University of Central Florida to wrestle Purdue in Fort Myers
Purdue will compete against the University of Central Florida at 8 p.m. Monday at the Fort Myers High School gym.
Yes, you read that correctly — Purdue and UCF at Fort Myers High.
"I don't know the last time a Big 10 team has wrestled in Florida, let alone for one dual meet," UCF coach Jason Balma said.
"It's kind of neat how it all came together."
Balma and Fort Myers wrestling coach Matt Markowski are Green Wave wrestling alumni. They graduated in 2001, after helping Fort Myers win the state title in 1998.
The Purdue coaches contacted Balma to arrange a dual meet with his team. The Boilermakers will be attending a training camp in south Florida and they wanted to fit a meet into their visit.
"(Balma) asked me if I'd host it and I said, 'Sure.' That was that," Markowski said.
"To have two college programs in our gym wrestling, it's great for kids to see what wrestling looks like at the next level."
Few Southwest Florida residents get to watch Big 10 wrestling in person, even fewer right in their backyard.
"This is going to be a new experience for all of us. It's going to be nice," Green Wave captain Hilo Watanabe, a junior, said. "I thought when I first heard it, it was going to be near Fort Myers, not at our school. We're all excited."
Purdue competes in the Big 10, arguably the toughest conference in Division I. Ten of the top 25 teams in the latest USA Today Division I wrestling rankings are from the Big 10.
Purdue is not in the Top 25, but the Boilermakers have four wrestlers ranked among the top 12 in the nation in their weight classes.
"The outcome will probably be lopsided for them," Balma said.
"But our guys are pumped up. For some pumped up and scared at the same time, but it's going to be exciting."
UCF does not compete in the NCAA, but rather in the National Collegiate Wrestling Association, a highly respected club division.
That doesn't mean the Golden Knights can be taken lightly. UCF is ranked fourth in the most recent NCWA coaches' poll. It has two wrestlers ranked in the NCWA top 10, including Fort Myers High graduate Richard Rippy, a sophomore with the Golden Knights.
"The fact that Purdue has heard of our team, that speaks pretty loudly of our program and what we're building," Balma said.
"Even if we do get our butts kicked."