Williams Baptist University in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas has decided to discontinue its Greco-Roman wrestling program beginning next season.
The statement, which can be found below, does confirm that students who receive financial assistance in the form of an athletic scholarship will not be adversely affected by the administration’s decision.
“This was a difficult decision,” WBU President Stan Norman said. “Our student-athletes in the Greco program are talented and hard working. These student-athletes are valued members of the university community, and we respect them immensely. Given the institutional realities surrounding this particular program, however, we determined that the university is better served by focusing our finite athletic resources on our remaining varsity sports.” Those affected student-athletes on athletic scholarship who choose to remain enrolled at WBU will continue to receive their financial support through graduation.
“We have enjoyed incredible success in our folk-style (sic) wrestling program,” Norman said. “Folk-style wrestling has a bright future at Williams Baptist University.”
It was in the fall of 2016 when Kerry Regner, then-head coach of WBU’s NAIA folkstyle team, founded the Greco-Roman program most saw as a potentially attractive alternative to Northern Michigan University (Regner’s alma mater). Regner did not intend on coaching both wrestling teams, and in January ’17, Jonathan Drendel was officially named the head Greco coach. Like Regner, Drendel had attended NMU and himself was once a National-level competitor.
For two seasons, Drendel made steady progress, leading the fledgling program to its first two international tournament medalists and helping create awareness with regards to Williams’ efforts towards recruiting. But after the 2018-19 season, Drendel chose to continue his pastoral education at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, which resulted in a wave of questions surrounding the Greco’s team future along with several defections to NMU.
With Williams in need of a new head Greco-Roman coach, they again didn’t look too far. Todd Allen, who had taken over WBU’s NAIA team after Regner accepted the job at Division II Millersville University, replaced Drendel despite having very little Greco-Roman experience.
Allen’s main motivation in agreeing to assume command of WBU Greco was to save it from being cut. Though not an interim head coach, Allen had hoped to serve as a stop-gap and provide a training environment suitable enough to prepare athletes for competition, and eventually court interested Greco coaches who saw potential in the program’s long-term viability. As of now, it would appear the latter no longer has the chance to come to fruition.
WBU will send a group of Greco-Roman athletes to the Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier next month at (coincidentally) Millersville University, and this coming spring to the Junior and U23 World Team Trials in Las Vegas.