EPHRAIM—Snow College Athletic Director Rob Nielson announced that men’s and women’s wrestling will be added to their sports offerings next year.
The wrestling programs will be located on the Richfield campus as a way to enhance the college experience for those who attend there, said Snow College President, Bradley J. Cook, in a prepared statement.
Recruiting will begin in the fall of 2021, with competition beginning in 2022.
“We are excited to be able to announce the addition of men’s and women’s wrestling,” Nielson said. “Wrestling for both men and women is a very popular sport here in the state of Utah. With only limited collegiate level opportunities in Utah, it made sense for us to add wrestling to our lineup of highly competitive sport.”
Cook said that it was appropriate to situate the wrestling program in Richfield as a way to continue building campus life and activities at that campus. He continued that Central Utah is the center of gravity for top-notch high school wrestling programs, and they look forward to building national championship caliber teams.
Ben Kjar, UVU’s first All American wrestler back in 2011, has been a big voice of support for Snow. He mentioned that most of Utah’s wrestlers who compete at the junior college level enroll at Western Wyoming, which is currently second in the nation. This past year they qualified and placed all 10 weight classes, a national junior college record. Five of those 10 were right here from Utah.
“Now these athletes can compete at home.” Kjar said. “They can have their fans at all their home duals; they can go home every weekend and be to family functions; and they don’t have to leave the beautiful state of Utah for something not as beautiful in Rock Springs.”
Kjar believes that with Snow’s announcement it will give the green light to other junior colleges in Utah and eventually universities will join in.
“The competitive level of wrestling in Utah is very high through all boys’ youth ages and it is progressing dramatically in girls’ wrestling,” he said. “The boys and girls national and regional dual teams continue to have great success, and there are now some young women from Utah being showcased on the senior level stage. Having a college option in Utah for women’s wrestling and more options for men’s wrestling in state is exciting. The talent level should allow Snow to be highly competitive very quickly with both programs.”
One of the biggest highlights of Snow’s decision is female wrestling. No other college in Utah has ever had female wrestling.
Sage Mortimer is one of the top female wrestlers not only in Utah, but in the nation. She recently graduated from The American Leadership Academy and signed to wrestle in Tennessee at King University before Snow’s announcement was made.
“It will make all the difference to give Utah girls a place at the next level to aim for,” Mortimer said. “I am really excited for this and I think it will result in a huge growth in women’s wrestling in Utah.”
Billy Cox, a girl’s high school wrestling coach in Utah, answered “Yippee!” when asked about Snow’s announcement.
Cox went on to say, “This is huge news for women sports and wrestling.”
In less than two years, Utah went from no official girls wrestling teams to sanctioning girls’ high school wrestling, to state championships and now adding a college team.
“As being one of the original people advocating and pushing for the sanctioning of girls’ wrestling, this is proof that if you build it, it will come,” Cox said.
Cox continued that the misuse and misunderstanding of Title IX led to the elimination of men’s wrestling teams in Utah. The UofU, BYU, Weber State and Snow all had men’s teams.
“Now with over 90 women’s college teams all across the nation,” Cox said, “what we are now seeing is that if a college has both a men’s and women’s wrestling program, they are not being eliminated due to budgets, Title 9 or any other excuse a college wants to use.”
Greg Williams, wrestling coach at UVU, is happy with the addition to Snow College athletics and he said it will be beneficial to everyone. UVU, as a D1 program, can’t bring in every good wrestler in the state. Many of these talented young men have to go out of state because they have had no other options. Currently, there are quite a few wrestlers going to Western Wyoming because it is the nearest school with a men’s wrestling program. In women’s wrestling, the closest opportunities have been in the Midwest or West Coast.
“Having another program in state not only gives these athletes an opportunity to stay closer to home, it also gives them a chance to develop further, and then, if successful, move up to UVU when they exhaust their eligibility at Snow,” Williams said. “It would be a similar relationship as BYU and Ricks used to have in multiple sports (before Ricks became BYU Idaho and dropped athletics).”
A search will begin immediately to hire a head coach for both the men’s and women’s programs.
With the addition of wrestling, Snow College, a Division-1 member of the NJCAA, will now sponsor 14 different teams, including football, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, e-sports, men’s and women’s rodeo, the Badgerettes (dance team) and cheer team.