Garrett College will be first state JuCo mat squad in 2018-19
McHENRY – Garrett College's Board of Trustees approved a proposal Tuesday night to add intercollegiate wrestling to its varsity sports lineup in the 2018-19 academic year. In doing so, the Lakers become the first Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference mat team – an advantage GC Director of Athletics Dennis Gibson plans to use to the new program's advantage.
"Our first push will be to recruit from Northern Garrett and Southern Garrett's high school programs," said Gibson, "but we also expect this program to garner broad, statewide interest. We plan to identify and aggressively recruit wrestlers from high school programs throughout Maryland and beyond, including the high schools in neighboring Allegany County and nearby Washington and Frederick counties. We also hope to successfully recruit West Virginia."
The Lakers have a couple of other advantages beyond just being the first JuCo program in the state – on-campus residence halls and proposed sport management and exercise science degrees that should be attractive to wrestlers who want a complete college experience and a degree that will allow them to stay connected with athletics after their playing days are done.
"We think wrestlers – in fact, all student athletes – will see our athletic programs, academic majors and on-campus housing as a pretty unique package on the JuCo level," said Gibson, an NJCAA Basketball Hall of Fame member who also serves as the college's men's basketball head coach.
"Several Maryland community colleges have sport management and exercise science programs, but few have the internship opportunities Garrett College can provide," said Dr. Richard Midcap, Garrett College's president. "Our Community Aquatic and Recreation Complex is one of the finest athletic facilities in the state, offering a wealth of internships based on a student's specific interests, including both sport management and exercise science field opportunities."
Dr. Midcap lauded Gibson and Assistant Coordinator of Athletics Eric Hallenbeck for the wrestling proposal.
"Our strategic plan calls for an expansion of intercollegiate athletics to broaden the student experience and generate added enrollment," said Dr. Midcap. "I really think Dennis and Eric came up with a bold, creative approach. They certainly did their research."
While there are no current Maryland JuCo programs for Garrett to schedule, there are four Pennsylvania community colleges – Mercyhurst North East, Valley Forge, Thaddeus Stevens, and Middlesex – currently fielding wrestling teams. Two Penn State satellite campuses – Mont Alto and Schuylkill – and five New York community colleges – Jamestown, Nassau, Niagara, Sullivan, and Ulster – also have mat squads. Gibson said the Lakers expect to build their schedule with these teams while also attending wrestling tournaments hosted by four-year programs.
Garrett College is making a significant investment in the program, with plans to hire a head coach who will have full-time responsibilities within the athletic department as well as a second athletic trainer. The college's target date for having a coach in place is no later than November 1st so that the coach can spend the 2017-18 high school wrestling season recruiting for next year's squad.
"We intend to commit the resources necessary to run a successful wrestling program and ensure we have the athletic training resources to cover three winter sports," said Dr. Midcap. "The only way I was interested in expanding athletics was if we did it the right way. In addition, our financial projections indicate the program actually begins to generate a profit with 14 additional full-time students enrolled – and we expect to enroll at least 20 wrestlers who would not otherwise have attended GC."
Garrett College already fields teams in men's and women's basketball, baseball and softball, women's volleyball, and golf.
"Garrett College has a rich tradition of athletic success," said Gibson. "We expect to write another chapter in that success story with the addition of wrestling."