There are many opportunities for high school wrestlers to continue competing in folkstyle wrestling in college. This past year, 232 colleges sponsored NCAA wrestling across the three divisions. In addition, there were 57 NAIA wrestling programs, 44 NJCAA wrestling programs and 162 NCWA wrestling programs.
But what if a high school wrestler wants to pursue Greco-Roman while in college? Let’s examine the various Greco-Roman opportunities available.
Northern Michigan University
The Greco-Roman wrestling program at the Northern Michigan University Olympic Training Site, which was established in 1999, has grown into a major contributor to the U.S. Olympic movement.
“Northern Michigan is the standard-bearer for high schoolers looking to continue their Greco-Roman careers in lieu of attending a folkstyle college,” said Timothy Hands, founder and senior editor of Five Point Move, a website that covers Greco-Roman wrestling.
The program has produced nine Olympians, including multiple-time world medalist Andy Bisek, Olympic medalist Adam Wheeler and multiple-time Olympians Harry Lester and Ben Provisor.
There are typically 40-45 resident athletes on the team each year. Wrestlers train on the second floor of Northern Michigan University’s Superior Dome.
Rob Hermann has served as the program’s head coach since 2010. He was the head coach for the 1996 U.S. Olympic team and has been named USA Wrestling Greco-Roman Coach of the Year twice. His assistant is former Northern Michigan wrestler Andy Bisek, who competed at the Rio Olympics after winning world bronze medals in 2014 and 2015.
“NMU is at the point now where athletes still in high school are going over there prior to receiving their diplomas since they can finish off their high school credits while training, thus giving them a head start,” said Hands. “Northern also arranges important overseas tours, usually to Sweden or other places, though funding is often independent of the school and/or the national governing body. Athletes who enjoy sponsorship from a club, which for NMU wrestlers is predominantly NYAC, can subsidize those costs somewhat.”
For more information on the Northern Michigan Greco-Roman wrestling program, visit Northern Michigan’s Greco-Roman wrestling website.
Williams Baptist College
This past October, Williams Baptist College, located in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, announced the addition of Greco-Roman wrestling as an intercollegiate sport, beginning this coming fall. Former Greco-Roman wrestler Kerry Regner, who was coaching the Williams Baptist College wrestling program at the time, came up with the idea. It was sparked by Northern Michigan discontinuing its women’s wrestling program and enrollment-driven schools starting women’s wrestling.
“I was like we could do this for Greco,” Regner told Jason Bryant on his Short Time Wrestling Podcast. “We have the capabilities. We have the means. We have the want. We could easily just add a men’s Greco-Roman program, basically with the model of Northern Michigan slash women’s program. We’re the first program to do it ourselves.”
The head coach of Williams Baptist’s Greco-Roman team is Jonathan Drendel, a past University Nationals champion and Junior Nationals champion in Greco-Roman.
“Drendel is a very positive, very energetic yet selfless individual who wrestlers seem to respond to,” noted Harms. “The other selling point to Williams Baptist is the climate. Whereas Marquette, Michigan can be a very, very cold place to be with extremely harsh winters, Arkansas obviously offers a much, much, much milder climate, which will wind up making Williams an attractive option for wrestlers from the warmer states who’d like to stick with Greco.”
To learn more about the Williams Baptist Greco-Roman wrestling program, visit Williams Baptist’s Greco-Roman wrestling website.
Olivet College, located in Olivet, Michigan, provides opportunities for wrestlers to train in Greco-Roman at their regional training center (RTC). According to the school’s website, “Olivet College will be the only Division III school named a Greco-Roman wrestling RTC. A grant from the U.S. Wrestling Foundation has paved the way for Olivet College to be named an RTC.”
Olivet’s Greco-Roman RTC coach is Rich Estrella, who served as head coach of the U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman Team in Beijing, China, in 2008. He was also the head coach of the 2007 Greco-Roman World Team that won the world team title.
The National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA) recently established the GoGreco program.
The NCWA’s Greco-Roman wrestling season begins in late March and concludes in early June with the GoGreco Collegiate National Championships. It is an open entry event to any NCWA member institution.
According to the organization’s website, “Each NCWA state and conference organization is encouraged to promote the GoGreco program in their respective state, and to send to the GoGreco Nationals any and all representatives they feel will make a contribution to the growth of the Greco-Roman style of wrestling in their state. All qualified athletes must be in good standing with their member institution for the past academic season having completed at least 6 credit hours toward graduation in a matriculating program offered by their school. Athletes must also be carrying a minimum of a 2.0 cumulative GPA on their last academic report to be eligible to compete.”
North Texas won the team title at the the inaugural Greco-Roman College National Championships on June 9 in Dallas, Texas. The North Texas program is coached by three-time world medalist Andre Metzger. Finishing second was Richland College. Other programs that participated in the event included USC, UCLA, Springfield Tech CC, Texas State, Houston and Grays Harbor.
To learn more about the NCWA’s GoGreco program and opportunities, visit the NCWA website.