LEBANON — McKendree University announced the addition of women's wrestling as its 23rd sport Tuesday, and named Sam Schmitz the head coach of the first-year program.
The announcement comes on the heels of the McKendree men's wrestling program claiming two individual national championships and a team runner-up finish at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA) national championship on March 16.
"McKendree University is known throughout the country as having a highly competitive wrestling program," said athletic director Chuck Brueggemann. "The introduction of a women's program was a natural next step for us. Women's wrestling is a rapidly growing sport and we want to be at the forefront of offering young women the opportunity to continue their passion of competition while getting a first-class education. We have every expectation that this team will be highly successful much like our men's team."
The program will compete as a member of the Women's College Wrestling Association (WCWA). The association, formed in 2008, is the current governing body for all collegiate women's wrestling programs at the NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA levels.
Schmitz joins the McKendree staff as the head coach of the first-year program after serving a dual role as head women's wrestling coach and head assistant men's wrestling coach at Lindenwood University-Belleville this past season. During his time with the Lady Lynx, Schmitz helped the women's program to an 11th-place finish at the WCWA National Championship and had eight national qualifiers, including one who earned All-America honors with a fifth-place finish.
"Coach Schmitz is highly regarded in the sport of wrestling and achieved a lot of success as a competitor," said Brueggemann. "We were impressed by his enthusiasm and passion for the sport and we expect that to come through and help him make a big impression on the student-athletes he coaches."
"I'm very excited for this opportunity," said Schmitz. "Women's wrestling is a growing sport and there are a lot of young women out there that are looking for opportunities to continue their wrestling careers. Our program at McKendree will allow them to get a great education and also compete at a very high level. I can't wait to get started."
Schmitz served as a graduate assistant coach for the men's wrestling program at his alma mater, Lindenwood University-St. Charles, during the 2010-11 season and helped the Lions to a runner-up finish at the NAIA National Championship. Prior to serving his role as a coach, Schmitz earned three NAIA All-America honors at Lindenwood, including a runner-up finish at 149 pounds as a junior. He was also an NJCAA All-America honoree as a freshman at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City, Ore.
Schmitz earned his bronze level coaching certification from USA Wrestling in April of 2012.