Eastern Washington Returns to the Mats
Eastern Washington University will be returning to the mats for the 2008-09 season as part of the NCWA. EWU, which discontinued the sport as part of the athletic department restructuring following the 1989-90 academic year, will feature a program for both men and women.
The Eagles have had a strong history in the sport while they were part of the athletic department program. Started in 1967-68, the Eagles quickly rose through the NAIA ranks, capturing the national championship in 1977 by a half point over Grand Valley State University in front of a sold-out Reese Court, and also earning trophies in 1976 (second) and 1978 (third). The program produced five national individual champions and 21 All-Americans between 1968 and 1990. When it was eliminated in 1990, the Eagles were coming off sending national qualifiers to both the 1988 and 1989 NCAA Division I national tournament.
The program, though not affiliated with the athletic department, will join the National Collegiate Wrestling Association and will be immediately eligible for conference and national tournament participation. The NCWA was established in 1998 and has held 11 national championships for men, and last season added a national championship for women. Jim Guinta is the Executive Director of the Dallas, TX based organization. Last year’s national champions for the men were Grand Valley State University in Allendale, MI and the inaugural women’s champion was Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC. The NCWA currently has 134 men’s programs and 10 women’s programs affiliated with them.
The EWU Wrestling Program will be coached by Scott Miller, who recently retired as head coach and Director of Wrestling at Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR. Miller brings 18 years of head coaching experience with him, including stints as the head coach at NCAA Division I Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC, where he is the winningest wrestling coach in school history, Syracuse University and Pacific University, where he led the Boxer women’s team to two national tournament runner-up finishes and has coach two national champions and over 30 all-Americans. Last year’s women’s team at Pacific was narrowly edged by Simon Fraser for the national title and his team had eight all-Americans. Miller is a 1989 graduate and a former wrestler and assistant coach for the Eagles under Craig Foster. During his career he has been named Coach of the Year four times, including last season when he was named the NCWA Women’s Division National Coach of the Year. His career record is 172-129-1 in 18 years.
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Joining Miller on the coaching staff will be three former Eagles wrestlers and letterwinners, and a former North Idaho College wrestler
and letterwinner. Todd and Donny Koellen were both wrestlers at EWU under Craig Foster in the 1980’s. Todd was a two-time state placer in high school at Central Valley in Spokane, WA and a teammate of Scott Miller’s while at EWU. He was a four-time letterwinner for the Eagles and was a starter all four years. Donny, Todd’s brother, was a two-time state placer and state champion, also at Central Valley. He wrestled in college at North Idaho College and finished his career at EWU where he was a letterwinner. Darrin Mason, the fourth EWU alum on the coaching staff, was a member of EWU’s last team and was a three time letterwinner and starter for the Eagles. Mason was a two-time state placer for Cheney High School in Cheney, WA. Chad Lacroix rounds out the coaching staff. Though not an alum of EWU wrestling, Chad had a strong high school career at Rogers HS in Spokane, WA and went on to wrestle at North Idaho College under legendary coach John Owens.
“I’m really looking forward to getting wrestling back at EWU,” said Miller. “Being a part of a team and a program provides students with a life experience that they take with them for the rest of their lives. I know that my experience of being a part of EWU Wrestling helped me in so many ways. Not having a program here, as an alum, has been a big void and I’m pleased that I can do something to help so that these kids can have the kind of experience I’ve had.”
The new coaching staff is still busy putting together a schedule and planning and preparing for the upcoming season.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into planning and running a program. Fortunately, a number of the alumni have stepped forward and have provided tremendous help in the process,” said Miller. “In addition, Mike Campitelli, the head of the Sports Club Federation has provided great support for us and we are very pleased and excited that he will be our advisor this year.”
EWU will be a member of the Northwest Conference of the NCWA. Other members include Central Washington University, Douglas College, and Idaho State University. On the women’s side, the team will join Simon Fraser University, Yakima Valley College, Douglas College, Pacific University and Central Washington University in the Northwest Conference. The NCWA national tournament will be held March 12-14 in Hampton, Virginia on the campus of Hampton University. Miller also serves as the Northwest Conference Chairman as well as the NCWA Women’s Division Chairman.
“I really like the organization we are going into,” said Miller. “It provides our student-athletes with the opportunity to compete both regionally and nationally, and it is an outstanding, well-run, wrestling-oriented organization. To me, it’s a great honor to have this program associated with as well as myself being part of the governance structure.”
The program will start practices in October in have a minimum of eight dates this season for both the men and women.
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“We’ll spend the first half of the year teaching and the second half getting after it,” said Miller. “I’m a history buff and I’m excited
that Grand Valley State has won the last couple men’s titles because in 1977, my school nipped the Lakers for the NAIA national title. Hopefully, we can get this program up and running so that maybe we can see history repeat itself, and it will be a lot of fun seeing if we can do here with our women what we did at Pacific. It should be fun.”
For more information contact: Scott Miller
509-220-2258 (Cell Phone)