Muddied future

When the ruling came down March 19 that Portland State’s wrestling program would be discontinued, it was a sweeping maneuver that altered the present, past and future.

When the ruling came down March 19 that Portland State’s wrestling program would be discontinued, it was a sweeping maneuver that altered the present, past and future.

Decades of history centered on a storied Vikings program that won national championships at the Division II level in 1989 and 1990, and boasts national champions and gold medal winners moved closer to becoming distant memories.

University President Wim Wiewel’s decision based findings from a taskforce that first convened in January instantly brought an end to Portland State’s 26-member wrestling program, which struggled to compete in the Pacific-10 Conference at the Division I level.

But now that the history and state of Portland State wrestling have been changed, the futures of those close to the program are beginning to mold into shape.

There are the 26 student-athletes that no longer have a team for which to compete. Many of the wrestlers are planning to transfer, others intend to stick around the South Park Blocks solely as students and not student-athletes, and one might even try out for head coach Jerry Glanville’s football team.
Junior Ryan Sonderegger is playing a bit of a waiting game.

He has yet to decide whether he would like to transfer to another school that offers wrestling, such as Oregon State, or continue to attend Portland State in a student capacity.

“You have to change who you are and what you’re about,” Sonderegger said in regards to not being able to wrestle as a Viking. “Do I want to change my life for a third time?”

Sonderegger is no stranger to changing his course for wrestling. After wrestling at Missouri, he transferred to Portland State in hopes of getting more time to compete on the mat. Now, like many of his teammates, he faces a decision of weighing comfort with passion for a sport.

Portland State’s graphic design program, the school’s metropolitan location and the threat that he may prolong his graduation are the primary reasons Sonderegger is questioning whether transferring to another school to wrestle is worth it.

Many of Sonderegger’s teammates are in the same predicament. They continue to practice and train weeks after the door was slammed on their program in hopes that it might be reinstated and simply because they love the sport.

Despite the hard work and commitment, Sonderegger questions whether he and his teammates, which he said have been lethargic and devastated lately, will remain motivated without the thrill of competing at the Division I level.

“I’m not going to lie, part of my competitive edge is dying,” Sonderegger said. “We lost our program.”
Portland State athletic director Torre Chisholm said that each of the wrestlers is guaranteed to receive his current scholarship for three years, or until he graduates or transfers to another school.

On top of this, Chisholm said the athletic department is attempting to support the program by organizing a wrestling club sport that would allow the wrestlers to continue practicing the sport and even compete in a variety of different style events.

“Obviously the ultimate desire is to compete at the Division I level, but to compete and participate in the sport they love would be of value,” Chisholm said.
Sonderegger doubts that many, if any, of the Portland State wrestlers would consider partaking in the club team and calls the notion of establishing such a squad “degrading” for the former Division I athletes.
“I wouldn’t get much satisfaction from competing at a lower level,” Sonderegger said. “It’s not like basketball. You can’t just have a pickup game.”

Chisholm said that based on the university-wide taskforce’s findings, the wrestling program was discontinued based on a combination of factors that includes poor academics, tough budget circumstances and a difficult time competing in the Pac-10 with the resources available.

When those factors are combined, Chisholm said, it becomes clear that the program would be unable to compete at a level that is expected from the other programs under the umbrella of Portland State athletics.
While reinstating the wrestling program is not being explored currently, Chisholm said that it might be a possibility in the future.

“It’s not being looked at but it’s certainly an open door if circumstances change,” Chisholm said.
While Sonderegger is admittedly pessimistic about the plausibility of reinstating the program, he is adamant that if action is not taken quickly the program’s future may be in complete jeopardy.

“A lot of the young guys are planning to leave and transfer out, which is unfair because if we do bring the program back it will be depleted,” Sonderegger said. “If they are going to reinstate it, they better do it soon because everyone is going to jump ship.”