BRADFORD, Pa. -- The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford will add wrestling to its NCAA Division III varsity sports beginning with the 2018-19 academic year.
"We're certainly aware of the passion and enthusiasm students and parents in our region have for wrestling," said Dr. Livingston Alexander, Pitt-Bradford's president. "Accordingly, we've been planning and organizing the necessary resources to advance our wrestling program from club status to the NCAA intercollegiate level. The time has come to do so, and we're now poised to begin competition at the Division III level in fall 2018. We hope the wrestling enthusiasts in our area will no longer feel they have to leave the region to study and wrestle."
The Pitt-Bradford wrestling team will compete in an independent schedule made up of a combination of duals and tournaments. The Panthers will join the 104 other programs in NCAA Division III wrestling, of which 31 compete independently.
All Pitt-Bradford wrestlers will have the opportunity to qualify for the NCAA Division III National Wrestling Tournament, which has followed the Division I regional format since 2012.
Wrestling came to Pitt-Bradford two years ago when a group of students wanted to compete beyond high school. Andrew McRandal, a biology major from Pittsburgh, spearheaded the club along with a group of his peers. They received additional support from Rich Kahle, facilities and fitness manager; and Kathy Moonan, manager of accounts payable. Moonan's son, Matthew, is studying business management and accounting at Pitt-Bradford and is an assistant coach for Bradford Junior Olympic Wrestling Club while filling in for the Pitt-Bradford wrestling club at times.
A significant boost to the wrestling club came when Kevin and Cindy Keane of Bradford gave a generous gift to Pitt-Bradford that covered the cost of new practice and competition mats and other one-time gear, rent for practice space at neighboring St. Bernard Elementary School, association dues, tournament entry fees, and transportation and lodging for the club's meets.
Last year's Pitt-Bradford wrestling club had 12 members, nine coming from the state of Pennsylvania, two of which local from Bradford and Coudersport. Two participants came from New Jersey while one each came from Ohio and New York.
The club competed at the USCAA Wrestling Invitational in State College (Feb. 11), a dual match at Penn State Mont Alto (Feb. 12) and the NCWA Mid-East Conference Championship (Feb. 25).
"I am very excited about our plans to start an NCAA Division III varsity wrestling program at Pitt-Bradford," said Bret Butler, director of athletics. "Wrestling is not only extremely popular in our region, but it is simply a fantastic sport. We expect interest in our program to be very high, and I personally cannot wait to be sitting in the KOA Arena on a winter evening, watching our team in a dual. This addition will be great not only for Pitt-Bradford, but also for the Bradford sports community."
A national search for a head coach will begin in October. Pitt-Bradford officials hope the new coach will be on board in January.
The addition of wrestling next fall increases Pitt-Bradford's men's sports teams to seven: baseball, basketball, golf, soccer, swimming and tennis. Pitt-Bradford also offers seven women's sports: basketball, bowling, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis and volleyball.
For further information about the new sports program, contact Butler at 814-362-5093 or firstname.lastname@example.org.