Old Dominion Wrestling to Join the Mid-American Conference in 2013-14

September 19, 2012
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

Sept. 19, 2012

MAC Adds Three Affiliate Members in Wrestling

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Old Dominion University wrestling team is joining the Mid-American Conference (MAC) as an affiliate member beginning in the 2013-14 season it was announced by the league office on Wednesday.

In addition to Old Dominion University, the University of Missouri and the University of Northern Iowa will be joining the MAC as affiliate members. All three universities have joined the MAC with five-year agreements, with Missouri and Northern Iowa joining the MAC for the conference tournament only for the 2012-13 season and then participate fully in regular season and tournament action for the next four consecutive years (2013-14 season thru 2016-17 academic season).  Old Dominion will join the MAC for the regular season and tournament action in the 2013-14 season through the 2017-18 academic season.

The addition of the three affiliate members will increase the MAC wrestling membership to nine members with Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Northern Illinois and Ohio.  With this increase in wrestling membership, the MAC will become the third largest Division I wrestling league in the nation only behind the Big Ten and the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA).  This move will also provide the conference extended recruiting opportunities from across the Midwest towards the East Coast into Virginia.

“After significant study and discussion by our member institution’s coaches and administrators the Mid-American Conference has made a move that will take what is already a very strong wrestling conference and make it one of the elite wrestling conferences in the country,” said Dr. Jon A. Steinbrecher, Commissioner of the Mid-American Conference.  “I am pleased to welcome Missouri, Northern Iowa, and Old Dominion, their student-athletes, coaches and fans to the MAC in the sport of wrestling.”

Old Dominion concluded the 2011-12 season ranked No. 24 in the final regular season NWCA poll and ranked third in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) under head coach Steve Martin.  The Monarchs earned a school record seven bids to the 2012 NCAA Championship Wrestling Tournament, which was tied for fourth nationally and the most of any school from the CAA.

“Old Dominion is very pleased to be joining one of the nation’s premier wrestling conferences in the Mid-American Conference,” said ODU Director of Athletics Dr. Camden Wood Selig. “We are extremely grateful to the MAC Council of Presidents and league Commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher for providing this wonderful, competitive opportunity to our student-athletes and coaches. Participating in the MAC will elevate the national and competitive profile of Old Dominion’s wrestling program and we look forward to this new opportunity for our program.”

During the 2010-11 season, Old Dominion had the fifth highest GPA in the country while Tristan Warner had the second highest cumulative GPA in the nation among all wrestlers in 2011-12.

Under the direction of coach Martin, the Monarchs have earned an All-American in four of the last five years. Martin has the second-highest winning percentage (.640) in school history and has earned double-digit wins in seven of his eight seasons. Martin has directed 35 NCAA qualifiers, 13 individual CAA Champions and was named the CAA Coach of the Year in 2008.  Also, 12 Monarch wrestlers have been named to the NWCA All-Academic National Honor Roll in the last five seasons.

The Old Dominion wrestling program began in 1957-58 and was a member of the CAA since the 1991-92 season.  The Monarchs have produced three National Champions, 94 NCAA qualifiers, 18 wrestlers have earned 25 All-America honors, 31 individual CAA Champions, six CAA Wrestler of the Year Awards and two CAA Rookie of the Year Awards in the program’s history.

“We are extremely excited about joining the Mid-American Conference,” said Martin. “This is a game changer for our program and will allow us to compete at the highest level in wrestling. The additions of Missouri and Northern Iowa, along with the strong base of current schools in the MAC, will make this one of the most formidable wrestling leagues in the country. I’d like to thank MAC Commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher for the opportunity as well Athletic Director Dr. Selig and Senior Associate Athletic Director Deb Polca for their work in making this happen for the Old Dominion wrestling program.”

Last season, Kent State won the MAC regular season title and the previous season witnessed a three-way tie for the MAC regular season title between Kent State, Central Michigan and Ohio. 

In 2012, the MAC sent 24 wrestlers to the 2012 NCAA Championship Tournament in St. Louis, where MAC Champion Central Michigan finished tied for 13th and Kent State ended 27th in the NCAA Championship standings.  The MAC witnessed three wrestlers earn All-American honors as Central Michigan’s Ben Bennett (184 lb.) earned his third, Kent State’s Nic Bedelyon (125 lb.) earned his second and Ohio’s Jeremy Johnson (Hwt.) earned his first All-American honor.

In 2011, the MAC last witnessed an individual national champion when Kent State’s Dustin Kilgore won the 197 lb. National Championship as he pinned Oklahoma State’s Clayton Foster.  Kilgore became the eighth MAC wrestler to win a national championship in conference history.

