NORFOLK, Va. - Wrestling no longer has a home at Old Dominion University after the school announced Thursday it would discontinue its wrestling program.
Since the news was released, the school has drawn plenty of criticism from fans and alum.
“I was really angry and disappointed,” former ODU wrestler Buddy Scarborough said.
“Really blindsided like I think everyone else was,” former ODU wrestler Tristan Warner added.
“I don’t know whether or not to take everything that was blue and silver in this room and toss it into a heap,” NCAA/Olympic PA Announcer and ODU alum Jason Bryant said.
“It felt like I was mourning something," former ODU wrestler Chris Mecate said. "A heartbreak, like my heart hurt.”
Before the athletes reached the stage of heartbreak, each former ODU wrestler we talked with admitted they thought they were on the receiving end of an April Fools joke.
“I was like good one. Ha Ha,” Mecate said.
“My buddy who actually sent it to me works in the athletic program still," Warner said. "So I thought maybe he found a way to type it up as a joke.”
Instead, the announcement was real and shared that ODU brough in a consultant for a 6-month study. Financial Challenges and Title IX compliance were cited as factors in a report's recommendation to discontinue a varsity sport.
ODU athletic director Dr. Wood Selig addressed the decision in a statement released by the school.
"We are saddened to have to make this decision, but it's one that was made with the long-term best interest of the athletics program in mind," Selig said. "No one wants to reduce opportunities for young men to compete and represent Old Dominion, but we are required to be responsible with departmental resources.
"Our decision became even more clear during this coronavirus crisis, which we know will have significant impact on future athletics budgets. This decision will better allow the remaining sports to compete at a national level."
The discontinuation of wrestling, which has been an ODU sponsored varsity sport since the 1957-58 season, is expected to save the school roughly $1 million.
The end of ODU wrestling means an end to head coach Steve Martin's 16 years as a Monarch.
Martin and his family are well known in the Hampton Roads community, where Martin led Great Bridge High School's wrestling program before taking over at ODU.
“When Steve was a coach at Great Bridge, boy was he a hated coach because they won so much," Bryant said. "He was intense he got the most out of his kids."
“He was the definition of somebody who just ate, slept and breathed wrestling and ODU wrestling," Warner said. "That’s another reason why this is so devastating."
While it seems Martin, and the sport of wrestling, have reached the end at Old Dominion, alumni and donors still hope they can raise enough money to fund the program.
“Wrestling is about fighting off your back if you get put there," Bryant said. "ODU wrestling has been put on its back. I don't think the story is done with us yet."
We'll continue to share the story as many begin gathering in an effort to save ODU wrestling.