Regional Mat Center at Wheeling Jesuit University

WHEELING — Top-ranked wrestlers, both high school and college, won’t have to travel far to hone their skills while chasing that ultimate goal.

It was announced Friday that Wheeling Jesuit University will be the site of the Ohio Valley Regional Training Center, which begins practice Wednesday. The 90-minute session will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. in the Cardinals wrestling room.

“It’s a very exciting time, not only for our program but the university because we will be attracting more students that are pursing things at the highest level. It should be a positive impact for the university as a whole because more and more people will see what good people we have on our campus,” WJU head wrestling coach Danny Irwin said. “With everything we’re trying to do here at Wheeling Jesuit, we are always trying to grow and look for areas that not only can improve our program, but wrestling in general for the Ohio Valley area.

“We now offer opportunities, whether it’s from coming and watching us host dual meets that are getting bigger and bigger to attending our camp in June. Now we will be offering a Regional Olympic Training Center which will give athletes that are within a 250-mile radius of our campus an opportunity to come and learn Freestyle and Greco wrestling, which is the Olympic-style of wrestling. Obviously, from top-notch coaches and being able to get top-notch practice partners to help each individual toward their ultimate goal.”

There were certain requirements that, not only the university had to go through, but the Cardinals coaching staff, as well.

“There is no age limit, but individuals do have to meet certain criteria,” Irwin said. “To be a member you have to be a top-4 finisher in your state tournament or the W.Va. state Freestyle or Greco tournaments. That qualifies you as a member.

“There was an application process the university had to go through. You must have a few qualified members to have a RTC. Obviously with the success we had on the mats this past season with our program, plus on the high school level, it was easy for us top meet that membership requirement.

“We also had to have certain coaches certifications. We worked our way through that paperwork and through USA Wrestling, the governing body of Olympic-style wrestling, we are a chartered member and an insured member. Our staff are all certified. We will be the primary instructors. There are some other coaches in the area that have the proper certification through USA Wrestling to run practices and so forth. That’s one of the things that will make this a first-class experience.

“It’s not just about wrestling. We’re trying to build our technique and our strategy.”

Irwin said Wheeling Jesuit is an ideal location for the RTC.

“Locally we have a good start, but you think 250 miles stretches clear to Cincinnati and just about every square inch of West Virginia. Are athletes going to be here every single practice if they’re at the 250-mile mark? Maybe not, but us being able to create an environment that they can get better in and be productive toward their goals will allow them to get here and train on campus at a high level that will allow them to take the next step on their career path.

“A lot of the top wrestling programs in the country, primarily D-I programs, have these RTCs. It’s one of those things that we see opportunities in. Those opportunities include there’s nothing we can do within the NCAA rules and the NCAA rules allow us to have our RTCs. It doesn’t matter whether we’re at WJU or a monster camp, we can offer the same opportunities, not only for our athletes but athletes inside the distance radius.”

The length of the practices is designed to keep the athletes in continuous motion.

“It’s not too short, but not too long. We want it to be a successful thing,” Irwin noted. “It’s unique for us to have … not just a practice. It is something we’re going to make top-notch here just like our athletics. We’re going to put everything we have into it to make sure it’s the best experience possible for each and every person who chooses to attend the practices.”

No practices will be held during the high school wrestling season. There will also be a couple of dead periods due to NCAA rules where the WJU coaching staff cannot have on-campus contact with potential student-athletes.

“Coaches and athletes are passionate about wrestling in the Ohio Valley region and this gives them another resource to utilize. It promotes the growth of wrestling and that is one of top goals.”