Wrestling Team Remains Strong In Years After 20-Year Hiatus
By Rishabh Parikh '12, News Section Editor
Last weekend, Amherst hosted its first wrestling tournament in almost 25 years. The Groundhog Day Invitational, as it was called, attracted student-athletes from a variety of schools and marked another milestone along wrestling’s road to revival at the College.

Wrestling returned to Amherst after a nearly 20-year hiatus during the 2008-2009 school year when Eddy Augustin was hired as the head wrestling coach and tasked with rebuilding the College’s club wrestling program from scratch.

“We restarted the program to see where it would go,” noted Augustin. “We looked at it as a three-year plan to find out if there was interest and whether or not we could once again generate enough excitement for the sport to create an active group of wrestlers.”

Wrestling had been an important varsity sport at Amherst since as early as the 1920s, but was discontinued after the 1989-1990 school year due to a multitude of factors, among them a drop in student interest.

The Wrestling Club currently competes in the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA), which is comprised of approximately 100 wrestling teams, most of which are club teams. A wide range of colleges and universities, as well as preparatory schools, participate in the NCWA. The NCWA’s Northeast Conference, of which the College’s Wrestling Club is a part, includes schools such as the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and the University of New Hampshire. A number of the schools in the NCWA also have Div. I varsity wrestling programs. “We’re now starting to see that a lot of schools with Division I programs also have club teams,” said Augustin. “These teams are not tied directly to the varsity rosters, but the club athletes do have the opportunity to train and compete throughout each season and maybe eventually make their schools’ varsity programs.”

The Wrestling Club currently has 16 members — six freshmen, six sophomores, one junior and three seniors — and has been remarkably successful over the course of the past year. Amherst placed seventh out of 27 schools at the NCWA’s Northeast Regional Championship Tournament last spring, and individual successes for members of the team have been noteworthy. “We had a lot of success in a short time last year from an individual standpoint,” said Augustin. “We had a national champion and a national runner-up.”

Rumors have recently surfaced that the College’s Wrestling Club is going to become a varsity sport next fall. Augustin, however, was quick to note that these rumors are entirely unfounded.

“Becoming a varsity sport would demand a lot of things, and I don’t know if we’ve reached that level yet,” explained Augustin. “If the College wants to reinstate wrestling as a varsity sport, there are a lot of things that are involved, such as scheduling issues regarding the use of facilities with other sports and obtaining support from the Office of Admissions for active recruiting. It takes a great deal of communication and commitment from everybody in the Amherst community, and I think everyone is just happy with what we’ve done and are doing at the club level here. We’re just trying to do the best we can in our current competitive field.”

Augustin also stressed the importance of club sports as a whole in the College community, noting that they give students the opportunity to engage in athletics without the full pressures of varsity commitments. “Club sports have opened up a lot of doors for student-athletes to not feel the pressures that come with competing at a varsity level,” said Augustin. “The commitment, and the physical and mental training and pressures, are different. That’s not to say that we [on the wrestling team] don’t train and compete as if we are a varsity sport, because we do. From day one, I tell our wrestlers that the Wrestling Club is run like a varsity program. The difference, however, is that, as a club sport, the wrestlers can determine how far they want to go with their commitments to the team. With a varsity sport, you come to the College with a commitment to the sport. At the club level, students have the freedom to control what they’d like to do with the experience. [When we started the Club,] we had kids who were capable of competing at a national level, and we had kids who had never before stepped on a wrestling mat. We’re really proud of our kids and where they’ve gone, especially those who started last year.”

The wrestling team’s next competition will be next Saturday, Feb. 13, and will be a special alumni event.

Issue 14, Submitted 2010-02-10 03:52:17