All three universities have joined the MAC with five-year agreements, with Missouri and Northern Iowa joining the MAC for the conference tournament only for the 2012-13 season and then participate fully in regular season and tournament action for the next four consecutive years (2013-14 season thru 2016-17 academic season). Old Dominion will join the MAC for the regular season and tournament action in the 2013-14 season through the 2017-18 academic season.
The addition of the three affiliate members will increase the MAC wrestling membership to nine members with Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Northern Illinois and Ohio. With this increase in wrestling membership, the MAC will become the third largest Division I wrestling league in the nation only behind the Big Ten and the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA). This move will also provide the conference extended recruiting opportunities from across the Midwest towards the East Coast into Virginia.
"After significant study and discussion by our member institution's coaches and administrators the Mid-American Conference has made a move that will take what is already a very strong wrestling conference and make it one of the elite wrestling conferences in the country," said Dr. Jon A. Steinbrecher, Commissioner of the Mid-American Conference. "I am pleased to welcome Missouri, Northern Iowa, and Old Dominion, their student-athletes, coaches and fans to the MAC in the sport of wrestling."
Last season Kent State won the MAC regular season title and the previous season witnessed a three-way tie for the MAC regular season title between Kent State, Central Michigan and Ohio.
In 2012, the MAC sent 24 wrestlers to the 2012 NCAA Championship Tournament in St. Louis, where MAC Champion Central Michigan finished tied for 13th and Kent State ended 17th in the NCAA Championship standings. The MAC witnessed three wrestlers earn All-American honors as Central Michigan's Ben Bennett (184 lb.) earned his third, Kent State's Nic Bedelyon (125 lb.) earned his second and Ohio's Jeremy Johnson (Hwt.) earned his first All-American honor.
In 2011 the MAC last witnessed an individual national champion when Kent State's Dustin Kilgore won the 197 lb. National Championship as he pinned Oklahoma State's Clayton Foster. Kilgore became the eighth MAC wrestler to win a national championship in conference history.
Central Michigan has won the last 11 consecutive MAC Wrestling Championships dating back to the 2002 season. In the last five consecutive years, the MAC has witnessed a program finish in the Top 20 at the NCAA Wrestling Championship and twice had two programs finish in the Top 20 -- 2009 (Central Michigan tied-14th; Kent State 18th) and 2011 (Central Michigan tied-13th; Kent State 27th). The last Top Ten finish by the MAC in the NCAA Wrestling Championship was Central Michigan's seventh place finish in 2008.
Missouri finished the 2011-12 season ranked 26th in the NCAA final rankings and under head coach Brian Smith captured the Big 12 Tournament Championship, the first title in program history. The Tigers produced four individual Big 12 Champions and head coach Brian Smith was named Big 12 Coach of the Year. Missouri led the nation and set a program record by sending ten grapplers to the 2012 NCAA Championship Wrestling Tournament
Head coach Brian Smith is the winningest coach in program history (173-83-3), entering his 15th season. Under Smith's direction, Missouri has produced four National Champions (Ben Askren in 2006 and 2007; Mark Ellis in 2009 and Max Askren in 2010), 14 wrestlers have earned 26 All-America honors and three top-10 NCAA finishes (2007-third; 2009-seventh; and 2010-tenth).
Missouri's wrestling program started in 1923-24 and competed in the Missouri Valley Conference from 1928-1932 and the Big 6 Conference from 1932-37. There was no program from 1938-58 and wrestling returned in 1959. Missouri competed in the Big 8 from 1964-96 and the Big 12 from 1996-2012.
Northern Iowa Panthers
Northern Iowa ended the 2011-12 season ranked 34th in the NCAA final rankings and finished second in the Western Wrestling Conference with a 8-7 record in duals and a 5-1 conference record under head coach Doug Schwab.
The Panthers sent five grapplers to the 2012 NCAA Championship Wrestling Tournament, including Joe Colon (133 lbs.), Levi Wolfensperger (141 lbs.), David Bonin (157 lbs.), Ryan Loder (184 lbs.) and Blayne Beale (HWT). Colon seeded No. 5 at 133 lbs., and Loder seeded No. 8 at 184 lbs.
Northern Iowa has a strong history of success in the sport of wrestling. Northern Iowa captured the 1950 NCAA Division 1 Wrestling National Championship. The Panthers have crowned 21 NCAA Division I individual national champions, the latest being Tony Davis at 149 lbs. in 2000, and have tallied 115 NCAA Division I All-Americans. Northern Iowa's Bill Smith captured an Olympic Gold Medal at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland. Since rejoining the Division I ranks in 1981, Northern Iowa notched 20 Top-20 finishes at the NCAA Championships.
Old Dominion Monarchs
Old Dominion concluded the 2011-12 season ranked No. 24 in the final regular season NCWA poll and ranked third in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) under head coach Steve Martin. The Monarchs earned a school record seven bids to the 2012 NCAA Championship Wrestling Tournament, which was tied for fourth nationally and the most of any school from the CAA.
During the 2011-12 season, Old Dominion had the fifth highest GPA, including Tristan Warner had the second highest cumulative GPA in the nation among all wrestlers.
Under the direction of coach Martin, the Monarchs have earned an All-American in four of the last five years. Martin has the second-highest winning percentage (.640) in school history and has earned double-digit wins in seven of his eight seasons. Martin has directed 35 NCAA qualifiers, 13 individual CAA Champions and was named the CAA Coach of the Year in 2008. Also, 12 Monarch wrestlers have been named to the NWCA All-Academic National Honor Roll in the last five seasons.
The Old Dominion wrestling program began in 1957-58 and were members of the CAA since the 1991-92 season. The Monarchs have produced three National Champions, 94 NCAA qualifiers all-time, 18 wrestlers have earned 25 All-America honors, 31 individual CAA Champions, six CAA Wrestler of the Year Awards and two CAA Rookie of the Year Awards in program history.