Since Truman State University’s wrestling team faced a total withdrawal of their funding in late spring 2018, Bulldog wrestlers have fought tooth and nail to raise the funds necessary to participate in the 2018-19 season. With less than a week remaining before their Oct. 10 deadline, Truman wrestling reached the $75,000 fundraising goal set by the Truman Athletics Department, and got a chance to compete in a season many athletes thought wouldn’t happen.
Head wrestling coach David Schutter said the fundraising effort was supported by family, friends and fans, but the majority of contributions to the season’s funding came from the generous alumni of Truman wrestling.
“Wrestling’s been here since 1965, and we have a very strong alumni base,” Schutter said. “We’ve been in the AD’s [Athletics Department’s] top five in alumni giving for the past five years, so I’m not sure why they’d cut off that alumni base if they donate so much. Even when they first cut the program, they were saying, ‘Where’s the alumni been?’ They’ve been right here … that really got the alumni fired up.”
Schutter said the athletes made an effort on their own to ask family, friends and hometown wrestling organizations for donations, and those donations all played a part in reaching the fundraising goal. However, Schutter said the timing of the program’s cut damaged the program considerably. He said several athletes either left the team or transferred to different universities as a result of Truman’s budget cuts, and numerous freshmen did not join because the program looked like it was certain to be cut.
Among the players that transferred to continue wrestling at different schools is junior Ashton Mutuwa, who transferred to Campbellsville University. He said the timing of the Athletics Department’s announcement to cut wrestling came at a critical point in the spring semester — right before finals week. With the stress of classes and finals already on the table, Mutuwa said the process of organizing his transfer and applying to housing made the ordeal even worse and the sheer amount of work alone made it that much more difficult to preserve Truman’s wrestling program.
“It had a pretty negative effect on all of us,” Mutuwa said. “[The athletes] raised money by selling shirts, donations — those are really the main things they did. In my last week at Truman, I was so consumed with a few things — saying goodbye to my best friends and trying to see if there were alternatives to keep wrestling going at Truman. On top of that, the recruiting process for other schools was wrapping up, so they needed to make decisions on where I was going very fast, so I took it very hard.”
To help grow the wrestling program back to the way it was, Schutter said starting a summer wrestling camp would be helpful, especially considering he might not be able to coach the team much longer. Schutter said his age is catching up to him, mentioning surgeries needed on his hip and knee, and the team will soon need a younger coach to replace him. To match the new staff needed, Schutter said the team needs new athletes, and revitalizing the team with newly recruited freshmen would help both the team and the dipping rate of freshmen enrollment at Truman.
“We need students at Truman — our enrollment’s down 17 percent,” Schutter said. “We could easily reach 30-35 students here for wrestling … wrestling is very popular right now. Several high schools in Missouri are even establishing varsity women’s teams. It wouldn’t be too difficult for the AD to encourage new students to join wrestling — we don’t have many scholarships like the other departments do.”
Schutter said even though the team has met its funding goal and will compete this season, the Bulldogs’ schedule needs to be fine-tuned and released. The schedule for the team is still unknown, but Schutter said it is only a matter of time before the team gets things started.