CLEVELAND -- The University of Missouri, the University of Northern Iowa and Old Dominion University have joined the Mid-American Conference as affiliate members in wrestling, league officials announced Wednesday.
All three universities have joined the MAC with five-year agreements, with Missouri and Northern Iowa joining the MAC for the conference tournament only for the 2012-13 season and then participate fully in regular season and tournament action for the next four consecutive years (2013-14 season through 2016-17 academic season). Old Dominion will join the MAC for the regular season and tournament action in the 2013-14 season through the 2017-18 academic season.
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The addition of the three affiliate members will increase the MAC wrestling membership to nine members with Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Northern Illinois and Ohio. With this increase in wrestling membership, the MAC will become the third largest Division I wrestling league in the nation only behind the Big Ten and the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA).
"The Mid-American Conference has made a move that will take what is already a very strong wrestling conference and make it one of the elite wrestling conferences in the country," said Dr. Jon A. Steinbrecher, commissioner of the MAC.
Last season, Kent State won the MAC regular season title and the previous season witnessed a three-way tie for the MAC regular season title between Kent State, Central Michigan and Ohio. In 2012, the MAC sent 24 wrestlers to the 2012 NCAA Championship Tournament in St. Louis, where MAC Champion Central Michigan finished tied for 13th and Kent State ended 27th in the NCAA Championship standings.
Missouri finished the 2011-12 season ranked 26th in the NCAA final rankings and under head coach Brian Smith captured the Big 12 Tournament Championship, the first title in program history. The Tigers produced four individual Big 12 Champions and head coach Brian Smith was named Big 12 Coach of the Year. Missouri led the nation and set a program record by sending ten wrestlers to the 2012 NCAA Championship Wrestling Tournament
"I think the Mid-American Conference is a great fit for our program," Smith said. "Over the past several years, some of the nation's top teams and best wrestlers -- both on an academic and athletic level -- have come from the MAC, and we are excited to help continue that tradition."
Northern Iowa ended the 2011-12 season ranked 34th in the NCAA final rankings and finished second in the Western Wrestling Conference with a 8-7 record in duals and a 5-1 conference record under head coach Doug Schwab. The Panthers sent five grapplers to the 2012 NCAA Championship Wrestling Tournament.
Old Dominion concluded the 2011-12 season ranked No. 24 in the final regular season NCWA poll and ranked third in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) under head coach Steve Martin. The Monarchs earned a school record seven bids to the 2012 NCAA Championship Wrestling Tournament.