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The DII State of the Union Address

photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com

I want to thank all my fellow #D2Wrestle fans for joining in today to listen to this address. We have reached a critical moment in our season ladies and gentlemen, the March postseason looms just around the corner. The groundhog did not see his shadow, which means Spring is nye, and we must prepare ourselves for our chance at #MatMayhem.

We are truly blessed to have experienced the level of competition we have witnessed this season. Five returning national champions have suited up this season and we currently still have two of them ranked first in the nation. Of course, the two-time champion from the University of Pitt-Johnstown continues to shine and Chris Eddins serves as a true ambassador for our division. He is joined by Division I transfer and now Division II national champion Andrew Dunn of Kutztown University, who continues to excel as an elite heavyweight. I, for one, am excited to see if other champions such as Tyler Warner and Connor Craig now of Pitt-Johnstown can return to their 2019 form. If they do so, the team race, that has seemed a foregone conclusion, could be up for grabs again. It would also serve as a boon to what is already a historic season for their head coach Pat Pecora. Pat is one of the best that has ever stood in the corner for any team and any recognition he receives is well deserved. Matt Malcom from Nebraska-Kearney and Nicholas Mason from Tiffin have tasted defeat as they attempt to repeat their run to the top, but as the true competitors, they are I expect them to be in the mix for titles this March.

I want to welcome the new transfers who have burst onto the scene for teams, including those who have been surprise arrivals at the semester break. I, for one, am glad you have chosen to continue your career as members of Division II and look forward to watching how all of you can affect the upcoming team races. It also shows that Division I level athletes and Division II athletes have more in common.

In regards to that, I implore all of you to combat the elitism that we are faced with too often. Do not despair when accomplishments are ignored by the media. Do not allow the misguided idea that “DII guys are DII for a reason. So next (expletive) topic” tarnish the great things that Division II wrestlers accomplish. Recognize that many of them hold wins over Division I athletes, including national qualifiers. Realize that the reasons are often more than merely a lack of talent. We must unite from the West Coast to the East and push back against those who would belittle our warriors. I know that we have athletes that can, and have, competed at a high Division I level and I relish every upset win that finds a Division II athlete besting his supposed betters.

I want to take time to applaud all the new Division II programs that have burst upon the scene this year and have already etched their name in their own and national record books. The growth of our sport truly warms my heart and serves to build my confidence that Division II is where we will continue to see the growth of this sport I love. I also applaud those with established men’s programs who are seeing the potential for growth in the women’s division. Thank you NCAA Division II for finally granting women’s wrestling its chance as an emerging sport. You have stood on the right side of history with so many administrations who also believe in the growth of our sport and the opportunities it can provide for young women.

Thank you to the websites which continue to bring coverage to Division II. TheOpenMat who has provided me with a forum for my fandom. Thank you for your support and the freedom you have given me with my coverage. To @D2Wrestle on Twitter, you are an incredible resource for results that I find myself perusing nearly every day. To the incredibly hard workers at D2.Wrestlestat.com, I am not sure where I would be without all of the great things you have done and your tireless effort. Intermat and Flowrestling, while we may be rivals in a sense, I cheer your coverage as well. The more the merrier as we build this Division’s exposure together. Of course, without the NWCA, Trackwrestling, and others, we would continue to languish in the shadows. Thank you, one and all.

For the coaches, a special thank you. You more than anyone have shown your commitment to growing the sport. This bodes so well going forward. Even when we have our differences in opinion, you have been there to help me with requests. Honestly, without your help, I would have nothing to write about. You are overworked and underpaid, but the access you have granted has been more than I ever expected. I would be remiss if I did not also thank all of the programs’ social media experts, never underestimate the importance of your Twitter accounts. Please, please use them. Social media is the way we can grow the exposure of our sport in a positive manner. Follow the likes of Tiffin wrestling or the University of Indianapolis or Western Colorado if you want to see what I am talking about. To Jason Bryant, a special thank you as well. You have been a resource for me these last few years as I have grown in my coverage. A great sounding board and often a voice of reason, without you, I am sure I would have stepped over a line long before now. To Jackie Paquette at Indianapolis, you have been someone I could ask Division II questions of since the beginning, you deserve more recognition for being a true ambassador for Division II. To Earl Smith, my editor and often times champion at TheOpenMat, thank you for allowing me true freedom in coverage. To Alex Steen, we have been friends for a long time and I consider you one of my best. You have done more to improve my writing than any of our professors at Jamestown. My drastic improvement in grammar is a direct result of your patience and coaching.

Now is not the time to rest on our laurels Division II. The growth has been nice. The coverage has been better. Our athletes are finally having the spotlight shined on them. But it needs to brighter, larger, and covering more of the stage. Help me make our sport great again. Support those websites that are bringing coverage even if that means writing a check. Support your local programs even if that means driving an hour to a meet. Support your local athletes even if that means retweeting out results tirelessly. It will take all of us, but we can do it.

My promise to all of you is that I will continue to work on my craft so that I can bring better exposure to Division II wrestling. I will continue to grow the coverage at TheOpenMat. I will continue to email coaches, badgering them for information tirelessly. I will do it because you deserve it. Division II fans are amazing. You are the best. You reading this is why the sport is growing. Do not stop. Do not rest. And I will do the same.

Thank you,

Bryce Villa

Division II correspondent for TheOpenMat

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