Wrestling closes season, fails to qualify for nationals

Following tight competition at Saturday’s NCAA regionals meet, wrestling closed its season in St. Charles, Missouri after failing to qualify for nationals.

Despite a hard fight, Sam Reeves lost an overtime match against Jared McKindley of Lindenwood University.

Fighting hard is certainly not a new concept for these Bulldogs. This past season, the existence of the Truman State University wrestling team was in jeopardy because of athletic department budget cuts last May.

After extensive fundraising efforts and alumni donations, the team raised the $75,000 necessary for its 2018-2019 season. However, Truman Athletics is requesting a $2 million endowment for the continued operation of the team into future seasons, a figure which the team’s head coach said is unlikely to be reached.

With what might be wrestling’s final season at an end, head coach Dave Schutter said each athlete performed admirably given the disadvantageous circumstances each of them faced. Schutter said despite numerous setbacks, such as a 10-teammate cap imposed by the athletic department, fewer training partners and more crowded traveling conditions than in prior years, the team fought hard and never quit.

“The team was short [in number] this year, and more training partners could’ve changed a lot,” Schutter said. “I applaud those boys for hanging in there and sticking it out. It really speaks to their character. It was a tough year for our guys. They went in there and never gave up.”

In light of Truman cutting funding for its wrestling program, Central Methodist University announced Feb. 12 that it will be opening programs for both men’s and women’s wrestling. Schutter said CMU is likely looking to fill a gap left behind by Truman wrestling. Schutter also said this program is likely to pull wrestlers who otherwise could have gone to Truman.

Zach Williard, a freshman on Truman’s wrestling team, said the circumstances around this wrestling season drove him to work harder every day and give his all in what might be his final wrestling season. However, he said wrestling’s questionable future at Truman has left him torn between staying or pursuing his athletics.

Williard, though only a true freshman, went 2-2 against top competitors at the NCAA regionals, but he missed a spot at nationals. Williard said he has the drive to compete and the confidence that given the right amount of work and training, he could make the trip to nationals next season. Naturally, however, the removal of Truman wrestling would make this difficult.

“It was frustrating seeing a guy I beat twice during the season make the finals and qualify for nationals,” Williard said. “I would love to keep wrestling here at Truman State next year, but unfortunately the odds of us having a team next year don’t look so good. I feel like I have so much more to give to the sport, and if I had a couple more years to wrestle at Truman, I could be on top of the podium at nationals… I am leaning towards Truman but am considering transferring to another school if we don’t have wrestling next year.”

Williard said the team wanted to qualify at least one athlete for nationals and bring Schutter to nationals one last time, but unfortunately it fell short. Despite this, Williard said the team has a lot to be proud of, such as coming together and raising the money required to have the season was an accomplishment.

“It was definitely tough knowing that we would need to raise a lot of money in order to have a wrestling team next year,” Williard said. “But as a team we learned to overcome this adversity. Life is full of obstacles and hardships, and this was just one obstacle that we had to overcome.”