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Generous gift keys return of NCAA Div. II Grand Valley State varsity wrestling in 2023, with both men's and women's teams

by Grand Valley State athletics

A donation from a former Grand Valley wrestling star and member of its Athletic Hall of Fame is laying the foundation for the return of varsity wrestling to the university after a nearly 30-year hiatus.

The $3 million gift from John Harris, '77, his wife, Diane, '76, and their family provides substantial financial support toward wrestling achieving varsity status beginning in 2023 for men and introducing a women's program.

"Thank you to John and Diane Harris, who committed the generous lead donation, and the many generous supporters, assuring young men and women committed to collegiate wrestling can pursue the Grand Valley education that richly influenced their lives," said President Philomena V. Mantella.

More than three-quarters of the target goal has been raised, but additional funding is required to support the department's mission of building teams ready to compete for conference and national championships.

"The rich and successful tradition we enjoyed with men's wrestling, coupled with the new growth of the sport make for an exciting opportunity to expand our varsity lineup of sports," said Director of Athletics Keri Becker.

The fundraising effort will help with the recruitment and retention of a top-level coaching staff, create and provide a competitive environment to recruit top student athletes, support an athletic training staff with expertise in wrestling and fund necessary equipment.

"Intercollegiate athletics at GVSU seeks to enhance the educational experience beyond the classroom," said Becker.

"Bringing men's wrestling back and adding women's wrestling will attract quality prospective students, who will help continue to build the brand of championship excellence."

The Lakers' first stint as a varsity program began with the 1967-68 season.

Over the next 26 seasons, the program achieved national recognition competing in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) then at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II level.

Grand Valley won the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) championship five times and finished runner-up 10 times. On the national level, the Lakers finished runner-up twice and in fourth place three times at the NAIA national tournament

In its 26-season span, more than 50 Lakers were named All-Americans, including Harris, who was a two-time NAIA All-American and a 1988 inductee into the Lakers Hall of Fame.

To learn more and help support the programs, visit GVSU Wrestling or call (616) 331-6000.