Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

 

Over the past four years, West Chester University’s wrestling team has had a copious amount of success. Two conference championships, nine All-Americans, and five national champions appear to give the program very little room to get stronger.

Well, they’re about to get some girl power.

Beginning next season, WCU will be adding a brand new women’s wrestling program to go along with its men’s team.

At the helm of this new program will be Ron Tirpack, one of the most experienced coaches in the country. He spent 12 years as the head coach at Swarthmore College, five years as an assistant at Ursinus College, all while being a coach with the Pennsylvania High School National Team, Women Only Wrestling, and the U.S. Olympic team, a career which has earned him the opportunity to be one of only 40 men with Gold Level Coaching Certification, the highest honor bestowed by USA Wrestling.

Coach Tirpack’s program, like all young programs, has to be built from the ground up, and that starts with his wrestlers. One of those wrestlers is new WCU student Kim Spiegel, a native of Selinsgrove, PA.

“Kim is our first step,” coach Tirpak said of Spiegel, who has spent the past two years at the Olympic Education Center in Marquette, Michigan. “She’s not usually referred to as a baby step. But she’s our first step.”

“He (coach Tirpak) told me this summer that they were going to start a program,” Spiegel said. “And I decided to call him up this fall and ask if the program was still happening, he said ‘yes,’ and I came here.”

Spiegel may be the first step, but for a coach with such a glowing reputation, more steps are bound to arrive both in the near, and distant, future.

“Because all of this has just developed in the past couple months, I really haven’t done any hard recruiting,” coach Tirpak said. “But I know I’ve been contacted by a couple individuals who are very interested… I already have a few girls in ninth grade, tenth grade, who are saying, ‘We’re coming with you coach,’ but that’s a long way down the road.”

The addition of the women’s program, which will have the same club designation as the men’s, could end up being a fantastic addition to the university, drawing in good students, and good athletes from the region.

“New Jersey is starting to pick their program up,” coach Tirpak explained. “We have a good program going in Pennsylvania… and we in Pennsylvania, as the preeminent wrestling state, need get more girls involved.”

As of right now, there are 14 members in the Women’s College Wrestling Association, many of which are west of the Mississippi River, and if the new women’s program can have success over the next few years, it might open the doors for many more schools in the northeast to create women’s wrestling programs, providing the opportunity for many female athletes to have both an educational, and athletic, experience in college.

But for right now, coach Tirpak’s focus is on getting West Chester going in the right direction.

“We’ll have basically two types of women that will come here: some that just want a great collegiate wrestling experience, and we’ll be prepared to give them that,” he said. “But then we’ll have others that will want to carry it beyond this and go to the international level, and we can do that. I’ve coached every girl on the national team, all 21 of them at some point, and we can prepare [the girls] for that. But here we need to start with baby steps.”

Brian Johnson is a fourth-year student majoring in English. He can be reached at BJ669485@wcupa.edu.

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