ST. GEORGE — The Dixie State wrestling program, a club sport on campus, traveled to the National Collegiate Wrestling Association national tournament and finished No. 13 out of 63 teams from around the country on March 14. They also had two All-Americans, Bradley Antesberger and Jantsen Manis, that took third in their respective weight classes. While the wrestling program might not be a part of the DSU athletic department, they still compete at a high level in the NCWA.
The NCWA was established 20 years ago to try and bring college wrestling back after many universities had gotten rid of their programs as a result of Title 9 legislation. Their members do not offer scholarships and their programs are considered club sports.
Some people may see the title of club sport and think that the competition level must be lower, but that is not the case. The Dixie State wrestling program competed against and beat a number of NAIA and national junior college opponents. Head coach Wayne Briggs mentioned that the competition rivals that of some Division III and Division II schools.
DSU’s season started in October and they traveled to a number of tournaments for competition. They finished second out of 14 teams in a tournament at East Los Angeles College and that’s when Briggs said they knew they had a special team.
The national tournament was held March 12 through 14 and everything was set up to play the tournament. On March 13, major sporting events began to shut down as a result of COVID-19, but the NCWA tournament continued on. It worked out well for the Trailblazers as they finished 13th out of 63 teams.
Briggs said the biggest thing that set his program apart this season was their commitment.
“I’ve got some kids that are willing to work hard, they come to practice everyday and they do what they’re supposed to. It makes a big difference.”
The big finish at nationals will only help the program get their name out and recruit going forward. The recruitment process has already been reaping the benefits of that top 15 finish at nationals.
“It’s been working out really well,” Briggs said of recruiting. “Having people see that we’re having success in our program means that good athletes know they can wrestle against good athletes. I’ve been working really hard on recruiting for next year and I’ve got probably, between the men’s and women’s team, a dozen state champions from all over the country coming to Dixie State next year to wrestle for us.”
The facilities and the brand new Human Performance Center on campus also help with that recruiting. Add in the affordability of the university and it helps bring athletes to Dixie State over other universities.
With regards to their current status in the NCWA, Briggs said they are happy with where they are but if the athletics department were to welcome wrestling in as an NCAA sport, they would be open to it.
Another thing that has helped with the Trailblazers wrestling program is the wrestling community in Utah. With such a culture around wrestling, some would think DSU would have been benefitting from it. But Briggs said they were, at times, the best kept secret.
“Coaches didn’t know that we had a wrestling program here at Dixie State and it wasn’t until this past season that we started going to the state championships to let coaches know we had a program,” Briggs said. “We were stunned with how many coaches had no clue that we had wrestling. Now all of the sudden we have coaches coming to us and we have quite a few kids coming that are studs.”
With a stellar finish to their season at the NCWA national tournament and a bright outlook, the Trailblazer wrestling program is on the rise just as the university is.
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