Walnut Ridge, Ark. -- Men's wrestling is the latest sport to be added to the varsity athletic program at Williams Baptist College. WBC says it plans to hire a wrestling coach to start recruiting this year, and the Eagles wrestling squad will begin competition in the 2014-15 school year.
"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 in Little Rock, with helping WBC establish its wrestling program. Hatcher, a wrestling advocate, is funding mats 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. The NWCA has played a major role in establishing many of the 100 plus new collegiate wrestling programs that have been established since 1999. The NWCA facilitates and coordinates the important fundraising initiatives and leadership development programs designed to get new programs off the ground. "On behalf of the NWCA Board of Directors, I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to the WBC administration for recognizing the educational value that intercollegiate wrestling brings to a campus," said NWCA president, Rob Koll.
John Purnell, president of Brute, a company that manufactures wrestling equipment, is donating a set of competition uniforms for 15 wrestlers. Brute celebrates with the NWCA the addition of yet another program to the college ranks. What is especially rewarding is that college wrestling is relatively new in the great state of Arkansas. Brute continues to support wrestling through its R.E.A.C.H.E.S. (Rewarding Educational Athletic Choices Helping Each Sport) program. R.E.A.C.H.E.S. is a nonprofit 501(c) (3) organization founded in 2007 in an effort to promote, protect and preserve amateur wrestling in its truest form. R.E.A.C.H.E.S. provides athletic opportunities to athletes of all ages and abilities. Since R.E.A.C.H.E.S. inception in 2007, Brute has given back to wrestling in excess of $200,000.00.
In addition the U.S. Wrestling Foundation, committed $5,000 toward startup costs of the program. "We are thrilled to support Williams Baptist as they take the step of adding wrestling to their intercollegiate athletic program," stated Jeff Waters, Board President of the US Wrestling Foundation. "This support demonstrates the partnership between the Foundation, USA Wrestling and the National Wrestling Coaches Association as we come together to promote and grow the sport. We are also particularly grateful for the leadership and generosity of Foundation Board Member Greg Hatcher."
"Mr. Hatcher's personal generosity and his introduction to us of significant leaders in the sport have been crucial in our efforts to begin a wrestling program." said WBC President Dr. Tom Jones. "The character of these key leaders and the wrestling community they represent will help us build a program that will blend perfectly with our mission to provide an excellent, holistically Christian, liberal arts education, while compassionately shaping student lives."
"Wrestling will give Williams exposure to the thousands of high school wrestlers looking for a place to compete. As a result, they will receive 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.
The wrestling program is expected to have more than 25 athletes when in full swing. 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.
WBC is a four-year, liberal arts college at Walnut Ridge. The Eagles compete in the American Midwest Conference of the NAIA.