Illinois' Joliet Junior College to bring back wrestling

Joliet Junior College, the nation's oldest two-year public college, is celebrating its 115th birthday by reinstating its intercollegiate wrestling program which had been eliminated nearly 30 years ago, the school located just outside Chicago announced Wednesday.

The school's Board of Trustees approved at their Tuesday meeting the establishment of a wrestling program as a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) sport in fall 2017, if wrestling advocates raise the $30,000-$35,000 needed to relaunch the program by April 2017, the Chicago Tribune reported.

As for the costs to Joliet Junior College, Athletic Director Wayne L. King, Jr., said Tuesday that he believed a $10,000 line item in the 2017 school budget to launch the wrestling program would be adequate for roughly 30 athletes. Overall insurance costs for the school would increase approximately $12,000 with the addition of wrestling, according to the Joliet Herald-News .

In addition to budget aspects, the proposal approved by the board includes the establishment of a wrestling committee to be chaired by King which will oversee the hiring of a coach for the wrestling program. The inaugural season for the program would coincide with the 2017 opening the JJC Events Center which would have space for the program and its athletes.

JJC currently has four sports for male athletes including baseball, basketball, soccer and cross country; and five sports for female athletes including basketball, soccer, softball, volleyball and cross country. Cheerleading and dance also are available for both males and females.

In recent years, there have been efforts from within the local community -- including from local high school wrestling coaches -- to bring back wrestling at Joliet Junior College, with an eye to providing more competitive opportunities for wrestlers from the area ... and to increase enrollment at JJC.

"This program has the potential to bring more student-athletes to JJC in the future, and I look forward to working with the wrestling advocates in our community to bring back a sport that has a rich history at the college," said King.

"Joliet is known for producing excellent wrestlers," JJC Trustee Patricia Deiters said. "I think it's something that's going to attract people to this area and stay here."

"We look forward to introducing wrestling once again to the athletic department at JJC," said Vice President of Student Development Dr. Yolanda Isaacs. "Our hope is that this program will offer current and future students another opportunity for developing themselves in athletic competition as well as in the classroom."

Wrestling had been on the roster of Joliet Junior College from the 1960s into the mid-1980s, according to the school's official announcement. Individual JJC wrestlers and teams earned local, national and even international awards and recognition. Wrestling Coach Henry Pillard, who retired in 1985 after leading the program in the mid-60s then again from 1970 to 1985, was arguably the major force in the past success of the program. One of his most celebrated JJC wrestlers was Harry Geris, a Canadian native who started his collegiate career at Joliet, then went on to continued success as an Oklahoma State heavyweight, going up against the giants of the early 1970s such as Iowa State's Chris Taylor ... then wrestling for Canada at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. (Harry Geris' life is chronicled in the book "Buried Under the Maple Leaves" which was the subject of an InterMat Reads feature in July 2015.)

Founded in 1901, Joliet Junior College is the oldest public two-year college in the U.S. It now serves 35,000 students at multiple campuses in and around Joliet, Illinois, a city located southwest of Chicago.


Login or Register to post a comment