UA Little Rock will add Div. I men’s wrestling with a $1.4 million gift from wrestling leader Greg Hatcher

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | March 17, 2018, 6:27 p.m. (ET)
Two hours before the finals of the 2018 NCAA Div. I Wrestling Championships in Cleveland, the ranks of NCAA Div. I wrestling has grown by one.

Administration leaders from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, which has a college athletic department in the Sun Belt Conference, announced that it will add a varsity men’s wrestling program, pending board approval. The announcement came at

Wrestling will be the 15th varsity sport for UA Little Rock Trojans, with a plan to begin competition in the fall of 2019. At this time, a decision on what Div. I wrestling conference the school will compete in has not been made.

“We are here to talk about men’s wrestling and a really generous gift from a local supporter Greg Hatcher, a $1.4 million gift to launch Div. I men’s wrestling in Little Rock. We are awfully excited about it. We are in Cleveland today to experience first-hand the excitement of the championships in Div. I wrestling,” said Director of Athletics Chasse Conque.

Hatcher has been the father of wrestling in Arkansas, helping develop youth, high school and college programs across the state. In just over a decade, Arkansas went from having little or no wrestling to having a vibrant program at all levels, including nine college teams and up to 100 high school teams. UA Little Rock will become the first Div. I wrestling program in the state.

“We have it. We finally have Div. I wrestling in Arkansas. We will attract wrestlers from Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, all the border states. Little Rock has been working with me and Mike (Moyer of the NWCA) for three years. We have a new Chancellor Andrew Rogerson, a risk taker, and a new athletics director, Chasse Conque, who is going to get it done. Loretta Lynn said you have to be first, best or different. They are ready to be the first and make a big difference for Arkansas.We are going to build a fantastic facility with four mats and make it as nice as anywhere in the country,” said Hatcher.

A coaching search will begin soon, in order to have a person in place to build a strong program from scratch. Hatcher and the Little Rock administrators said that they plan to have the maximum 9.9 scholarships with the program.

Wrestling is not new to UA Little Rock’s Jack Stephens Center, which serves as host venue for the Arkansas State Wrestling Championships since 2008.

“Over the last two or three months, the discussion has really escalated. When someone is willing to put a generous commitment like he has, it was something for the university to consider. It is something we took seriously, and we acted quickly. The Chancellor has been 100 percent on board with this. We see this as an enrollment management strategy and a tool to continue to enhance our profile,” said Conque.

UA Little Rock becomes the second Div. I university to add men’s wrestling this year. Presbyterian College in South Carolina announced a new men’s and women’s program this year, which will start in the fall of 2018 and will be coached by Mark Cody, the former Oklahoma and American head coach.

An official announcement will be posted on Sunday, which we will publish in its entirety.