Despite losing two wrestlers from an already-shorthanded roster at semester, Truman State University’s wrestling team competed in four meets in the span of a week at the end of Winter Break, concluding with its first individual first-place finish of the season.
Truman’s wrestling team narrowly qualified to compete this season after Truman Athletics eliminated its funding in April 2018 and required the team to raise $75,000 by Oct. 10, a deadline the team met with less than a week to spare. Between graduating seniors and wrestlers transferring out of Truman, the team started practice this season with 10 men hitting the mat.
Head coach David Schutter said this season has been rough. He said his wrestlers have a hard time getting the practice they need because the team does not have enough members, and some of the wrestlers on the team have been sustaining injuries.
The Bulldogs had one wrestler transfer out of Truman during Winter Break, and another wrestler did not meet the academic requirements to compete this semester. While the team will welcome formerly nationally ranked Sam Reeves back to the mat after playing Bulldog football in the fall, Schutter said he would still like to see four or five more wrestlers join the team.
Despite these setbacks, the wrestling team ended its winter break early and has been practicing every couple of days since New Year’s Eve. The ’Dogs also traveled around the Midwest to get some competition in before classes started, taking team losses in their duals against Hannibal-LaGrange University and Marian University from Indiana.
One of the bright spots for Truman’s wrestling team this season has been Zach Williard, a 133-pound freshman who has already placed in three events this season. Most recently, Williard took first place in his weight class at the Central Baptist College Invite last Saturday, and on Monday he was named GLVC Wrestler of the Week.
Schutter said he knew Williard would be a standout wrestler both on and off the mat from the moment he signed with the Bulldogs.
“He’s gonna be a good one,” Schutter said. “He’s been wrestling really well, and he’s battled some injuries, too. He’s at about 80 percent right now, and if we can get him up to 100 percent by regionals, we’ll see him definitely maybe get into the national tournament.”
The ’Dogs faced future GLVC rival Lindenwood University in a dual Tuesday and lost 57-0. Several GLVC wrestling teams are nationally ranked, and Lindenwood was most recently ranked No. 6 in the third NCAA Div. II Wrestling Coaches Association poll of the regular season.
Schutter said he expects the team to peak at regionals, but until then, the team is keeping a positive attitude, and he is excited to face the tough competition in the GLVC. He said he sees facing these conference rivals as giving his team the experience he wishes they could have during practice.
“With only a limited number of guys in the room, you can’t get the tough practices that you want,” Schutter said. “We want to go down to Lindenwood and get some competition because we can’t get it in practice. It’s just another step around the mountain of getting to regionals and nationals. It’s about grinding every day and trying to get a little better.”