Upgrades For Cary Kolat And The Upstart Campbell Camels

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Big investments in the Campbell University wrestling program are being made following the team's historic results at this year's NCAA tournament.

A week ago, coach Cary Kolat and the Fighting Camels brought five NCAA qualifiers from Buies Creek, North Carolina, to St. Louis, the most in school history. More impressively, 125-pound senior Nathan Kraisser placed eighth, becoming the first All-American in program history.

These incredible results did not go unnoticed by Campbell athletic director Bob Roller and the rest of the school administration. After the tournament, Kolat tweeted the following:

The facility upgrades are still in the architectural planning phase, but as of now, the plans call for an expanded three-mat practice space, new locker rooms, coaches offices, cardio space, and a wrestlers' lounge.

The extra coaches offices will be needed as the program expands it's staff to the maximum allowed by NCAA rules. Expected construction time for the improvements is about 18 months.

Kolat says support for the project from Roller, Campbell University President J. Bradley Creed, and the rest of the administration has been phenomenal, "They're all in at this point. "

When reached for comment, Roller expanded on his enthusiasm for the progress Kolat has made on campus.

Cary is a tremendous coach, motivator, teacher and leader," Roller said. "He and his excellent staff has quickly formed a wrestling team that is formidable on the national stage.  We are keenly aware of how he has single-handedly put Campbell wrestling on the map and introduced Campbell University to a new and large segment of the national wrestling world.  We are happy to have him as our head coach as we continue to grow our brand!
The program has exploded in the three short years that Kolat has been at the helm. Kolat says he starts the year with about 50 student-athletes before whittling the roster down to the upper 30s by year's end. This is in contrast to the 2014-15 season, Kolat's first, when the Camels routinely forfeited five weight classes in dual meets. 

One thing that Kolat thinks could help smaller programs compete in dual meets is a change to the NCAA redshirting rules. Kolat recently tweeted the following in regard to that issue:

Kolat's tweet has received a largely positive response from the wrestling community, especially from NCAA coaches with limits to the size of their rosters. With the growing importance of dual meets and the pressure coaches are under to put their best teams on the mat, greater redshirt flexibility would allow teams to utilize their best wrestlers when they are needed, both during the regular season and postseason. 

Kolat sees the justification for the current redshirt policy as outdated. While theoretically instituted to allow students to adjust to the demands of collegiate schoolwork, in reality, Kolat says that varsity participation actually encourages a more rigorous adherence to the academic schedule.

Redshirts might sit there and XBox from Friday to Sunday and then start working on their paper," he said. "My starters have to leave on Thursday. They don't have time to procrastinate; they need to get that done.
Wrestling is also unique among the NCAA's slate of sponsored sports. Most are team sports, and few have the natural limitations with regards to substitutions from the bench. An outfielder can sub in for a catcher, and a third basemen can pitch for an inning or two if need be. No backup heavyweight is going to fill in for an injured lower weight, no matter what the rules say. 

The one-size-fits-all approach to NCAA rules is another issue Kolat believes is unnecessarily hindering the sport. There is no reason, Kolat says, that there can't be wrestling-specific exceptions in the rule book. 

Whether or not a change of this nature ever comes to fruition, Kolat will be preparing his team and raising the bar. The Camels won their first-ever Southern Conference title this year, and the addition to the trophy case has piqued interests across campus.

We're a small school but we're not small in terms of our wrestling program," Kolat said. "I want us to stand out at this school and have my guys get the attention and get them fired up. We're here to compete, and people recognize that from the administration down.
Kolat's vision goes beyond his lofty team aspirations, such as All-Americans and top 20 team finishes; he also intends to give the Campbell student body a successful team to follow and to market the program to as wide an audience as possible.

"We have an arena that's a $45 million dollar complex that seats 3,000 people, which is the perfect venue for wrestling, and I don't believe it's ever been filled up by any of our sports," Kolat said. "I want to fill it up next year."

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