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Wrestling to return to Northeastern Junior College

Northeastern Junior College will be bringing back its once-thriving intercollegiate wrestling program -- and add a new women's soccer program -- the Colorado-based college announced Tuesday.

Both programs will begin competition in NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) Division I in fall 2016.

Decades ago, Northeastern Junior College had a successful wrestling program. NJC wrestlers won the first-ever Empire Conference Championship in 1954-56. A decade later, NJC earned its first NJCAA national champion in wrestling in 1964, then claimed back-to-back national titles in 1966 and 1967… which remain the only national championships in the school's 70-plus year history. Back in the day, Northeastern was taking on programs at larger schools such as Colorado State University, Denver University, University of Northern Colorado, and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Here's how the two-year college described the demise of its mat program: "Wrestling at Northeastern went by the wayside in the 1980s when Title IX legislation affected a number of these programs across the nation."

In subsequent years, more and more small colleges have seen the value of adding wrestling to their sports roster as a way to increase enrollments and offer greater opportunities for student-athletes.

"We've had a number of students asking if and when we would be adding women's soccer and men's wrestling, so there is a good interest," said Northeastern president Jay Lee. "When we began men's soccer the fall of 2011, we knew it would be just a matter of time before we would be expanding the women's athletic offerings to also include soccer. Several schools in our region have added men's wrestling and already have had women's soccer in place and we want to allow our students the same opportunities here."

"As the largest residential two-year college in Colorado also offering competitive athletics, we have the largest number of dorm rooms to fill," Lee continued. "Adding sports is one way to help keep our beds full and, in turn, help keep us economically viable." Lee also added that wrestling and soccer are both sports requiring only a minimal amount of initial equipment to run.

The resurrected men's wrestling program and the new women's soccer program join Northeastern's existing men's and women's basketball, women's volleyball, men's baseball, women's softball, men's soccer and men's and women's golf programs. In addition the college has very competitive rodeo and livestock judging teams.

The school is already seeking a wrestling coach, and actively recruiting potential wrestlers.

Founded in 1941, Northeastern Junior College is located in Sterling, Colo. in the northeast portion of the state, near the Colorado-Nebraska border. The school offers over 80 areas of study. NJC's sports teams as the Plainsmen.

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