For The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — St. Ambrose University will add men’s wrestling and co-ed competitive winter guard to its varsity athletics program beginning in the 2021-2022 academic year.
The additions bring to 31 the varsity options that St. Ambrose offers student-athletes interested in furthering their education while continuing to compete at a high collegiate level, the university said.
Men’s wrestling is a sanctioned National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) championship sport with a significant history in Iowa and Illinois — the two states that send the most students to St. Ambrose. Iowa is a noted hotbed for high school and college wrestling, with more than 6,300 high school wrestlers competing on an annual basis. Illinois has the nation’s second-largest number of male high school wrestlers.
Winter guard will pair with the growing SAU athletics bands program to build on a national phenomenon. Winter guard combines color guard, winds and percussion participants who compete in large-meet formats judged by qualified panelists. The organizing body is Winter Guard International (WGI). SAU will offer the only winter guard college program in the region and, while competing in the WGI’s independent division, can include on its roster current high school students interested in the competitive opportunity.
“We believe adding wrestling and winter guard to our athletics menu will give many additional prospective students more reason to consider St. Ambrose University,” said its president, Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ. “Currently, varsity student-athletes comprise more than half of our undergraduate student population, and the most rewarding aspect of our growth in the number of athletic participants has been the consistent success these student-athletes enjoy in the classroom.”
Athletics Director Mike Holmes said the university plans to fill the head wrestling coaching position as soon as possible so that recruiting for the first season can begin. Holmes anticipates about 20 recruits for the first year with the roster growing to 35 in about three years.
The university has partnered with Beyond the Baseline, a for-profit facility on the former campus of Marycrest College for wrestling practice space. Home meets will be held in SAU’s Lee Lohman Arena.
The winter guard program will hire separate directors for color guard and percussion units. Directors will report to athletic bands director Megan Cooney. The unit would compete in five to six meets region wide from February through April, with the intent of hosting one of those meets in the Wellness and Recreation Center.
“These programs make sense for St. Ambrose athletics and they will bring their own unique energy to campus,” Holmes said. “Wrestling has a vast footprint in Iowa and college wrestling has a storied history in this state and this region. Winter guard will give us a niche market in the area, and will allow us to showcase our campus and tremendous facilities to high school students both regionally and nationally.”