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March 9, 2010
MARYVILLE, Mo. - A half decade of hard work is starting to pay off for a group of Northwest students who have established themselves as one of the premiere wrestling clubs in the country, and this week they are sending seven members of their team to national competition in Virginia.
The members of the Northwest Wrestling Club, along with their student coaches, will depart Wednesday for the National Collegiate Wrestling Association National Championships on March 11 at Hampton University. The national qualifiers are Craig Addison (125 lbs., Smithville, Mo.), A.J. Groff (141 lbs., Lee's Summit, Mo.), Jacob Mercer (149 lbs., Carrollton, Mo), Jordan Peter (174 lbs., Kansas City, Mo.), Mathew Carroll (184 lbs., Albany, Mo.), Blake Schoeninger (197 lbs., Wentzville, Mo.) and Austin Laudwig (285 lbs., Kirksville, Mo.).
Fans can follow the wrestlers' progress and watch a live feed at http://ncwa.squarespace.com/ .
Addison is a three-year national qualifier and a 2009 NCWA All-American. Laudwig is a two-year national qualifier.
The team is coached by Nic Brent, a senior English education major from Kearney, Mo. Loren Butler is the academic advisor and Jason Sack is the club sport organizer.
The club began practicing in September, with competition beginning in November. As the national competition neared, the wrestlers practiced a couple hours each day, including weekends. Some of the wrestlers put in extra time in the morning to lift weights.
"The main thing is keeping in shape and healthy," said Laudwig, a senior animal science major, who is in his second year on the club team. "The technique, we pretty well already have that down. We're just fine-tuning whatever we need to."
The club has sent a representative to national competition every year since its founding in 2004, but this year's contingent is a new high for the club. Recently, the club also tied with Air Force for second place at the Southwest Conference Championships. On Jan. 23, in Northwest's first home wrestling dual since 1985, the club defeated Kansas State, 28-20, in front of a crowd of about 250 people at Bearcat Arena.
"Just watching it grow from nothing to where it is now is huge," said Brent, who is in his fifth year with the club.
The Northwest Wrestling Club was founded to provide students with opportunities to participate in wrestling competitions and help them improve their wrestling skills. This year, the club grew to 13 members, and it competes in the Southwest Conference, one of six conferences in the NCWA.
The seeds for the club were sewn after Butler arrived at Northwest in 2000, and he was approached by several students interested in starting a wrestling club. If they got it started, Butler told them, he would be the club's sponsor. Eventually, former students Chris Schwartz and David Nugent, who were passionate about the sport and now coach at the high school level, submitted the application and Student Senate approved it.
"I'm not going to say no to young men that want to do something and then make it happen," Butler said.
Most of the club members have extensive high school records, and some have competed at the state level. But the club also has drawn members who are new to the sport.
"Every year, there's somebody that shows up and says 'I always wanted to wrestle,' so we're taking all experience levels," Butler said. "You don't have to be a wrestler to be in the club."
The club also has begun to hear from students interested in transferring to Northwest so they can participate in the club. Brent said the club was a big reason he chose to attend Northwest.
"We're drawing attention from other sanctioned teams, and I think that's because of the fact that it's more self-driven," Brent said. "The No. 1 thing that drives the team is the love of the sport."
As a student-organized club, the members are responsible for fundraising, recruiting and keeping a budget, as well as booking their own flights, hotels and tournament registrations when they travel.
The club has benefited from the generous donations of alumni, area businesses, families and friends. The club members raised more than $2,000 by writing to alumni who competed on Northwest's NCAA-sanctioned wrestling teams before the program was eliminated in the 1980s.
"We are deeply indebted to the Maryville community, Northwest administration, alumni, family and friends, and we just appreciate their support," Butler said.
The club hopes to continue its success, with this year's large freshman class as its foundation for future growth. The club also has begun recruiting other young programs to join the NCWA, much like the Kansas State club has helped Northwest establish its program.
"It's a little fraternity where we get a lot of help and support from people that are already doing it," Butler said. "We're now getting to where we've got some fledging little programs in the state of Missouri and Kansas that we're mentoring."
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468