Cleveland State University, located in one of the nation’s most powerful high school wrestling hotbeds, will be eliminating its 52-year-old mat program at the end of the 2015-16 school year, replacing it with men’s lacrosse, a sport yet to be sanctioned by the governing body for high school sports in Ohio, the school announced Monday.
In an additional bit of irony, Cleveland State had been slated to host the 2018 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland. The school had hosted the NCAAs on campus in 1998.
According to a press statement put out by Cleveland State, a varsity men’s lacrosse program will be added and begin recruiting athletes to compete in the spring season of the 2016-2017 academic year. The statement went on to say, “CSU will explore external funding sources that if secured, could allow continuation of the wrestling program.”
Here’s how the “Cleveland Plain Dealer” opened its news story announcing the axing of the Viking mat program: “Cleveland State University will discontinue funding its 52-year-old wrestling program in fall 2016. The world’s oldest sport will be replaced by men’s lacrosse — the fastest growing college sport in the last decade. Its first season will start in the spring of 2017.” The CSU added men’s lacrosse as a club sport in 2013, according to the paper. The paper went on to state that school officials did not want to drop a sport but could not afford the additional cost of about $900,000 a year to add two sports, because if it added lacrosse it would have to add a women’s sport to meet federal Title IX requirements. By adding men’s lacrosse, CSU would become only the second public university in Ohio to offer lacrosse. Ohio State University has men’s and women’s teams.
“The decision to no longer fund wrestling at CSU was a very difficult one,” said CSU Athletics Director John Parry. “The athletes, coaches and support staff have shown exceptional dedication to their sport and the university. We will be working to raise external funds, and if necessary, to provide transition support.”
The “Plain Dealer” reported that Parry played lacrosse while at Brown University, then later coached the sport at the Ivy League school in the late 1970s, and had twice served on the NCAA men’s lacrosse committee. His wife is an assistant women’s lacrosse coach at Baldwin Wallace University.
Meanwhile, CSU head wrestling coach Ben Stehura is already working to keep the Vikings on the mat beyond 2016. The wrestling program needs to raise $800,000 by March 31, 2016, which would fund the program for 2016 and 2017. “All of this would give us time to reach a $5 million endowment to then secure the program,” Stehura told the “Plain Dealer” in a separate story about the program’s possible future. “There has always been strong wrestling support and honestly this is up to the community. If they value everything that comes along with having a wrestling program at Cleveland State, it would be a validation of several people’s life’s work.”
Cleveland State’s announcement to eliminate its wrestling program comes days after Glendale Community College of Arizona revealed it was axing its wrestling club program.