Tomes Scores Reversal for Carroll Wrestling
Sturgeon Bay native Ben Tomes' persistence to get a wrestling program reinstated at Carroll University in Waukesha has finally paid off.
The small private school in southern Wisconsin recently granted Tomes permission to start a club team next school year, and the Carroll University Student Senate approved funding of \$26,000 to get the program up and running.
"I'm ecstatic," said Tomes, a former Carroll wrestler. "We're back."
Carroll dropped its school-sanctioned wrestling program in 1999 — two years after Tomes had graduated — citing a lack of interest. Tomes had been lobbying school officials for about the last four years to bring it back.
"I was always frustrated that they dropped it, and I never gave up on it," said Tomes. "Initially, it wasn't always so diplomatic. I'd write things about the wrestling program on donation cards from the school. A lot of us walked away and said, 'You're not going to get any money from us until you bring back wrestling.' Over time I softened a little bit. I don't think anybody expected us to pull it off, but I did."
Tomes, who works as a wrestling trainer for Waukesha Mixed Martial Arts, has volunteered to coach the team along with two non-paid assistants.
Tomes coached 11 years at the high school level, including successful stints at Milwaukee Custer (1999-2003) and Florida's Jensen Beach (2004-05) and William T. Dwyer (2006-09). He resurrected a dormant wrestling program at Custer, one of the toughest inner-city schools in Wisconsin, and guided the Cougars to their first and only state tournament appearance in 2003.
Tomes has already recruited 16 wrestlers and his goal is to have 25 on the team when the season starts in fall.
"I expect to find people one way or another," said Tomes, who's already made contacts with high schools in Door County and the surrounding area.
The new Carroll team is going to compete in the National Collegiate Wrestling Association, which is a governing body for more than 150 teams throughout the country that operate outside of their school's athletic department. Tomes said the NCWA has a national individual tournament and national team tournament.
Tomes said Carroll wrestlers will compete in open tournaments in the Midwest, and he's also trying to arrange dual meets against some of the private and public colleges in Wisconsin.
Although the new wrestling program falls under club status, Tomes said "it will be, in every aspect, like a varsity program."
"Someone said to me, 'You're just a club,'" said Tomes. "And I said, 'A club is something you hit somebody with.'
"I'm not doing this as a comical joke. If you're going to take on something like this, you have to be in it to win. It's not a win-at-all-costs mentality, but we want to be successful."
Tomes is hopeful that if he can recruit a large group of wrestlers to the school and have success, that someday Carroll will officially sanction wrestling once again.
"I would love it if it happened, but right now I'm just happy we exist," he said. "As long as we're treated as an equal, that's all I'm asking for right now. If it's an opportunity for a kid to wrestle, so be it."