Fresno State announces addition of NCAA Division I wrestling program

By Jason Clay, Fresno State Athletics | March 01, 2016, 3:11 p.m. (ET)
FRESNO, Calif. – Fresno State officially announced Tuesday it will be integrating two new sports into its intercollegiate athletics programs. The Bulldogs will be adding wrestling and women’s water polo as the 20th and 21st NCAA Division I sanctioned sports under the Department of Athletics’ umbrella.

The Department of Athletics will immediately begin a national search to hire the head coaches for both programs.

“We are really excited to add women’s water polo and wrestling, providing young men and women the opportunity right here in the heart of the Valley to continue playing the sport that they love while getting their education close to home,” Director of Athletics Jim Bartko said. “Wrestling has such a rich tradition here in the Valley and water polo makes perfect sense in the footprint of our Athletics structure and with our premiere Aquatics venue. We look forward to incorporating these two sports into our University community while remaining focused on our continued commitment to gender equity and Title IX.”

Fresno State has raised necessary funds to support both programs over the course of its first three seasons.

“The generous support from the wrestling community, the tremendous support we receive from the University and our fundraising efforts is what made these additions possible,” Bartko added. “It was very important to us to incorporate these sports the right way to set them up for success, and we feel that we have done just that.”

The move to bring wrestling back was initiated by President Joseph I. Castro in fall 2013 when he asked the Department of Athletics to explore the possibility.

“I am ecstatic that we are officially moving forward with reinstating wrestling and adding women’s water polo. We have taken the time to adequately prepare for the new programs and to do the fundraising necessary for them to succeed,” said Castro. “It’s a bold move to add two new sports, but they will provide great opportunities for student-athletes at Fresno State and tremendous enjoyment by Bulldog fans throughout the Valley and beyond. This is additional evidence that our academic and athletics programs are rising together."

The timeline for the sport additions is as follows:
March 2016 – Head coaching positions posted
April-June 2016 – Announce hiring’s of head coaches for both programs
July 2016 – Hiring of assistant coaches
Summer 2016 – Recruitment of student-athletes begins
November 2016 – Early signing period; recruits can sign National Letters of Intent to join Bulldog programs
August 2017 – Student-athletes of the two sports arrive on campus
Winter 2017-18 – Wrestling program begins competition
Spring 2018 – Women’s water polo begins competition

Conference affiliation will be forthcoming.

Fresno State has wheels in motion to support the infrastructure of both programs. The wrestling program, which will compete in the Save Mart Center, will have coaches’ offices, a locker room and a mat room in the North Gym.

The women’s water polo program will hold competitions in the Aquatics Center, which will also house the coaches’ offices. The team’s locker room will be located in the North Gym Annex, which is directly adjacent to the Aquatics Center (in the same building that houses the women’s swimming and diving locker room).

The sports will be the first additions to Bulldog Athletics since the women’s lacrosse program began competition during the 2008-09 school-year, the same year the women’s swimming and diving program was restored after being dropped in 2004.

For wrestling, this marks its return at Fresno State. The program was dropped from the University umbrella as an NCAA Division I competing program on June 15, 2006.

Wrestling at Fresno State dates back to 1962 when it competed as an NCAA Division II program. In 1969 it made the move to Division I and won 11 team conference championships, had 14 top 25 finishes, three individuals that combined to win six national championships and 33 All-Americans.

The introduction of the women’s water polo program is the first of its kind for that sport at Fresno State.