LITTLE ROCK – The University of Arkansas at Little Rock today unveiled a plan to add a major sport to its intercollegiate athletics program, a strategic decision that is expected to increase student enrollment. The final decision is conditional on approval from the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees.
Chancellor Andrew Rogerson said UA Little Rock plans to add wrestling as its 15th sport, becoming the only NCAA Division I wrestling program in the state. The news was announced at the 2018 NCAA Wrestling Championships in Cleveland, Ohio, on Saturday, March 17.
Pending board approval, Little Rock wrestling will begin competition in fall 2019.
“This is exciting news for the university as we continue to elevate and grow our athletics program and find opportunities for enrollment growth,” said Rogerson. “Our student-athletes as a group have the highest Division I graduation success rate in the state, so we’re confident this program will bring in additional students with high GPAs and success in the classroom.”
The addition of wrestling is a major milestone for both the athletics department and the sport. Arkansas has seen tremendous growth with about 200 high schools across the state supporting a wrestling program.
“Little Rock Athletics is thrilled to announce the addition of Division I wrestling to our campus,” said Director of Athletics Chasse Conque. “This serves as an exciting milestone for our department, adding a program that will complement and enhance the profile of our existing 14 sports.”
The idea came to fruition after a recent $1.4 million pledge from Greg Hatcher to secure funding to begin the program. The gift from Hatcher, a prominent Little Rock businessman and supporter of youth sports, will help UA Little Rock build a wrestling facility, purchase equipment, and fund operational expenditures.
“Thanks to Chancellor Andrew Rogerson and Athletic Director Chasse Conque, Little Rock and the state of Arkansas will now be the home to Division I wrestling,” Hatcher said. “This will now bring wrestling at the highest level to our city in the grandest way possible, and I couldn’t be happier for our city and state.”
“Trojan Athletics is most grateful to Greg Hatcher for his generous commitment, helping take this from a concept to a reality,” Conque said. “Greg’s passion for wrestling has been felt across the entire state as interest in the sport has gained tremendous momentum in Arkansas over the last decade.”
Little Rock will begin the process of seeking the program’s first head coach, who will then begin recruiting student-athletes. With the addition of wrestling, as well as increased scholarship opportunities in a number of female sports, the Trojans will bring the number of student-athletes competing for Little Rock to more than 250 in the next few years.
Wrestling is not new to the Jack Stephens Center, which has served as the host venue for the Arkansas State Wrestling Championships since 2008. The Little Rock Trojans will host their home meets at the Jack Stephens Center with the first meet anticipated to take place in late 2019.
Bringing a Division I wrestling program to Little Rock has been a conversation that has been ongoing for a number of years. The decision was reached independently of the ongoing feasibility study, which is expected to conclude in late spring 2018. The possibility of adding a football and marching band program remains viable.
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA. – Ouachita Baptist wrestler Tyler Mann (Little Rock, Ark.) became the eighth different Tiger in program history to garner All-America honors, in route to a birth in the National Semifinals.
“Amazing, no words can describe how proud we are of Tyler.” Ouachita wrestling coach Kevin Crutchmer said, “We are not through preparing, there is still a lot of wrestling left.”
Mann won his opening round matchup in the 165-pound weight division against Greg Hilliard of Belmont Abbey, 6-0. In the quarterfinal matchup, Mann and Devin Austin battled to a 1-1 tie in regulation. Mann won in overtime taking the match 3-1.
The Little Rock native will face off against Bret Romanzak of Ashland. Romanzak finished the regular season 38-4 and won both of his matches by a combined score of 11-2.
On the other side of the bracket Rodney Shephard of UNC Pembroke and Christian Smith of California Baptist square off for a spot in the finals.
If Mann wins both of his matches tomorrow, he will become the programs second ever individual National Champion. Dallas Smith was the last Tiger to accomplish the feat back in the 2015 season.
To stay up-to-date with all the latest wrestling news, stay tuned to obutigers.com or on twitter @OuachitaTigers or @obutigertough
The National Wrestling Hall of Fame, USA Wrestling and FloWrestlingon Friday released their first national rankings for high school girls.
The three leading wrestling organizations have partnered to create regular national rankings and will work together to strategically publish rankings throughout the year. Rankings will be on each organization’s website as well as being promoted through each of their different media platforms.
“One of the best ways to grow our sport is through increased participation from female athletes,” said National Wrestling Hall of Fame Executive Director Lee Roy Smith. “We all feel that it is time for our female wrestlers to be awarded the same opportunities as male wrestlers, and having regular national rankings is a positive step towards making that happen.”
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Our very won Randy Steen has been handed the Bobby Walton Award, an honor recognizing the most oustanding mat official from the Junior National Duals Freestyle in Tulsa back in June.
Recognized as one of the top officials in the sport, is also the lead official at the state tournament. Steen has been involved with wrestling for the past 47 years and was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. He’s been involved with the sports since the 8th grade, having wrestled for four years in high school and lettered three years at Southwest Missouri State University.
After graduating college Steen began coaching and officiating and has played a vital role in the growth of Arkansas wrestling since it was sanctioned as a high school sport in 2008. He spent three years coaching at Rogers Heritage, where he led the Eagles to a state championship.
Little Rock Christian Academy will host its First Annual Middle School Wrestling Tournament for sixth through eighth grade students on Friday, January 27th, 2012 at the Little Rock Christian Gym. Weigh Ins are from 5:00 to 5:30 p.m. with the matches starting at 6:00 p.m. All middle school students attending a school with a wrestling program are eligible to participate, applications are due by January 17th, 2012. Contact Bruce Hurlbut (501) 681-3455 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Leland Kurfess (501) 765-5819, or Danny Newton (501) 515-0704. Click on the following link for more details: LRCA MS Wrestling Application.