Cornerstone To Add Men’s Wrestling Program Beginning in 2021
Cornerstone University and Director of Athletics Aaron Sagraves are proud to announce the addition of the university’s 20th varsity sport. Beginning with the 2021-22 academic year, men’s wrestling joins the list of Golden Eagles’ teams.
The wrestling program will reside within a new training facility near De Witt Baseball Field. The space will include a wrestling practice room and a locker room, along with an indoor space for other sports to more effectively train during the winter months. The wrestling team will host competition inside Mol Arena beginning in the winter of 2021-22.
“Over the last few years, we have explored many different sports that could add to our community here at Cornerstone, and we feel that this will be one that will build into young men with their personal relationships with Christ, challenge them in their academic endeavor and also reach new heights in their athletic performance,” said Sagraves. “Wrestling is one that has stood out because of how successful it is in the state of Michigan and surrounding states, as well as it being one of the fastest-growing sports in the WHAC and NAIA. I am excited to help start a varsity collegiate wrestling program here in West Michigan that features some of the best high school programs in the state.”
Sagraves and the Cornerstone athletics department will begin the search immediately for a new head coach to run the wrestling program. The hired coach will then look to recruit an initial cohort of wrestlers to enroll at Cornerstone in the fall of 2021 with the expectation to begin individual competition based on roster numbers and conference/national affiliation within the WHAC and NAIA. Current participation levels in our regional high schools and conference schools are causing us to focus on a men’s program initially, but the facility design and our plans are providing us the opportunity to add a women’s team as the sport grows in our region and conference.
Funding to launch the program and its new facility comes entirely from private donations. Steve Cochlan, a former member of the CU Board of Trustees, is the lead donor. The facility will be named the Steve Cochlan Wrestling Center in honor of Cochlan’s longstanding services to Cornerstone.
“We’re grateful to be blessed with donors who believe that intercollegiate athletics are an important piece of students’ spiritual formation and social experience,” said Bob Sack, CU’s Vice President for University Advancement. “In particular, Steve Cochlan’s longstanding friendship with CU exemplifies donors’ commitment to co-curricular activities as tools for students’ learning and growth. This new program will expand our athletic footprint and provide opportunities for more students to prepare to excel in their chosen vocations and impact their world for Christ.”
Wrestling is a sport that continues to grow at the collegiate level, as 74 NAIA schools sponsored the sport in 2019-20. At the high school level, men’s wrestling is the eighth most popular sport with 10,843 participating schools and seventh largest men’s sport in terms of participants with 247,441 athletes according to the National Federation of High School Sports (NFHS). In the MHSAA alone, there are 465 schools that provide wrestling, making the state of Michigan one of the premier locations across the country to recruit the sport at the collegiate level.
Wrestling is the tenth men’s sport out of Cornerstone’s 20 athletic programs. “Cornerstone continues a trajectory of innovative growth,” added Sagraves. “In the last few years, the university has added several academic programs, athletic teams, and facilities. We are dedicated to creating the best atmosphere for male and female student-athletes.”