Division I Eastern Wrestling League to merge with MAC next season
The Mid-American Conference made a major move to continue to enhance its wrestling presence, announcing Tuesday that the seven teams from the Eastern Wrestling League will be joining for the 2019-20 season.
This will give the MAC the second-largest wrestling conference in the country behind the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Conference, which has 16 teams, ahead of the Big 10 which has 14.
The current teams in the MAC are Buffalo, Central Michigan, Kent State, Ohio, Northern Illinois, Missouri, Old Dominion and SIU-Edwardsville.
The seven from the EWL are Bloomsburg, Clarion, Edinboro, Lock Haven, Rider, George Mason and Cleveland State.
“We are excited to join the MAC and continue our strong tradition in this growing conference,” Lock Haven coach Scott Moore said. “The expansion will allow for increased exposure and a new standard of excellence within our program.
“With growth comes challenges and adversity, but we understand the long-term vision of the expansion and look forward to the opportunity. The EWL has a rich history, and we will continue to remember its wrestlers and coaches who represented us on the national stage.”
This year’s MAC tournament will be held Saturday and Sunday in Norfolk, Va., and the 2020 event will be at Northern Illinois.
“I am pleased to welcome our new additions to the Mid-American Conference that have strong traditions in the sport of wrestling,” Dr. Jon A. Steinbrecher, Commissioner of the Mid-American Conference said in a release. “Our membership spent significant time discussing and studying the possible inclusion of these new members, and we believe this will strengthen what has already grown into an elite wrestling league.”
The MAC was allocated 27 qualifiers last week for the 2019 NCAA Wrestling Championships set for March 21-23 in Pittsburgh. The NCAA will announce the 330 qualifiers for the Division I Wrestling Championships on March 12.
During the 2018 NCAA Wrestling Championships in Cleveland, the MAC was represented with 34 wrestlers. The MAC is a consistent leader in sending wrestlers to the NCAA championships: 2017 – 45 wrestlers, third most in NCAA; 2016 – 45 wrestlers, third most in NCAA; and 2015 – 38 wrestlers, third most.
Coaches from the schools joining the MAC are looking forward to the new challenges.
“Joining the Mid-American Conference is a great opportunity for our wrestling program,” Clarion coach Keith Ferraro said. “We have valued our time in the Eastern Wrestling League, and we are proud of the tradition that we leave behind.
“We look forward to the competitive rigor of the MAC. This change brings about great opportunities for our program to establish new traditions and to build new rivalries.”
Edinboro coach Matt Hill knows how tough the MAC is after spending 11 years coaching at Kent State.
“I feel like it’s a smart and strategic move for the EWL to join the MAC next season,” Hill said. “Being in the MAC will allow us to wrestle the toughest competition in the country weekly and give our wrestlers more opportunities to make the NCAA Championships at our conference tournament each year.
“I’m excited for the challenge and look forward to wrestling these bigger schools. The bar will be set high, and we welcome this exciting opportunity.”
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .