The addition of George Mason and Rider brings the EWL back to seven teams, including Bloomsburg, Clarion, Cleveland State, Edinboro and Lock Haven. West Virginia departed following the 2011-12 season for the Big Eight and Pittsburgh, the EWL Tournament champion in 2012 and '13, is leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference. It also marks the first time the EWL has expanded since Virginia Tech, now also a member of the ACC, joined the conference in 1999.
"We are extremely happy to announce the addition of George Mason and Rider," related Baumgartner, who also serves as the Director of Athletics at Edinboro. "We add two very sound wrestling programs with solid traditions. It brings the EWL back to seven teams and we will continue to have a quality season-ending qualifying tournament. In addition, this solidifies schedules with the teams meeting in a round-robin format. We welcome George Mason and Rider to the EWL. Their addition allows us to maintain the national respect for the Eastern Wrestling League."
Baumgartner stressed that the league's coaches will meet in the future to work out details in the transition year. With schedules virtually in place, the league will likely not begin the round-robin duals until 2014-15. He also noted that Cleveland State will host the 2014 EWL Championships on Saturday, March 8, 2014.
"Myself and the entire coaching staff are very excited about joining the EWL," commented long-time Rider head coach Gary Taylor, who has 390 career wins in 35 years as head coach. "It is with great respect and appreciation that we accepted the invitation from EWL Commissioner Bruce Baumgartner."
"The EWL's history of success over the years speaks volumes to the fact that they consistently are one of the elite NCAA Div 1 wrestling conferences in the country. Since 1984 the EWL has produced 25 NCAA Champions and hundreds of All Americans. We look forward to being a part of this prestigious wrestling league and will work hard to contribute to the future success of the EWL."
George Mason head coach Joe Russell echoed Taylor's sentiments. "We are excited to join the EWL. The league has stood the test of time and has produced some great wrestlers. We will need to improve as a whole to be competitive in this league. The bar has been raised and we are going to make positive gains as a result. This is a good day for Mason Wrestling."
Edinboro head coach Tim Flynn sees the expansion as a positive move for the conference. "We're very happy George Mason and Rider have decided to join us," he stated. "Regionally it makes a lot of sense. It provides us with two solid teams. We look forward to competing against them." In fact, Edinboro has a dual scheduled against Rider in 2013-14.
Rider was a member of the Colonial Athletic Association for wrestling since 2002 and placed second at the 2013 CAA Championships. The Broncs were previously members of the East Coast Conference and the East Coast Wrestling Association from 1975-2001 and won 13 ECC/ECWA Championships. They served as host for the NCAA Division I National Champions in 2001 in Philadelphia and in 2002 in Albany. Rider competes in all other sports in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
George Mason moves to the Atlantic 10 Conference effective July 2013. Russell took over as the head coach of the Patriots in July 2011. The former Minnesota assistant coach now looks to continue rebuilding their wrestling fortunes in the EWL. The Patriots earned five Colonial Athletic Association championships since joining the conference in 1992.