Ohio Wesleyan University will reinstate men’s wrestling and add women’s rowing as varsity sports for the 2018-19 academic year, it was announced by athletics director Roger Ingles.
“It is a bold move to add two new sports, but they will provide great opportunities for our student-athletes,” Ingles said. “Through the addition of these two new programs, the growth of the Ohio Wesleyan athletics department will play an integral part in the University’s strategic growth.”
Ingles anticipates having head coaches for the two sports in place by July 1. Both head coaches will begin recruiting student-athletes during the summer of 2017, the teams will compete as club sports in 2017-18, and varsity competition will begin in 2018-19.
The return of men’s wrestling and the addition of women’s rowing increases Ohio Wesleyan’s complement of varsity sports to 25, with 13 for women and 12 for men. They are the first varsity sports to be added at Ohio Wesleyan since 2010, when women’s golf was added for the 2010-11 season.
Ohio Wesleyan becomes the first North Coast Athletic Conference institution to sponsor women’s rowing and the second NCAC institution to sponsor men’s wrestling, joining Wabash College.
A total of 102 NCAA Division III institutions sponsor men’s wrestling, and a total of 42 NCAA Division III institutions sponsor women’s rowing. The NCAA sponsors Division III championships in both sports.
“We are excited about reinstating the men’s wrestling program,” Ingles said. “Wrestling has continued to be active on campus through our club system and has registered high interest among our student body. Ohio Wesleyan’s location — in the center of several states with outstanding high school wrestling — and our past wrestling history and success will allow us to develop a highly competitive program.”
Wrestling was a varsity sport at Ohio Wesleyan from 1954-84. Ray Leech ‘49 began the wrestling team when he joined the Ohio Wesleyan faculty in 1954 and oversaw it for 30 years, coaching 16 Ohio Athletic Conference individual champions along the way. In 1984, with Leech retiring and Ohio Wesleyan leaving the OAC to help form the NCAC, wrestling was discontinued.
“We are extremely excited about adding women’s rowing and providing women the opportunity to continue competing in their sport post-high school while getting a first-class education,” Ingles said. “Rowing makes sense because of the growth of the sport in Ohio and nationally, as well as its fit with the demographics of our student body. We will not only be expanding our offerings for women’s sports but we also will be able to utilize some of our nearby natural resources.”
Possible sites for women’s rowing competition include Hoover Reservoir, on the Scioto River in western Delaware County and Alum Creek Reservoir in eastern Delaware County.
President Rock Jones said expanding the number of varsity sports also fits with Ohio Wesleyan’s commitment to the liberal arts and to graduating well-rounded individuals.
“Ohio Wesleyan is committed to preparing our students to lead healthy, happy, and productive lives,” Jones said. “Athletics is a vital component of this work. The teamwork, the group problem-solving, and the focus on attaining shared goals all are qualities that translate in meaningful ways into every aspect of life. And, of course, everyone at OWU is excited about being able to cheer on more Battling Bishop student-athletes.”