#WOMENSWEDNESDAY: Grand View, with an NAIA men’s powerhouse, seeks success with its new women’s wrestling program

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Nov. 27, 2019, 10:17 a.m. (ET)
Photo of Grand View's women's wrestling team courtesy of GVVikings.com

Grand View women's wrestling website

You don’t have to explain the wrestling success of Grand View University within the NAIA sports community. Grand View has won eight straight NAIA men’s wrestling national team titles. The Vikings have been No. 1 in the NAIA poll 54 consecutive times. The word ‘dynasty’ is quite appropriate.

It is in this environment of wrestling excellence that the new Grand View women’s wrestling team has been launched. The Viking women wrestlers began competition this fall, looking to make its mark in the growing and competitive world of women’s college wrestling.

To launch this program, Grand View hired Angelo Crinzi, a 2014 Grand View graduate who competed on three NAIA men’s wrestling national champion teams. Crinzi brings a strong coaching background, after four years as men’s and women’s coach at Lindenwood-Belleville. He comes in understanding the sports culture at Grand View first-hand.

“It is the sports system here. There is a lot of support, a very good environment. Of course, (men’s coach) Nick Mitchell is the man. As an athlete, the school is very positive. Looking at it as a coach, a lot of sports here are doing really good, not just wrestling. They have had national champions in other sports, also. There is a winning atmosphere here, and a lot of very good coaches,” said Crinzi.

Making the move back to Grand View was exciting to Crinzi. It was a change he felt was good for his career, but also an opportunity to create something special.

“I was in Belleville, right outside of St. Louis. I loved it there. But being from Grand View, I know about the winning culture there. I was coaching both the men and women at Belleville. I started out wanting to be a men’s wrestling coach. They told me I had to coach both programs. I had some successful girls, and I invested myself in coaching the women. I got into it, and had some girls compete all the way to the Olympic Trials. They work as hard as the guys. The big thing is I wanted to coach one team. It is tough coaching two teams, and I had another job on campus also. I had several hats on my head. I can invest all my efforts here with one team,” he said.

As a coach launching a brand new program, Crinzi knew that he would have many tools at his disposal as he put the pieces together for the women’s team.

“We have our own wrestling facility for the women’s team. It is one of the only schools in the country with the wrestling teams having their own facility. Our women have access to strength coaches, a nutritionist, a chiropractor. They want to win here, and there is a very good work environment,” he said.

Crinzi added an experienced assistant coach, Univ. of the Cumberlands graduate Arelys Valles, who also had success as an athlete in college and on the Senior level.

“She has worked around. She was a head coach at Brewton-Parker, and she has a head coach mentality, both on the mat and in the office. She plays a big part in our success. She wants us to be the best. It is also good for the girls to have a woman as one of their coaches. She works very well with the team. She is involved in all aspects of the program,” he said.

His opening season roster included a number of athletes from Iowa, but also included wrestlers from five other states. With a number of other new college women’s teams starting this year, Crinzi is realistic about his young team’s chances right out of the chute.

“A good year for us is that the girls are getting better. We have 18 on the team and 16 are freshmen. We have a young team. Our expectations are that they buy into the program and they become the best that they can be. We have brought in girls who have a really good mindset. The team atmosphere has taken off. They have a good time, which helps them improve. We will see how good they can be, and how we can build a good culture here,” he said.

Crinzi is already seeing the potential for his team. It was a big deal when his Vikings won its very first women’s home dual meet last week, defeating Central Methodist, 29-17. The response from the community was even better than Crinzi had expected.

“We have a huge support system here. Although we are just a first-year program, we may already have the best fan base in the sport. Our first dual meet, we had over 700 people in attendance. It was packed, standing-room only, with no seats left. We had the mat under the spotlight. Everybody on campus has been supportive. We’ve had news stations and radio stations come out to interview our wrestlers. The community in Des Moines and at Grand View are very supportive,” he said.

The Vikings’ win included a pin from Kayli Barrett of Oklahoma (136) and technical falls from Bella Gonzalez (130) and Hunter Robinson (170), both from Texas.

Word is already starting to get out that Grand View has the potential to become a great location for women’s college wrestling.

“I see a big change in the recruiting process. Here in Iowa, we have a state without a lot of girls in high school yet. Our youth programs are big, so it is building. We are getting girls from all over the country. It’s not just those we are contacting. Wrestlers from all over are sending in information and applying here. The key for us is finding the people who will be a good fit here,” he said.

Wrestling for girls and women is exploding nationwide, and Crinzi is looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that this new environment provides.

“It’s an exciting time now in women’s college wrestling. Plus, the sanction movement is going strong at the high school level. Social acceptance has grown for women’s wrestling,” he said.