June 14th, 2016

Bellarmine to add wrestling

John Spugnardi

Bellarmine University S.I.D.

Bellarmine to add wrestling
photo provided by Bellarmine athletics

Bellarmine University announced today that it will begin a collegiate wrestling program competing at the NCAA Division II level this fall by essentially absorbing the former Saint Catharine College team.

"Upon the announcement of the imminent closing of Saint Catharine College, Bellarmine University's administration and trustees began exploring programs that could be transitioned from Saint Catharine to Bellarmine to the mutual benefit of both," said Bellarmine Interim President Doris Tegart.  "The wrestling team fills that bill and is a natural fit for our athletics program."

Wrestling, which is a winter sport, will become Bellarmine's 22nd NCAA team. The 2016-17 schedule has yet to be announced, but Bellarmine plans to host wrestling matches at Knights Hall. 

With Bellarmine and Drury starting wrestling in the 2016-17 season, the Great Lakes Valley Conference now has seven member institutions sponsoring the sport, which exceeds the NCAA's criteria for a conference to sponsor a championship. Other league members competing in wrestling include: Indianapolis, Maryville, McKendree, Truman State, and Wisconsin-Parkside. An official announcement from the league office regarding sport sponsorship is expected this month.

According to the NCAA website, there are currently 59 teams competing at the Division II level. Collegiate wrestling features competition in 10 different weight classes ranging from 125 to 285 pounds.

Last season, St. Catharine competed at the NAIA level in wrestling with 41 team members. Head Coach Spencer Adams and Assistant Coach Gary Canter will remain coaches at Bellarmine, and all former SCC team members wishing to transfer will be retained as well. In addition, Bellarmine will honor the commitment to all of the St. Catharine signees for the 2016-17 season, provided they meet Bellarmine admission standards.

"Although wrestling wasn't originally in our short range plans, St. Catharine's closing certainly made starting a new program a viable and logical option," said Bellarmine Director of Athletics Scott Wiegandt. "Taking over an existing program allows us to hit the ground running while allowing Coach Adams to build on the inroads he made since founding the program at St. Catharine two years ago."

In St. Catharine's first two seasons, the Patriots finished 39th (2015) and 31st (2016) in the NAIA National Championship. The squad also was honored with the NAIA's prestigious "Champions of Character" team award in 2015-16.  The award is presented at the end of the season for each of the NAIA's 23 championship sports to recognize teams that demonstrate in every day decisions integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership. These institutions and athletic programs strive for excellence in and out of competition and are part of communities throughout the country dedicated to character-driven intercollegiate athletics.

"On behalf of myself, my coaching staff, our SCC student athletes, and their families I want to sincerely thank the board of trustees, president Tegart, Scott Wiegandt, and the entire Bellarmine University family for all that they have done to save our program," Adams said. "I am ecstatic to start this new journey and bring the great sport of wrestling to Bellarmine University. I look forward to working with Scott Wiegandt and the rest of the Bellarmine University family in efforts to build an outstanding program that is nationally recognized both on and off the mat. This is also a great day for the sport of wrestling in the state of Kentucky as Bellarmine University makes history in adding the only NCAA II wrestling program in the state. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to start yet another wrestling program and to provide my student athletes with a bright future here at Bellarmine University."


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