrestling programs to its roster of sports programs, the Kansas-based school announced Tuesday.
Currently, Ottawa offers eight men's sports and the same number of women's sports.
The Braves plan to take to the mat during the 2014-15 season. To that end, the school has already launched a search for a head wrestling coach, and began recruitment efforts.
"I have a firm commitment to building a 'scholar-centered' athletic program that will continue to grow the college enrollment and foster expanded investment in campus academic and co-curricular programs," said Ottawa's provost Dr. Terry Haines. "I believe wrestling will be a very positive addition to our athletic program, and this expansion is very much in line with the scholar-athlete model I have advocated throughout my tenure in higher education."
Haines made a strong case for the value of adding wrestling to any college's intercollegiate sports offerings.
"The average GPA (grade point average) of the nation's top elite high school wrestler competing in recent high school national championships was 3.0, which will contribute to and maintain the academic focus of our sports program. Intercollegiate wrestling will also provide additional opportunities for diverse populations to participate in our athletic program, including expanded opportunities for women and multiple physiological profiles for both genders."
Further reinforcing Ottawa's decision to add wrestling is a statistic included in its press release: There are currently 280,000 high school students actively engaged in wrestling at the secondary education level.
Ottawa University joins a growing list of small colleges launching intercollegiate wrestling programs. Right now, there are 43 men's wrestling teams in the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) where the Braves compete. In addition to Ottawa, three other Kansas colleges have added wrestling in recent years: Benedictine College, Baker University, and Bethany College.
"We are excited to offer both women's and men's athletic opportunities in this very popular sport," said Ottawa's Director of Athletics Arabie Conner. "Women's wrestling is rapidly growing across the nation on the youth and high school levels, and there are still limited opportunities for competing at the college level. We are very interested in expanding opportunities for the many competitive, highly skilled scholar-athletes who are looking for opportunities to continue to compete on the college level."
Ottawa University was founded in 1856. The four-year school, affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA, has a student enrollment of 600 at its main residential campus in Ottawa, Kan.; there are additional learning centers scattered across the nation.
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