Linfield University in McMinnville, Oregon, has announced the addition of men’s and women’s wrestling for the 2022-2023 season. Linfield will become just the second Division III wrestling program west of the Central time zone. Pacific University, also in Oregon, is the other western DIII school with men’s and women’s wrestling.
Linfield previously sponsored men’s wrestling at the NAIA level and dropped the sport in 1986. The local organization Restore College Wrestling Oregon worked with the athletic department to bring men’s wrestling back to Linfield and add the sport for women. The sports will be the 22nd and 23rd offered by the school and are the first added sports since 1997.
Linfield has around 1,400 undergraduates split 60-40 women vs. men. The school competes in the Norwest Conference and joins Pacific as the second school with wrestling. There are seven other women’s wrestling teams in Oregon split between the NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA. Both teams will compete extensively with non-Division III schools, since the second closest DIII wrestling school is over 1,200 miles away.
Linfield University to add men’s and women’s wrestling
McMINNVILLE, ORE. – Linfield University on Monday announced the addition of men’s and women’s wrestling teams, which will begin competition in the fall of 2022.
The university will hire a coach for the programs right away, and begin recruiting for next year. Men’s and women’s wrestling will become the 22nd and 23rd NCAA Division III sports at Linfield, which has a strong tradition of student athletics.
“This is a big moment in Linfield’s history, and in the history of Wildcat athletics,” Athletic Director Garry Killgore said. “It represents our first new varsity programs in almost 25 years, which is not a step we took lightly. Women’s wrestling is one of the fastest-growing sports in America, and we’re excited to offer new opportunities for those athletes.”
The last time the university added varsity sports was in 1996 with women’s golf and 1997 with women’s lacrosse. Linfield had a men’s wrestling team until 1986, which competed at the NAIA level at the time.
Linfield’s Office of Admission has consistently fielded a large number of questions in recent years from high school students wanting to wrestle in college. Wrestling is among the top NCAA sports in terms of attracting first-generation students and students from traditionally under-represented communities.
“Linfield right now is growing from a college into a university, opening a second campus, building a new $37 million science center and adding graduate programs, among other things,” said Miles K. Davis, Linfield president. “The addition of men’s and women’s wrestling fits right in with that growth trajectory. I look forward to sitting matside in Ted Wilson Gymnasium and cheering for Wildcat wrestlers in the years ahead.”
On their own, students started a new wrestling club this fall, which will compete against other college clubs during the 2021-22 season. The club will then fold and interested students can join the new NCAA men’s or women’s team.
The group Restore College Wrestling Oregon has been meeting with Linfield’s athletic department for three years, discussing plans, offering help and exploring opportunities together. Larry Bielenberg, a four-time NCAA All-American and the 1975 heavyweight national champion for Oregon State, has been a primary point of contact for RCWOR through that time.
“We are thrilled that Linfield is restarting its men’s program and initiating a new women’s program,” said Bielenberg, whose daughter graduated from Linfield in 2006. “It’s been a pleasure for Restore College Wrestling Oregon to work with Garry Kilgore and we appreciate the decision from President Davis to make it happen. This will be the fifth program RCWOR has helped start in the state of Oregon, which in turn helps train and educate a new generation of teachers, coaches and professionals. We’re happy to be a part of it.”
Linfield University is an independent, non-profit university with campuses in McMinnville and Portland, Oregon. Since 1858, Linfield has connected a traditional liberal arts experience with practical education through 56 majors, including wine studies, sport management and nursing. For three years running, U.S. News & World Report magazine has named Linfield one of the top liberal arts colleges in the nation when it comes to social mobility. Thirty-two percent of Linfield students are first-generation college students, and more than one-third are U.S. students of color. Linfield competes in the NCAA Division III Northwest Conference. Learn more at www.linfield.edu.