Former NCWA Team Darton College makes Athletic History
WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. — Darton College makes athletic history today when its wrestling team participates in its first match since becoming an officially sanctioned NJCAA team last year.
The Cavaliers, who began their program as an NCWA club team, will mark their first tournament competition today as an NJCAA team at the Patriot Open hosted by the University of the Cumberlands (Ky.).
“It’s a little different, but good,” said coach Josh Watts, who is in his second year “The guys are excited and I’m excited. We’re ready to get rolling. Getting that experience will help us out a great deal because we are going to go on a lot of trips, and we will be going against four-year schools often so that will help us out.”
Although the Cavaliers’ only home meet is scheduled for Nov. 29 (Cavalier Duals), the next-best home is Rochester, Minn., site of the national tournament Feb. 26-28.
Regardless of how the results fare, athletic director Michael Kiefer feels wrestling making the transition from an NCWA club to an NJCAA team status is a tremendous step for both the sport and the athletic program.
“It’s exciting to have that program up and running,” Kiefer said. “They might be getting a bit overlooked this weekend, concerning all that’s going on (the region soccer tournament at Darton and women’s basketball’s Darton Classic), but it’s certainly exciting to see the team become part of the officially recognized part of our athletic department.”
With the official inclusion among the other sports, Watts feels that will be a positive intangible in itself.
“I think it gives the kids a little more confidence that we’re in the (athletic) department and the school is behind us,” Watts said. “It pumps them up.”
As a club team last season, the Cavaliers finished 14th in the NCWA National Tournament with Jarrett Williams and John Hill earning All-America status. Neither wrestler came back as a sophomore (Williams joined the military and Hill left the school), so Watts must depend on a different group of wrestlers.
Returning wrestlers who qualified for NCWA Nationals last season include Corey Simmons (149 pounds), followed by Carrington Williams (157), Dakota Puryear (125), Robert Gillon (133) and Gio Graham (174).
“Corey impresses me the most,” Watts said. “He always works hard and was consistent in last year’s matches. He was a captain last year and will be a captain for me this year. He has more maturity on the mat and his technique has gotten better as well as his leadership skills.”
Another wrestler to watch is Graham, Watts
“The competition will be a lot better, so because of that we all will be better, too,” Graham said. “Iron sharpens iron.”