Just seven months after announcing it would be launching new men's and women's intercollegiate wrestling programs, Iowa Wesleyan University has received a $250,000 gift for a new wrestling training facility.
The gift from Mark and Sandy Willis will be used to renovate an existing building to create a state-of-the-art wrestling training center, including a wrestling room, locker rooms, a weight room, and "other wrestling-specific amenities" along with space for offices and a film room for the wrestling program and other athletic staff, according to the school's official announcement made this week.
To honor the donors, the newly renovated structure will be named the Willis Wrestling Facility. Mark Willis is a 1970 graduate of Iowa Wesleyan, and a 2017 inductee into the IW Tiger Athletics Hall of Fame.
The building itself was a gift to Iowa Wesleyan made by the Randy and Karly Beavers Family in 2007.
Mark and Sandy Willis made the quarter-million-dollar gift as a challenge to other alumni and wrestling fans to help grow a solid foundation for the program's future. Renovation is expected to begin in late spring following the completion of a successful fundraising effort for the new wrestling program. The facility should be completed by the fall of 2020.
The new Iowa Wesleyan wrestling programs are slated to start competing in the 2020-21 school year in NCAA Division III. In fact, IW will have the first D3 women's program in the state of Iowa.
"The impact of this gift from Mark and Sandy is significant for our community, from our athletics program to our enrollment management efforts," said Iowa Wesleyan President Chris Plunkett. "This facility will also have an immediate and positive impact on our recruiting efforts for future Tigers."
"Thanks to the incredible support from Mark and Sandy Willis, men's and women's Tiger wrestling student-athletes will now enjoy the benefits of a new training facility," said Derek Zander, director of athletics. "The facility will house all of the day-to-day operations of our teams, coaches, and staff. It will greatly enhance the experience of our student-athletes and will assure potential recruits of our university's commitment to excellence to this new program."
Iowa Wesleyan announced the addition of both men's and women's varsity wrestling programs back in May. In August, the school revealed that it had hired Robert Watson-Powell as head coach for the two new mat programs.
Iowa Wesleyan University is a private, four-year liberal arts college in Mount Pleasant, Iowa about an hour south of Iowa City. Founded in 1842, IWU is not only Iowa's first co-educational institution of higher learning, but also the oldest of its type west of the Mississippi River. The school currently has an enrollment of approximately 600 students.