MARTINSVILLE, Va. (WDBJ) -- Patrick Henry Community College is planning to begin a new wrestling program, with a goal of recruiting up to thirty wrestlers by the fall.
Former Franklin County High School head wrestling coach Justin Smith will take over the reins of the Patriots' newest team. He will be joined by assistant Tim Nininger, the former head coach at Cave Spring High School.
The program has already drawn interest from a number of student-athletes, both in state and out of state, Smith said.
"There are some schools that have reached out to me here locally that have had some kids that have applied to their institutions and, for whatever reason, they may or may not be the best fit at the time, but they can come to Patrick Henry, work on their academics and then transfer in," Smith said. "So, we're helping to fill their rosters as they're kind of helping to fill ours."
In the wake of COVID-19, the program is expected to move forward only if it can do so in keeping with state and national health recommendations and guidance from the National Junior College Athletics Association, which governs athletics programs at two-year colleges, according to PHCC.
The college has already begun renovations of a new wrestling room.
“While we’re keeping an eye on the COVID situation – aware that we may need to be flexible with our plans for the fall – we are moving forward with recruiting student-athletes," said PHCC Athletic Director Brian Henderson. "We have an extreme amount of interest and a need for a two-year college wrestling program in our area.
“As for all sports, NJCAA leadership is monitoring the COVID situation closely and will make the best decisions for the safety of our student-athletes. Season start dates may be delayed. Whatever decision is made, PHCC will be ready to continue providing academic and athletic opportunities for all student-athletes.”
Smith brings with him more than 20 years of wrestling experience to the new program. He competed for Liberty University as a student before going into coaching.
"I want to expose our athletes to Division I-level competition, so if I can get them to the Hokie Open or the NC State Open and get them ready for that level of competition, that's going to help us pursue our goals of being regional champions and national contenders," he said. "I'm not turning anyone away. I love wrestling and, hopefully, we get in touch with the right people that want to be a part of it."
For more information on the program, visit the PHCC athletics website.
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