Wrestling maneuvers take over aging swimming pool

Photo courtesy of Olivia Dowling.
Olivia Dowling, Special to the Circuit

Benedictine College’s wrestling team hit the mats Nov. 10 for its first practice in the new wrestling room.

Wrestlers practice in their new home. The team is confident this new space will have a positive impact on its success. Photo courtesy of Olivia Dowling.
Wrestlers practice in their new home. The team is confident this new space will have a positive impact on its success. Photo courtesy of Olivia Dowling.

Head Coach Thomas Williams said the guys were excited to get into their new space. “It was one of the best practices we’ve had this year,” Williams said.

The new wrestling room is below the student workout facility in the Haverty Center, where the student pool was previously located. Renovations began in mid-summer and wrapped up the first week of November.

The room has newly painted bright red walls with “Benedictine College” in large, white letters, and mats covering the floor. Williams plans to fit the west upper level with bikes and the lower level with weights. The room is attached to the team’s locker room.

Williams loves the atmosphere in the new practice room.

“It’s kind of ‘old school’,” he said.

Williams has brought 12 recruits through the new space, and all have said it is unique.

“For a recruit, when you see facilities like this, it shows our athletic department does invest in our athletes,” Williams said.

“It’s going to help kids who want to be at a Catholic school and wrestle come to a Catholic school and wrestle,” said Bailee Moylan, general manager for wrestling.

The new wrestling room has already made a positive impact on the team. Williams said it gives the wrestlers a space to call their own and more freedom than their previous practice space, the old gymnasium in the Haverty Center.

Junior Dillon Scanlon, wrestler, thinks the space has transformed the feel of the team, too. “You can feel it on the first day of practice,” he said.

Scanlon transferred from the University of Kansas to wrestle with Benedictine. Williams recruited Scanlon at Lawrence Free State High School wrestling practices, where Scanlon was coaching on the side.

Scanlon looked at a few other NAIA schools when he decided to take up wrestling again, but chose Benedictine.

“I ended up making the decision because of Thomas and the team, but having the wrestling room would have swayed me a lot more,” he said.

Scanlon sees the room’s recruiting potential. “I can’t wait to see what kind of recruits it brings in, because it’s a big selling factor for the school and for our team,” he said.

The new space will eliminate distractions for the wrestlers and give the wrestling team more freedom to choose practice times, Scanlon said.

“We can also control the temperature much better than the gym,” Scanlon said.

Sophomore wrestler Josh Romero agrees.

“It’s a hot box – perfect for losing weight,” Romero said.

Head Coach Thomas Williams said there are other benefits that come with a dedicated wrestling space.

“Now I can actually spend one-on-one time with the kids,” he said. “I’m really into refining technique, and that’s not something I’ve been able to do as much because we’ve had limited gym time.”

He thinks everyone wins because other teams get more space and time in the old gymnasium. “It’s really a necessity with lacrosse being added,” Williams said.

He says the athletic department is showing its commitment to investing in the athletes. “Especially with us being a brand new sport, I can’t complain at all,” Williams said.

Athletic Director Charlie Gartenmayer offered the old pool’s location as a new wrestling practice space, and Williams thought it was a great idea.

Mike Faucett, assistant athletic director, said the plan provided a long-term solution for the old pool space and for the wrestling team. A cost-benefit analysis of the renovation and pool upkeep decided the change.

Stephen Minnis, BC president, said the decision was a great alternative to the high cost of the upkeep of the old pool.

Although there is some nostalgia about the change—the pool was thought to be the oldest west of the Mississippi River—the new wrestling room will be good for recruitment, Minnis said.

“It raises the profile of the wrestling department for sure,” he added.

Faucett thinks the new practice room will greatly impact recruiting for the team, since most teams BC competes against have wrestling rooms of their own. “I think it’s going to start swaying some kids,” he said.

Students sometimes think everything is about the bigger sports, but it’s not, Faucett said. The wrestling team now has a better opportunity to increase alumni who will be willing to invest back in the sport, he added.

Faucett says the department uses established sports like soccer, basketball and football as models for building up the newer, younger sports.

“Doing that room shows that we are dedicated to every sport, whether they’ve been here for 50 to 60 years or three to four years,” Faucett said.

Improvements are not just about the sport.

“The ultimate goal is to educate them and get them a career,” Faucett said. “To quote Charlie [Gartenmayer], ‘We’re here to graduate students and win championships, and graduating students will always come first’.”

The Athletic Department is making this a positive change for more than one group, Faucett said. “It will better the department as a whole.”

Faucett thinks all teams will be affected by the new practice schedule for the old gymnasium. “Taking wrestling out of the equation will allow us to get more teams through there,” Faucett said.

An upcoming meeting with head coaches will decide new schedules for the old gymnasium now that wrestling has moved its practice location.