The FAMU wrestling team is ready for more challenges after finishing third place in the Florida State Championship dual meet.
In the event held in Orlando at the University of Central Florida, the wrestling team competed against UCF, Florida Atlantic University, the University of Florida and Florida State University. UCF won first place while FAU came in second. FAMU took home a third-place trophy and UF came in fourth. FSU finished last. The annual event is held at different universities.
Led by head coach Thomas White, the wrestling team is a part of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association.
Keona Lewis, the team’s manager, said she is very pleased with the team’s accomplishment.
“UCF is one of the top teams,” said Lewis, 23. “They always try to save their best players for us because we are the team to beat. We have definitely come a long way.”
Wrestling at FAMU is considered an intramural sport, but the team has squared off against schools with full-fledged wrestling programs. Lewis said the team consists of roughly 30 members, including coaches and staff, and about 20 actual players.
Among those players is Ruben Felder, a health management student who serves as president of the wrestling team. He said the team has improved, and the sport is highly competitive.
“It can be rough,” said Felder, 21, a Miami native. “I love the fact that it is like a last man standing sort of thing. I like that it is two guys going at it, but only one can be the winner. I believe we have done very well. We are exceeding expectations, and I have a good feeling about the future.”
The wrestling team practices three times a week in the recreational center and is currently looking for boosters. In the early years, the team had to do all of its own fundraising. Lewis said the team has had to struggle, but it managed to make do.
“Some of the guys would wrestle in just a T-shirt and shorts,” Lewis said. “Fortunately, we have uniforms now and we look good.”
Jude Monroe, the assistant coach, said that in order to raise money the team has done fundraisers with Winn-Dixie and Cold Stone Creamery. He said in order for the wrestling team to get to the level they are, a lot of people had to come out of pocket.
“It was rough for a while, but I think we’ve done pretty good for ourselves,” said Monroe, 24, a criminal justice student. “SGA funded our trip last year to Texas, and this year we’re getting a lot of budget money.”
Monroe, who was actually a wrestler on the team before becoming the assistant coach, said he enjoyed the sport. The team members agree they have formed a brotherhood, and Lewis said that is very evident.
“All the wrestlers are like brothers,” Lewis said. “They help each other out. They offer encouragement and support. We’re like a family.”
The next wrestling event is scheduled for Feb. 9. FAMU will co-host the event with FSU. On March 1, the regional tournament will be held in Athens, Ga., followed by the national tournament held in Lakeland on March 13.
The team said it is ready for both tournaments and has high expectations. Anyone with an interest in wrestling is encouraged to join the team.
“We are always looking for new members,” Lewis said. “We are willing to work with them and get them to the level of a professional.”