Central Michigan has won the last 11 consecutive MAC Wrestling Championships dating back to the 2002 season.  In the last five consecutive years, the MAC has witnessed a program finish in the Top 20 at the NCAA Wrestling Championship and twice had two programs finish in the Top 20 -- 2009 (Central Michigan tied-14th; Kent State 18th) and 2011 (Central Michigan tied-13th; Kent State 17th).  The last Top Ten finish by the MAC in the NCAA Wrestling Championship was Central Michigan’s seventh place finish in 2008.

Quotes from current MAC Head Wrestling Coaches:

Jim Beichner, Head Coach, Buffalo:

“Adding Missouri, Old Dominion and Northern Iowa to the Mid-American Conference is just another positive indicator that our conference office is leading our wrestling programs in the right direction.  All three of these programs are excellent academic institutions with great history and traditions and are fully committed to the sport of wrestling.  I believe that the strength of our conference is determined by the strength of our teams and I am happy to say that today, we have become one of the premier wrestling conferences in the nation. As a coach, I am very happy to welcome all three programs to the Conference.” 

Tom Borrelli, Head Coach, Central Michigan:

“This is a great move forward for the Mid-American Conference. It is going to be nice to develop new relationships with universities and athletic departments. The addition will create more opportunities to get more athletes to the NCAA tournament and it will foster our development to do well in that tournament. Anytime competition gets keener, everyone rises to that level of competition.”

Derek Delporto, Head Coach, Eastern Michigan:

“I am very happy to welcome three top wrestling programs into our conference.  Every MAC program will get stronger with the addition of these programs.”

Jim Andrassy, Head Coach, Kent State:

“We’re excited to bring in some new teams and have some new opportunities.  It gives us more guaranteed home meets and it also helps us get more dual meets for the year, which is the direction the NCAA is going in as a whole.  The MAC’s been a tough conference over the past few years and this makes us even tougher.”

Ryan Ludwig, Head Coach, Northern Illinois:

“I am pleased to see this conference expand the way it has with the interest of wrestling in mind. The Mid-American Conference has always had a strong and proud tradition and this move shows its commitment to our great sport. The MAC has grown in strength and depth every year and this move certainly solidifies that growth as this conference becomes one of the premier wrestling leagues in the country.”

Joel Greenlee, Head Coach, Ohio:

“The Addition of Missouri, Northern Iowa and Old Dominion will make the Mid-American Conference one of the toughest wrestling leagues in the country.  These three teams will also bring more national recognition to the MAC.”

Missouri Tigers

Missouri finished the 2011-12 season ranked 26th in the NCAA final rankings and under head coach Brian Smith captured the Big 12 Tournament Championship, the first title in program history.  The Tigers produced four individual Big 12 Champions and Smith was named Big 12 Coach of the Year.  Missouri led the nation and set a program record by sending ten grapplers to the 2012 NCAA Championship Wrestling Tournament.

Smith is the winningest coach in program history (173-83-3), entering his 15th season.  Under Smith’s direction, Missouri has produced four National Champions (Ben Askren in 2006 and 2007; Mark Ellis in 2009 and Max Askren in 2010), 14 wrestlers have earned 26 All-America honors and three top-10 NCAA finishes (2007-third; 2009-seventh; and 2010-tenth).

Missouri’s wrestling program started in 1923-24 and competed in the Missouri Valley Conference from 1928-1932 and the Big 6 Conference from 1932-37.  There was no program from 1938-58 and wrestling returned in 1959.  Missouri competed in the Big 8 from 1964-96 and the Big 12 from 1996-2012.

Northern Iowa Panthers

Northern Iowa ended the 2011-12 season ranked 34th in the NCAA final rankings and finished second in the Western Wrestling Conference with an 8-7 record in duals and a 5-1 conference record under head coach Doug Schwab. 

The Panthers sent five grapplers to the 2012 NCAA Championship Wrestling Tournament, including Joe Colon (133 lbs.), Levi Wolfensperger (141 lbs.), David Bonin (157 lbs.), Ryan Loder (184 lbs.) and Blayne Beale (HWT).  Colon seeded No. 5 at 133 lbs., and Loder seeded No. 8 at 184 lbs.

Northern Iowa has a strong history of success in the sport of wrestling.  Northern Iowa captured the 1950 NCAA Division 1 Wrestling National Championship.  The Panthers have crowned 21 NCAA Division I individual national champions, the latest being Tony Davis at 149 lbs. in 2000, and have tallied 115 NCAA Division I All-Americans.  Northern Iowa’s Bill Smith captured an Olympic Gold Medal at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland.  Since rejoining the Division I ranks in 1981, Northern Iowa notched 20 Top-20 finishes at the NCAA Championships.