Wrestling team wins with lots of heart, little money

Despite the wrestling team’s lack of financial stability from the University’s athletic department, one All-American and one top 10 finalist made the trip to nationals worth the sacrifice.

March 8-10 at the 2007 National Collegiate Wrestling Association Championships in Garland, Texas, the University’s team earned 26 points to rank 22nd in the nation.

Hubert Poulard, a 24-year-old senior student from Miami, was named as an All-American after finishing fourth place overall.

Also qualifying with national honors in the top 10 was Rueben Felder, a 20-year-old student from Miami.

“I saw the fire in their eyes,” said head coach Thomas White.

The team began the season with 65 wrestlers and ended with 11. White said the players who stayed are good athletes.

“It’s been a good year,” said Poulard, who led the team in points during the competition despite an injured groin.

“I consider wrestling my passion,” he said. “I feel I needed to compete at a high level.”

Soheyla Mahdavian, a 22-year-old senior pharmacy student, also agreed the team did a great job.

“We are very blessed to get as far as we did,” Mahdavian said.

Mahdavian credits much of the team’s success to its coach.

Despite the team’s success its financial support has been a constant struggle.

“We ran our budget off of $450,” White said.

The budget was sponsored by two employees of the campus recreation center, Robert Carroll Jr. and Robert Brown.

Because of the lack of financial stability, the team was only able to send seven of its 11 wrestlers to compete at nationals. The players did not even know if they were going to attend nationals until the day before the team left, said White.

“We don’t have the budget to travel to tournaments,” White said. “It’s a sacrifice we made.”

However, White contends it is the Rattler pride that pushes them to continue.

“The love of our school is our motivation,” he said. “We are the only HBCU in that conference.”

The team said it is carrying on the Rattler tradition. FAMU’s last wrestling appearance on a national level was in 1973.

“Every night after practice, we pray,” White said. It is the players’ spiritual bond that draws greatness from the team despite trying times.