A positive for the Big Ten Conference in wrestling and even better for their future members.
With University of Maryland and Rutgers joining for the 2014-15 academic year, the Big Ten adds two respectable programs, while both benefit from joining the premiere wrestling conference in NCAA Division I.
“I think both add Maryland and Rutgers add to the Big Ten in wrestling,” University of Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands said at the team’s weekly media session Tuesday at the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “I think it’s good for the Big Ten expansion-wise. I think it’s really good for their programs, not just for wrestling, but entire athletic programs.”
On Monday, Big Ten and Maryland officials it was joining the Big Ten. Rutgers was announced Tuesday as the future 14th school to join the conference.
The Terrapins are coached by two-time Olympian and World silver medalist Kerry McCoy, who won two NCAA titles at Penn State, earning the 1997 Hodge Award. He is in his fifth season as Maryland head coach, guiding the Terrapins to a 15-1 mark last year. McCoy has coached six All-Americans, including John Asper, who placed sixth at 165 pounds for the second straight year in 2012.
Maryland, which has won the last two Atlantic Coast Conference team titles, is ranked 16th in the National Wrestling Coaches Association/USA Today Coaches poll and 12th in Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine dual rankings.
Rutgers is coached by Scott Goodale, a former Lock Haven wrestler in his fifth season as its head coach. The Scarlet Knights had five NCAA qualifiers, competing in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association. Eight Rutgers wrestlers have become All-Americans, including Tom Tanis, who was fourth at 184 pounds in 2002. Billy Ashnault reached the round of 12 at 141 for Rutgers last season.
The Scarlet Knights finished the 2010-11 season ranked ninth in the NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll after a school record 21 dual wins.
Both programs will be on the radar more than ever.
“The coaches there,” Brands said, “Scott Goodale and Kerry McCoy are successful wrestling people.”
Brands said he didn’t think there is a need to alter the Big Ten tournament, noting a 16-man bracket with 14 teams still only calls for four wins to claim a championship. The conference dual schedule is a different matter.
“There’s going to have to be some rescheduling on the way we wrestle, because you’re adding more teams,” Brands said. “How are you going to continue? Are you just going to wrestle eight (duals)? You going to wrestle 10? You only have 16 dates. Maybe you have to go to divisions, now, where you wrestle six dual meets in your division.
“I don’t know. I’m just throwing a lot of things out. These are questions that need to be answered.”
Maryland discontinued seven varsity sports in July due to a multi-million dollar budget deficit in its athletic department. Maryland President Wallace Loh and Athletics Director Kevin Anderson suggested Monday that some of those teams could be reinstated. It could lead to additional support, but Maryland made a commitment when it hired a coach with McCoy’s credentials, according to Brands.
“He’s a smart guy. … He’s pretty professional,” Brands said of McCoy. “Adding them to the Big Ten probably gives him a boost, but I think their program was probably safe.”
Not only does the move provide the potential to improve recruiting for the schools now that they are associated with the Big Ten, but it gives Big Ten programs, including Iowa, even more prominence in a region rich with prep wrestling talent.