Lock Haven wrestling — along with six other programs in the Eastern Wrestling League — will join the Mid-American Conference (MAC) next season, making the MAC the second-largest conference in Division I wrestling.
The historic announcement was made Tuesday afternoon and involves only wrestling.
In addition to Lock Haven, the other programs announced Tuesday as joining the MAC in 2019-2020 include Bloomsburg, Clarion, Cleveland State, Edinboro, George Mason and Rider. Current MAC wrestling members include Buffalo, Central Michigan, Kent State, Missouri, Northern Illinois, Ohio, Old Dominion and SIU-Edwardsville.
With a larger conference next season, the NCAA will almost certainly boost the MAC’s number of NCAA qualifiers — giving Lock Haven and Co. a potentially better shot at reaching the national tournament. This season, for example, the EWL received 14 qualifiers to the MAC’s 27.
“We are excited to join the MAC and continue our strong tradition in this growing conference,” Lock Haven coach Scott Moore said in a written statement. “The expansion will allow for increased exposure and a new standard of excellence within our program. With growth comes challenges and adversity, but we understand the long-term vision of the expansion and look forward to the opportunity.”
The MAC currently boasts one of the nation’s top teams in Missouri, which is ranked No. 5 and remains undefeated at 15-0. Lock Haven is the lone EWL team to be ranked at No. 23. Once the MAC’s expansion takes place in time for next season, it will have 15 members — second only to the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association’s 16 members, which includes schools from the Ivy League, Patriot League and elsewhere.
“Our membership spent significant time discussing and studying the possible inclusion of these new members and we believe this will strengthen what has already grown into an elite wrestling league,” MAC commissioner Jon A. Steinbrecher said in a written statement. “This addition of affiliate members is good for the Mid-American Conference, and good for collegiate wrestling. It broadens our footprint across a part of the country where youth, high school, and collegiate wrestling is very strong.”
What the teams involved are saying about the expansion
Here are the written statements made by each team set to join the MAC:
Lock Haven AD Tom Gioglio:
“Expanding with the MAC is a logical step that creates tremendous opportunities for Lock Haven University. Besides the stability of competing in a conference that would now be the second largest in NCAA Division I and a conference that sends the second highest volume of national qualifiers to the NCAA Championships, the expansion will provide several creative opportunities to market, promote and enhance LHU’s wrestling brand, which will be very beneficial at The Haven in many areas.”
Edinboro coach (and former assistant coach at Kent State) Matt Hill:
“After spending 11 years coaching in the MAC conference at Kent State University, I feel like it’s a smart and strategic move for the EWL to join the MAC next season. Being in the MAC will allow us to wrestle the toughest competition in the country weekly and give our wrestlers more opportunities to make the NCAA Championships at our conference tournament each year. I’m excited for the challenge and look forward to wrestling these bigger schools. The bar will be set high and we welcome this exciting opportunity.“
Bloomsburg coach Marcus Gordon:
“We are extremely excited to be joining the MAC. Our overall schedule won’t change a lot based on the league being setup in divisions but, with the tradition and the prestige of the MAC, this opportunity will help continue to build our wrestling program and keep us moving forward. It is a tremendous move, not only for Bloomsburg University, but for Division I wrestling as a whole.”
Clarion coach Keith Ferraro:
“Joining the Mid-American Conference is a great opportunity for our wrestling program. We have valued our time in the Eastern Wrestling League and we are proud of the tradition that we leave behind. We look forward to the competitive rigor of the MAC. This change brings about great opportunities for our program to establish new traditions and to build new rivalries. We look forward to these changes and feel honored to have the responsibility of helping to enrich the MAC for the years to come.”
Cleveland State coach Josh Moore:
“Joining the MAC will be very beneficial to the Cleveland State University wrestling program and our mission to compete with the nation’s best. MAC wrestling teams have proven to be successful on the national level, and we are not only excited to join those programs but to have the opportunity to compete with them year after year.”
George Mason AD Brad Edwards:
“We are excited to have George Mason wrestling affiliated with the Mid-American Conference. Our wrestling program will benefit greatly by being associated with this nationally-recognized wrestling conference. We look forward to the opportunity to renew old rivalries and create new institutional relationships.”
Rider coach John Hangey:
“We are excited about the opportunity to become affiliated with the MAC and their member institutions. We see it as a great opportunity to elevate the wrestling program at Rider University and gain valuable national exposure for our current and future student-athletes. I truly appreciate the vision and continued support for our program from President Dell’Omo and Athletic Director Don Harnum. We look forward to the new challenges that our program will face as the MAC is a very competitive conference.”
The following quotes from current MAC coaches were posted to Rider’s website:
Buffalo coach John Stutzman:
“I am excited to add the EWL schools to our conference. Traditionally these programs have produced some of our sports best wrestlers and I look forward to competing with them in the coming years.”
Central Michigan coach Tom Borrelli:
“This is an exciting development for MAC wrestling. It is an opportunity for the Mid-American Conference to expand its footprint nationally and gain strength through increased numbers. Moving forward this expanded conference should create even better competition for our wrestlers and all the wrestling programs.”
Kent State coach Jim Andrassy:
“With the addition of the EWL to the MAC, this will make this one of the premier wrestling conferences in the country and I’m excited for the future of the college wrestling.”
Missouri coach Brian Smith:
“Obviously we are thrilled that the MAC is continuing to invest in our great sport, and the addition of these seven teams only strengthens the MAC’s long-term viability across the national landscape of collegiate wrestling. With the addition of seven teams to our great league, the MAC is now the nation’s second-largest wrestling conference, giving the league a greater chance to shine on our sport’s largest stage at the NCAA Championships. Our goal every year is to win the MAC regular season and tournament titles, and we look forward to the new challenge that this addition presents to our program.”
Northern Illinois coach Ryan Ludwig:
“The addition of EWL schools to the already strong Mid-American Conference further solidifies an elite championship experience for the student-athletes. The strength of our sport throughout these geographic regions creates more opportunity for fan interest and the overall growth of wrestling. NIU is excited about this expansion and looks forward to hosting the inaugural Championship event.”
Ohio coach Joel Greenlee:
“The seven EWL wrestling schools are a great addition for the MAC. Many of the EWL schools are traditional wrestling powers and they are located in the hotbed of wrestling. They also have a long history with a great deal of success. This addition will make the MAC one of the premier wrestling conferences in collegiate wrestling.”
Old Dominion coach Steve Martin:
“The addition of the EWL will make the MAC one of the largest conferences in the country. This helps the MAC by providing more opportunities against high level competition week in and week out. We look forward to welcoming the EWL to the conference!”
SIU-Edwardsville coach Jeremy Spates:
“The addition of these teams is going to be an excellent enhancement for the already strong Mid-American Conference. These teams have a rich tradition in the sport of wrestling and will continue to improve the number of national qualifiers and All-Americans in the conference. It is a great day for the MAC and another step in the right direction.”