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Wrestlers want Division I program

02/22/2006 -

So you want to be a student athlete, huh?
Get ready to wake up at 5 a.m., run until you puke, sit through a lecture or two and then head to practice. After that, grab some dinner, cram for a test and collapse into bed, only to repeat it the next day.

For some, it means sacrificing playing video games all day, like a “normal college kid,” but in exchange, receiving the glory and the full-ride scholarship — right?

Not necessarily.

For Ryan Parsons, a potential All-American with the K-State club wrestling team, there will be no ESPN SportsCenter appearances, no front-page headlines, no athletic scholarship.

For Parsons, it’s all about the love of the sport.

“I’ve wrestled my whole life. It’s all I know,” Parsons, senior in mechanical engineering, said.

K-State doesn’t have a Division I wrestling program, but wrestling coach Beau Tillman said his athletes work as hard as anyone on campus.

“We bleed and sweat just like (scholarship athletes),” Tillman said. “These kids — they do it because they love wrestling.”

Tillman, who is in his third year as K-State coach, said bringing Division I wrestling to K-State is his main priority.

“I came to K-State to get that in motion,” Tillman, senior in kinesiology, said. “That’s what we’re here for.”

Drew Welchert, president of the K-State wrestling club, said there’s the potential for a successful Division I program in Manhattan.

“We’d like to bring to the attention of people that there is a great deal of good wrestling at the high school level (in Kansas),” Welchert, senior in construction science, said.

“These guys have no place to go in Kansas. We lose them to Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Iowa State.

“We want to get people talking about a Division I team at K-State, and maybe we could give those guys a chance to compete here at home.”

Tillman said he hopes to bring a Division I program to K-State within the next five years.

In order for that to happen, however, Tillman said he must resolve issues with funding and Title IX.

Title IX, which guarantees women equal rights in collegiate sports, would dictate that K-State also add a Division I women’s sport, Tillman said.

So for now, Tillman and Welchert are focused on making K-State the dominant team in the Southwest Conference.

“One of our biggest team goals is to win the conference championship and be the big power in the conference,” Welchert said. “We’ve done that with a lot of success the last several years.”

K-State is one of 19 teams in the Southwest Conference, which also includes Kansas, Colorado, Texas Tech and Texas A&M. Last season, five K-State wrestlers finished first at the conference tournament, and the Wildcats walked away with a conference championship.

This year’s conference tournament will be on Feb. 26 at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas.

Then, it’s on to the national tournament in Allendale, Mich., where the Wildcats placed 10th last season.

K-State returns several wrestlers from last year’s squad, including Parsons, who finished 4-2 at nationals in 2005.

Welchert said he hopes the Wildcats can improve on their 10th-place finish this season.

Austin Meek
Kansas State Collegian
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