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University of the Ozarks to add men's wrestling program for 2014-15

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The University of the Ozarks is adding a men’s wrestling program to its sports roster in 2014-15, the Clarksville, Ark. college announced Thursday.

The university has already launched a job search for head coach, d3wrestle.com reported Thursday.

Wrestling will become Ozarks’ eleventh NCAA Division III varsity sport. In fact, Ozarks is the first D3 mat program -- and the sixth school -- in the state of Arkansas to offer the sport, joining recently established programs at Ouachita Baptist University (NCAA Division II), Central Baptist College (NAIA – National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) and Arkansas Baptist College (NJCAA – National Junior College Athletic Association). Lyon College and Williams Baptist College – both NAIA schools -- have announced they will have new wrestling programs this fall.

As with so many other smaller colleges, University of the Ozarks administrators appreciate how intercollegiate wrestling can attract students.

"Adding wrestling is an important part of our growth as an NCAA Division III institution in regards to enrollment and identity," said Athletics Director Jimmy Clark. "Wrestling has seen an increase in popularity within the state, and in Missouri and Oklahoma, it is even bigger. In Texas, there is only one collegiate wrestling program, so we have an opportunity to bring in student-athletes that we couldn't reach otherwise. The research we conducted found that wrestling brings in the second largest number of students other than football."

Only a few short years ago, amateur wrestling programs in Arkansas were pretty much nonexistent. However, wrestling has experienced tremendous growth in the state, both at the high school and collegiate level. According to the Arkansas Activities Association web site, 64 high schools in the state participate in wrestling.

Clark credits wrestling advocate Greg Hatcher, of Little Rock, with helping Ozarks establish its wrestling program. Hatcher, who is President of the Arkansas Wrestling Association, is funding mats and other equipment to assist in getting the team started.

"We have benefitted from Greg's expertise, and we are appreciative of his desire to assist us in starting the program," said Clark.

In addition to a men’s mat program, University of the Ozarks will also be launching a new cheer/STUNT program. STUNT, according to the official College STUNT organization’s website, “is the new competitive team sport derived from cheerleading. STUNT removes the crowd-leading element and focuses on the technical and athletic components of cheer, including partner stunts, pyramids, basket tosses, group jumps and tumbling.”

University of the Ozarks’ president Richard Dunsworth offered his stamp of approval for the new wrestling and cheer/STUNT programs by saying, “The addition of these sports will allow students the opportunity to compete at the NCAA Division III level while earning a degree and developing their personal and professional calling. Nearly 40 percent of our student-athletes achieved conference All-Academic status this year. And, a number of others have earned individual academic and athletic honors at the regional and national level. Student-athletes at the University of the Ozarks experience academic success and professional preparation, increasing further educational opportunities as well as greater job placement. It is a perfect time to create additional opportunities for young people to experience that success."

Founded in 1834, University of the Ozarks is a private, undergraduate university that is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Located in Clarksville, Ark. -- approximately 100 miles west of Little Rock and 60 miles east of Fort Smith – the school has nearly 600 students.

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