#WOMENSWEDNESDAY: Q&A with Dany DeAnda, women’s coach at NCAA Div. I Presbyterian College

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Oct. 09, 2019, 4:21 p.m. (ET)
Photo and logo courtesy of Presbyterian College.

Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C., became the first NCAA Div. I athletic department to add a varsity women’s wrestling team. Presbyterian also added a men’s Div. I varsity team. This past weekend, Presbyterian’s women’s team had its historic first competition, travelling to Ferrum, Va. for a pair of duals, beating Ferrum and losing to Gannon.

Dany DeAnda is the head women’s wrestling coach at Presbyterian. A native of Hawaii, she was a two-time Junior World medalist as an athlete. DeAnda was an assistant coach for the University of Jamestown and the University of Providence before taking over the Presbyterian women’s team. Her husband Tony DeAnda is head coach of the Presbyterian men’s wrestling team. We visited with Dany shortly after their historic first competitions.

Q: You are the first coach of the first NCAA Div. I team with women’s wrestling. What has it been like getting that program up and running?
DeAnda: Between me, Tony (DeAnda) and (Director of Wrestling) Mark (Cody), we all work together to get out there and recruit. It has kind of been a slow process. Last year, we had three athletes that came in before we got hired. Since Tony and I were hired, we now have 15 on the women’s team. There has been a lot of positive feedback. A lot of people want to wrestle at a D-I level. Like any program, whether you are D-I or NAIA, there is a lot of legwork getting your name out there, getting the school out there so they know we have a program.

Q: You have college coaching experience. How has being at Presbyterian College been different from the places you have coached?

DeAnda: The main difference is that this is Div. I, and with Div. I comes with bigger budgets with what we can do recruiting-wise and travel-wise. It looks a little different than with an NAIA school, since we have coached NAIA schools. Presbyterian is the same size school, student-body wise, as any other school I have been with, between 1,200 and 1,300 students. It is a unique situation here. We get a small D-I school. I think it is the smallest Div. I school in the nation. These kids get a D-I athletic experience, but also that small school feel on the academic side.

Q: The programs are new for men and women. You have respected Mark Cody as the Director of Wrestling. How does it help having a guy like Mark, and the structure of having a Director of Wrestling, as part of the program?
DeAnda: It is good. All three of us work together very well. Tony and I are married and we coached together for many years. Mark has that D-I experience that we didn’t have coming in. He is able to guide us and help us with all of the things that come with being at a D-I school. He had so much success at American and Oklahoma, and was at Nebraska for many years. He has a wealth of knowledge. It is a unique situation. All three of us, working together running the programs, is fun.

Q: You had your first competition. What was it like getting a team on the mat, after putting it together for awhile? You have had the opportunity to have the women step out and represent the school.
DeAnda: It was a historic event for the school, being our first competition, the first for a D-I school. It has been a long road. Last year, we redshirted the three that we had. We now have almost a full lineup. The first dual of the year has been pretty early. Women’s wrestling is kind of in flux right now. Normally in the WCWA, we start in October and go to February. Now with Emerging Sport Status, everything is kind of shifting and we will be going into March. It is a long season. For our first event, it went well. We were maybe a little tired at that Gannon dual. I think we can have a better showing against the Gannon team the next time we wrestle them. Overall, it went well. Jaslynn Gallegos out of Colorado has been injured and wasn’t wrestling for us. She would be a big player at 109, and that could shift that dual meet in our direction.

Q: Your starters are all freshmen, except one starter who is a sophomore. What kind of goals can you set for a team that is almost all freshmen?
DeAnda: The biggest thing is that we are a young team, and in the infancy of this program. Our goals include four or five years down the road, what is it going to look like? It is about all of our athletes improving every day and giving their best effort. Whether it is win, lose or tie, we want to make sure that our athletes are implementing the skills that we are showing them, that they are embodying what it is to be a student-athlete. We have girls who have been on Cadet and Junior World Teams and have experience, but it is still a young team. We are trying to get them to buy into our program and our philosophy and to get out and compete every single time they wrestle.

Q: How has the team been received in the community and on campus? Is there a big plan for your first home dual?

DeAnda: Our first home dual is December 7 against Life and Limestone. We are promoting it here in town. Being in South Carolina, wrestling is not huge everywhere. There is some teaching about wrestling and, yes, women do wrestle. We have had amazing support from the community and from Presbyterian. They are very supportive and everyone is excited to watch women’s wrestling. For a lot of them, this will be their first experience with wrestling, and with women’s wrestling on top of that. Clinton and Presbyterian have been amazing supporting us. I have gone to the grocery store and they have said, ‘good win, coach’ when we had our first win.

Q: More women are head coaches and leading women’s wrestling programs. How important is it that we expand the number of women coaching, especially women’s college coaches who coach women’s wrestling teams?
DeAnda: It is so important. It is important for young girls to have role models that are also women in the sport. You have the girls in the Olympic cycle that are all role models for the girls coming up. As a woman coach, and a woman wrestler, I bring a different experience to the table than a man does. I am not saying that a man can’t coach women. I may be bringing a different way that I approach things. Women are able to bring a unique aspect to wrestling that a male coach can’t. Wrestling moves are wrestling moves, but women are going to react different to a move than a man. Maybe a move will work for a man, but it will not work the same way for a woman, because of the body type and the way we are structured. Having women in those coaching roles are better for the young girls, so they can see that they have a future in women’s wrestling all the way up to the college level if they want to go into coaching.

Q: What women wrestlers from Presbyterian should fans look out for this year?
DeAnda: Morgan Norris will do great things for us this year. She is at 142 or 155. She was on the Cadet World Team. Jaslynn Gallegos, hopefully with this injury, once that is taken care of, she can make a huge impact down at 109. Rita Morales out of Hawaii, she is a three-time state placer in Hawaii and placed at U23s and UWW Juniors. If she gets to 116, she will do good things. Adelyhda Perez out of Texas is a three-time state champion and she can make some noise as well.

Q: Has it helped in your recruiting for next year, now that it has gotten going for the team?
DeAnda:
This fall, we already had three girls on campus, to check out the program and the school. We are trying to start out early and getting recruiting visits as possible. Every day, we have girls submitting that they are interested in going to school here. As the first D-I school, a lot of women want to be a part of a D-I program. There are a lot of girls interested in checking out the program.

Q: Your schedule includes the U.S. Open, the UWW Juniors and U23s, the World team opportunities and Senior competition. How important is it for athletes at the Div. I level to be a part of the USA Wrestling international program?
DeAnda: It is super important. If you look at this Senior World Championships team, all but a few came through the college circuit. It is important for these young ladies to know you can go right from the college circuit into making World and National Teams, and making those Olympic Teams even. There are a lot of girls who right out of college, or even while in college, are able to make those teams. It’s important not only to the athlete but for the school as well. These athletes can make World Teams while they are in college. I think it is a unique opportunity that not a lot of sports have, where you can have that fluid transition from college right into USA Wrestling and World competition. Other sports don’t have that same opportunity. You can wrestle in college and go on to the World Championships if you like to. If that is one of your goals, we are behind you 100 percent.

Q: What is it about Presbyterian College that motivated young wrestlers should know?
DeAnda: PC is very family-oriented here. We work very well together. Tony, Mark and I, all three of us are working with the women. You have three dedicated coaches working well for you. PC is an opportunity for a Div. I school, but not a big Div. I school. You get D-I experience athletically, but you also get that small classroom size. We have really good academics, and you are getting that personalized feel you may not get at other D-I schools if they add women’s wrestling.