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Eastern Wrestling League adds Rider, George Mason

| Friday, May 17, 2013, 7:30 p.m.

The Eastern Wrestling League's search for new members to replace Pitt and West Virginia resulted in this week's additions of George Mason and Rider, effective with the 2013-14 season.

It's the first time the EWL has expanded since Virginia Tech, now a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, joined in 1999.

West Virginia joined the Big East in 2012-13. Pitt, which captured its third consecutive EWL Tournament title in March, begins competition in the ACC in 2013-14.

Adding George Mason and Rider, formerly of the Colonial Athletic Association, returns the EWL to seven schools. The EWL also includes Bloomsburg, Clarion, Cleveland State, Edinboro and Lock Haven.

“We add two very sound wrestling programs with solid traditions,” said EWL commissioner Bruce Baumgartner, the athletic director at Edinboro who played a key role in George Mason and Rider coming aboard. “Their additions allows us to maintain the national respect for the Eastern Wrestling League.”

“There was a void with Pitt and West Virginia leaving,” said Clarion athletic director Dave Katis. “This gets our conference back to seven teams.”

Returning the EWL to seven teams allows for a season-ending qualifying tournament. However, with most schedules already in place for next season, the EWL is unlikely to begin round-robin duals until 2014-15.

Cleveland State will host the 2014 EWL Championships next March.

EWL schools have finished in the top 20 at the NCAA Championships 79 times, producing more than 1,000 national qualifiers and more than 230 All-Americans with 25 individual national champions.

In 2012, the EWL produced 10 wrestlers finishing among the top 12 with five All-Americans.

That success appealed to Rider, a member of the Colonial Athletic Association since 2002. Previously, Rider was a member of the East Coast Conference and East Coast Wrestling Association from 1975-2001, winning a total of 13 championships.

Rider hosted the NCAA Division I national championships in 2001 and '02 in Philadelphia and Albany, N.Y., respectively.

“The EWL's history of success speaks volumes to the fact that they consistently are one of the elite wrestling conferences in the country,” said Rider coach Gary Taylor, a 35-year veteran with 390 career wins.

Wrestling is among only two of 22 sports at George Mason that won't be affiliated with the Atlantic 10. George Mason officially joins the Atlantic 10 in July.

George Mason won five Colonial Athletic Association wrestling championships since joining the conference in 1992.

“The (EWL) has stood the test of time and has produced some great wrestlers,” said George Mason coach Joe Russell. “The bar has been raised.”

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