Southwestern receives NJCAA grant to help build wrestling room

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, June 1, 2022

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DOWAGIAC — Southwestern Michigan College announced Wednesday it has been awarded a $2,000 Sport Opportunity Grant from the National Junior College Athletic Association Foundation to help construct a wrestling room on the Dowagiac campus.

The Roadrunners, who had a successful wrestling program from the 1970s through the early 1990s under legendary Hall of Fame Coach Jim Judd, are restoring the sport in the 2022-2023 academic year as part of an overall intercollegiate athletics revival at SMC.

The new era started with a return to NJCAA competition in Fall 2021 with men’s and women’s cross country and continues with men’s wrestling, women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball restarting in fall 2022.

“Our mission directs us to provide a total college-life experience, and that needs to include intercollegiate athletics,” said SMC President Dr. Joe Odenwald. “Studies have shown that the engagement with an activity they love, being part of a tight-knit team and having additional guidance from coaches leads student-athletes to graduate at a 10-15 percent higher rate than the general student body.

“Wrestling is a very popular sport in this region and throughout the state of Michigan. But high school wrestlers have been underserved in our area, and we are excited to provide more opportunities for student-athletes to continue their sport while preparing for their careers. The community is pumped up for this, and we are very grateful to the NJCAA Foundation for their support to help get our wrestling program rolling.”

“The NJCAA Foundation is excited to further support the growth of NJCAA member colleges and the sport programs they offer through the newly-created NJCAA Sport Opportunity Grant,” said Brian Luckett, NJCAA Foundation executive director. “The ability to provide this funding for the first time ever is a testament to the importance and growth of two-year collegiate athletics. The NJCAA Foundation looks forward to this initiative’s impact as NJCAA member colleges continue to create opportunities for student-athletes across the country.”

Funds from the grant will be used to help offset the costs to reconfigure a large unused space into a specialized wrestling room with wall padding, floor mats and HVAC upgrades.

SMC’s wrestling program is off to a fast start and interest is high. Coach Todd Hesson, an SMC alum who wrestled for Coach Judd, started full-time in January and has been steadily signing student-athletes to the roster, including a state champion from Michigan and a state runner-up from Indiana.