Students, alumnus look to reinstate wrestling program
It was by chance that wrestling returned to Carroll University’s campus.
Tanner Flatland, a sophomore, was looking for an open mat near Waukesha in October of 2010. His search brought him to a message board where he made his request.
As luck would have it, Ben Tomes, an alumnus of Carroll and former four-time letter winner for the wrestling team, came across his post.
When President Hastad came to Carroll in 2007, he asked Tomes to draft a proposal to reinstate wrestling, but interest seemed to be lacking at the time.
With Tanner’s post as a sign of new interest, the possibility of reviving wrestling at Carroll became clear.
Carroll’s wrestling team began in 1946 as a student organization. It eventually gained varsity status and lasted until 1999 when it was cut. According to data collected by Tomes, several members of the wrestling team went on to have illustrious careers as high-ranking military officers, elected officials or company managers.
The program itself also experience success, including a College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin team title in 1961 and a total of 15 individual titles in the CCIW and the Midwest Conference.
Ultimately, Tomes and Flatland want wrestling to regain the varsity status of the sport, but they realize that they need to take steps.
“We’re trying to do everything the right way,” Flatland said. “We’re trying not to step on anyone’s toes.”
Tomes suggested that Flatland and other interested students pursue the National Collegiate Wrestling Association, In order to find competition.
“The NCWA isn’t part of the NCAA, so we can compete without varsity status,” Flatland said.
Still, they would need recognition from Carroll before the NCWA would accept them.
The first step in the process was to talk to Becca Saal, the director of recreation. Saal provided tentative approval provided that they could sustain preliminary practices to gauge the interest on campus.
When they held their initial meeting in November, 14 people showed up.
“There were other people interested, too,” Flatland said.
With interest seeming high, the informal team began practice at Waukesha MMA, just over a mile way from campus.
“[Tomes] coaches at Waukesha MMA,” Flatland said. “They offered to let us use their space if we paid a discounted membership fee.”
After a few months of consistent informal practice, the club had an open practice that Saal attended.
Convinced that they had enough interest to sustain a club, Saal signed the club’s registration to join the NCWA.
Formally, Carroll will not officially recognize the club until the 2011-2012 school year, but they can still do things in preparation, like recruitment.
However, one of the reasons cited for cutting the team was a lack of finances. Tomes and Flatland knew they would need to overcome this problem if they wanted their club to succeed.
Tomes, Flatland and several other members of the then unofficial wrestling club, approached Student Senate with a rather large budget request.
“We tried to request the minimum we needed,” Flatland said.
Their initial request was $40,000, broken up into eleven categories from coaching stipends, travel, headgear and heat lights.
Flatland said that while not all of the funding was granted, they were provided with a significant amount.
Tomes has actively been working to recruit members from areas where he’s been successful in coaching before.
Once the club gets going, they will need a few years of active participation before they will be considered for varsity status. Even then, there are no guarantees. Still, the members are hopeful.
“We want people to be proud of our club,” Flatland said. “We’re proud of our club.”