There is good news for collegiate wrestling in the state of Arizona. Grand Canyon University in Phoenix has added wrestling to its athletic program for the year 2007. They will join Arizona State University and Embry Riddle in putting a team on the mat for next season.
It wasn't too long ago that the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University had wrestling programs, plus a full slate of programs on the community college level. With athletic budget cuts, which had a tremendous negative effect on minor sports programs, collegiate wrestling quickly got the ax. This forced many student-athletes to leave the state so they could continue competing at the college level.
One of those young men was R.C. LaHaye who graduated from Payson High School in 2000 where he was a three-time state champion and was selected to the All-Arizona Wrestling Team that included wrestlers from all four classifications. After graduation he accepted an athletic scholarship to Western State College in Gunnison, Colo.
While wrestling for Western, he earned All-American honors with a sixth-place finish at 142 pounds in the 2003 championships.
After graduation, he returned to Arizona and began working in finance in the Valley and assisted Payson Longhorn wrestlers in honing their mat skills.
While pursuing his career in finance, LaHaye was informed that Grand Canyon University was considering adding wrestling for the 2007 season. He visited with the athletic director and officially applied for the coaching position.
LaHaye was offered the head coaching job, which he accepted last week.
He will lead the Antelopes into their inaugural season, when they will compete at the NCAA Division II level. The new head coach will face his former alma mater, Western State, which I anticipate will create a new rivalry in the West.
Arizona has a wealth of high school wrestlers who will benefit from the addition of this collegiate program and the leadership and enthusiasm of the former Payson Longhorn, R.C. LaHaye.
The excitement of a new program with a young Arizona coach at the helm is hopeful for the future of wrestling in the Grand Canyon state.