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Wrestling for a new space

Photo by Ali Everts. The current wrestling facility (pictured) is only big enough to house one full-size wrestling mat. Therefore, the wrestlers have to practice all together in the one room, leading to over-crowding and wrestlers bumping into one another as they spar.

The Cobber wrestling team is proposing to expand their facilities for their growing team into the Riverside Center gym.  Athletic Director Rich Glas and co-head wrestling coaches Clay Nagel and Matt Nagel presented their idea to renovate the former Riverside Elementary School gym to a project request committee consisting of various Concordia administrators, and they remain hopeful that the renovation process will begin soon.

Over the past four years, Concordia’s wrestling team has grown, seeing an increase in the number of incoming wrestlers. However, the 40-year-old wrestling facilities have not grown with the team, and practice space has become not only limited but also dangerous to the players, Matt Nagal said.

All-American senior wrestler Nathan Schmitz said that in his four years as a Cobber wrestler, he has noticed that as the number of wrestlers on the team increases, so does the number of injuries from practicing in such confined spaces.

“The coaches split us up sometimes when it gets too crowded, and we make do with that,” Schmitz said. “But our guys continually get hurt from smacking into each other and the walls when we practice.”

The wrestling room, located in the lower level of the Offutt Concourse, supports only one full size-wrestling mat, which is roughly 34 feet by 46 feet.  Compared with other competing universities in both the MIAC and NCAA, and even to some high school practice facilities, this is not enough to maintain a team of 31 wrestlers, Matt Nagel said.

“All our competing colleges associated with the MIAC have a much bigger capacity for their wrestling program,” Matt Nagel said. “Augsburg has at least three times the size of our area, and in comparison to the larger state universities we compete with, like MSUM, there is an even wider gap.”

Despite Concordia’s comparitively small wrestling facility, the Cobbers have still managed to maintain an impressive program and won second place in the NCAA West Regional meet at Augsburg on Saturday.

The team also broke school history this weekend as six wrestlers competed in their weight class title match , advancing them to the NCAA National Meet. This beats the 2011 record of five qualifying Concordia wrestlers.

Clay Nagel said that the team’s wrestling has only improved, and now all they need is to couple their skills and talents with a better practice facility.

“It’s like we have all the ingredients for the soup, but we don’t have a big enough bowl to support everything,” said Clay Nagel. “This led us to look at other options of space we could use, and we found an empty gym close by.”

The College found and purchased the vacant elementary school in 2004 and it is now called the Riverside Center. It currently houses the Concordia Language Village office, Cobber Kids daycare, and more recently office space for the North-West Minnesota Synod of the ELCA.

The building was renovated to accommodate the entities it now holds, but the old school gym, located in the southwest corner of the building, was left unchanged.

At the moment, Concordia is using the gym as a storage space for extra office equipment, building supplies, Hallet and Erickson dorm bedding, and even the Christmas concert mural.  These were brought over to the empty gym from the Offutt School of Business once the new building was finished.

Clay Nagel said these items could easily be moved to the newly-built storage building in East Complex near Jake Christiansen Stadium.

“The move would benefit not only the wrestling athletes and training facilities for them but also free up the space of our existing wrestling room for dance, yoga, or even zumba classes,” Matt Nagel said.

The limited space within Olson Forum and Memorial Auditorium has created resource competition between sports and has led to some teams receiving priority over others, Glas said.

Glas said that despite the fact that the wrestling team is in need of more room, the process for approving the possibility of renovating the gym will be extensive and require a lot of time in itself.

Now that Glas, Clay Nagel and Matt Nagel have proposed the idea to the administration, it is up to administrators to weigh the importance of renovating this space against other potential future projects, such as renovating the science building and expanding on East Complex, Glas said.

If the proposed renovations on Riverside Center are approved by the administration, the next step is to take the proposal to the city of Moorhead because the project must conform to certain expectations the city gave Concordia upon the College’s purchase the elementary school. From there, the building will have to be rezoned so that locker rooms and other essential athletic facility needs can be met, Glas said.

Matt Nagel said that with such a long way to go all they can do is hope for their new facility and wait.

“If the expansion into a new facility does not pull through we will still make do with what we have,” Glas said. “Even though finding more space is on the number one priority list for the athletic department, we will continue to play hard.”

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