By John Krueger, Lyon (Ark.) Director of Sports Information
BATESVILLE, Ark. – Lyon College (Ark.) will become only the fifth college in Arkansas to offer varsity wrestling, and the first in the state to host a women’s program, when Lyon begins competition on an intercollegiate level in 2014-15 year, according to Director of Athletics Kevin Jenkins.
The men’s sport, which was added by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in 1958, is currently sponsored by 43 institutions across the United States. In Arkansas collegiate wrestling, Ouachita Baptist University (Arkadelphia – NCAA Division II) began in 2009, Central Baptist College (Conway – NAIA) in 2010, and Arkansas Baptist College (Little Rock – NJCAA) in 2011. All of them only having men’s programs.
Williams Baptist College, a member of the American Midwest Conference (AMC) with Lyon, announced recently that it will begin a men’s program in the 2014-15 year.
Lyon College will be the fifth member of the AMC to host wrestling when the Scots put their teams on the mats in 2014-15. Institutions in the league with current programs include Missouri Baptist University (men and women) in St. Louis, Mo. and Hannibal-LaGrange University (men) in Hannibal, Mo. Lindenwood University-Belleville, which will be joining the AMC next fall, also sponsors men and women’s wrestling. The addition of LU-B will increase the number of men’s team in the conference to five and women’s teams to three.
Jenkins said Lyon is working toward putting a head coach in place to direct the men and women’s teams by Oct. 1. He said plans are being made to construct a facility for wrestling and football on the Lyon campus.
“Wrestling will attract the type of student-athletes that we are looking for and will be yet another way to increase the number of the student body,” Jenkins stated. “We plan to add between 35-40 new student-athletes to campus by the fall of 2014 for this sport alone.”
Jenkins said help with the startup of the program has come from Greg Hatcher, owner of Hatcher Agency, insurance firm in Little Rock. A wrestling advocate, Hatcher will be a major contributor in the start-up costs for the program through gifts and has also given Lyon some direction with the program.
“Mr. Hatcher has been very instrumental as we implement women and men’s wrestling at Lyon,” Jenkins said. “His wrestling background and passion for the sport has helped immensely.”
Lyon, which announced the re-instatement of its football program in June of this year, will increase its number of intercollegiate sports to 12. The College currently has men and women’s basketball, men and women’s soccer, men and women’s golf, volleyball, baseball and softball.
The wrestling season will coincide with basketball as a winter sport. Jenkins said the Scots will participate in weekend tournaments and participate in some dual matches during the week.
Lyon College joins a growing list of colleges – mostly small institutions – adding wrestling to their sports rosters. Among the new men’s programs taking to the mat in 2013-14, according to Amateur Wrestling News, include Alderson-Broaddus (West Virginia), Coker (South Carolina), Doane (Nebraska), Ferrum (Virginia), Graceland (Iowa), Northeast Oklahoma A&M, Northland Community & Technical (Minnesota), SUNY-Sullivan (New York), and Wheeling Jesuit (West Virginia).
In addition to the new women’s program at Lyon, other similar programs at Campbellsville (Kentucky) and McKendree (Illinois), as well as the program at WBC will be underway next year.
The NAIA Wrestling National Championship has 10 men’s weight classes: 125-lb.; 133-lb.; 141-lb.; 149-lb.; 157-lb.; 165-lb.; 174-lb.; 184-lb.; 197-lb.; and 285-lb. Women’s wrestling is not currently a sanctioned sport.