Reinhardt’s new wrestling team will officially begin its inaugural season with its first official practice next week.
The team’s facility, formerly known as the Blue Gym, was unveiled at a ribbon cutting Friday, Sept. 9, with University dignitaries in attendance, including President Dr. Kina Mallard, Athletic Director Bill Popp, Tim Norton, vice president for advancement and marketing, and the wrestling coaching staff and wrestlers. In addition, representatives from the Brown-Whitworth Foundation, which made the donation making the upgrades possible, were in attendance.
The team will be led by Head Coach Jeff Bedard who has been wrestling since high school and trained at the Olympic level for nine years. Bedard’s primary goal for the first season is forming the right culture around the program. He wants to instill key values in his team that he believes are unique to wrestling.
“This sport will teach you more life lessons than any other sport I’ve ever played, and I’ve played baseball, football, hockey, the whole nine-yards, and this just teaches life lessons, because it’s a lot like life, not everything’s fair. You can be the hardest working guy in the room and lose the big matches. That’s not fair really, because you out-worked your opponent, but that’s life,” said Bedard.
Despite his extensive background with the sport, Bedard said that developing the program from the ground up has been a new experience.
“This has been more of a challenge than any other coaching job I’ve had [and] I’ve been coaching for 20-something years, just simply because I’ve never started a program from scratch. There’s a lot of trial and error,” he said.
One strategy Bedard employed was recruiting experienced transfer students in addition to freshman wrestlers. Sophomore Brayden Hartley, a transfer recruit, previously wrestled at Division I Gardner Webb University and trained with Bedard in high school. He thinks Bedard’s strategy will aid in the team’s success.
“I think we have a lot of veterans and then we have a lot of new kids, and hopefully the veterans can step up for the new kids and set the program on track,” said Hartley.
The program will also benefit from the diversity of its wrestlers’ experiences. Sophomore Johan Olart taught a year of high school wrestling and served in the Navy for eight years before coming to Reinhardt. In the Navy, he was exposed to multiple styles of wrestling that he had not previously experienced.
“There’s three different styles of wrestling, and the U.S. mainly focuses on one style, where no one else in the world does, so it was a culture shock, but it was amazing, amazing experiences,” Olarte said about his experiences in the Navy.
The coach and team members are excited for the upcoming season and believe the new wrestling program will be a benefit to the University.
“I think it’s [the wrestling program] going to bring good kids into the community. … It’s just going to bring good students and a good atmosphere, hopefully, we can set the right culture [and] make wrestling grow,” said Hartley.
The wrestling team will begin practice Monday, Sept. 19 and hold meets later this fall in a newly renovated space in the James and Sis Brown Athletic Center. More information about the renovations can be found at the RU Athletics Department Website.
A schedule of wrestling meets for the 2016-2017 season has not yet been published.
Written By: Jordan Beach. Photo Credit: Jordan Beach. Featured Image: Head Coach Jeff Bedard demonstrates some moves with wrestlers Johan Olarte and Brayden Hartley.