HARTSVILLE, S.C. – The inaugural season for the Coker College wrestling team is finally here. Starting a brand new program, however, is nothing new for head coach Cy Wainwright.
"This is my second time starting a program from scratch," said Wainwright. "It's a daunting task as far as fundraising for mats, finding facilities, recruiting wrestlers, putting a schedule together and being on the road consistently."
Despite being a first-year program, everything seems in place for Wainwright's group to be successful.
The popularity of wrestling at Coker, in Hartsville and in the Pee Dee region is clear. The wrestling program has already hosted two successful clinics and saw a nearly packed Timberlake-Lawton Gymnasium on Oct. 26 when the Cobras hosted a Blue versus Gold intersquad match.
"Coming to Coker has been exceptional," Wainwright said. "The school is excited about it, I am excited to be here and we have a great community atmosphere. The faculty, staff and Coker community have shown great support for wrestling."
Just because this is the first season for Coker wrestling doesn't mean it will have a cupcake schedule. In fact, the Cobras open up their season with two of the first three meets being hosted by Division I schools – The Citadel and North Carolina State University. Other matchups include trips to the Midwest Classic in Indianapolis, Ind., and to Division I George Mason University.
"Wrestling is unique in the fact that you are going up against Division I, Division II and Division III schools," said Wainwright. "We see teams from Wisconsin, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio, so we are pretty widespread across the central part of the United States. This will expose a lot of these kids to a different style of wrestling, which will help us be more competitive in the long run."
Experience is a key concern for most first-year college teams no matter the division. However, the roster Wainwright has assembled may be an exception. This year's roster includes 42 wrestlers from nine different states covering all 10 weight classes, which range from 125 pounds to 285 pounds. Of those 42, 32 are freshmen. The 10 upperclassmen, however, bring a world of experience with them.
"With their collegiate experience, those four will be counted on for leadership," said Wainwright.
Wainwright has seen plenty of talent just in his few years of coaching at the collegiate level. He has coached 18 NCAA Division II national qualifiers, 11 All-Americans, two national finalists and one NCAA Division II national champion. He has also coached two top-10 NCAA teams and led a team to a runner-up finish in 2011. Needless to say, Wainwright knows talent when he sees it – and he sees it with this year's roster.
The goals and expectations for Wainwright will be tough despite this being a first-year team. Wainwright, who was a national champion at Newberry College, an All-American and runner-up Division II wrestler of the year, expects similar results out of the wrestlers on this year's team.
"I think people are going to realize for a first-year program we are going to be competitive," he said. "We have guys with experience and I think we are going to surprise some people. We have guys that can help build our program to compete for a national title in three or four years."
The Coker wrestling team kicks off its season Nov. 2 at The Citadel Open in Charleston, S.C. The first home meet will be on Nov. 25 against St Andrews.
Story written by athletic media relations intern Aaron Beebe '15.