Dakota Riley transferred to Northern Kentucky University in 2013. He spent a lot of time on campus, but didn’t really have anything to do between classes.
Riley explored campus organizations, but could not find a club that interested him. After seeing gymnastics mats at the recreation center, he stopped by the recreation director’s office to inquire about a wrestling club.
“I wrestled and I did some other martial arts stuff in high school. It just sounded like a cool idea,” said Riley. “I didn’t know you could start your own sports club. So I looked into it, contacted some other people who had similar interests and we just started rolling from there.”
NKU’s wrestling club was officially started in May 2014. For the first year, Riley spent a lot of time performing administrative tasks, getting the word out about the wrestling club, sending out mass emails and planning practices open to the student body.
“I actually had to look around for people that would be interested in putting in the extra effort,” said Riley.
All of the marketing, practices and competition responsibilities fell on Riley, because the club did not have a faculty advisor. Since he also was a full-time student and worked two jobs, he said it was “very taxing” on his time management.
But according to Riley, his team got very lucky. When they were first spreading the word about the wrestling club on campus, he met a graduate student who was also a wrestling coach at a local high school. The grad student allowed the club to use the high school facility and mats for practices. And as long as he continued to hold the practices and he was there, Riley had hope that the club would grow.
“I had to be at practices because I was one of the leaders in the group. I had in my mind … if for some reason nobody else showed up, I was going to be there anyway,” said Riley. “I’m really passionate about it and it’s something I enjoy doing. I had faith as long we kept it going, as long as I was there, it would continue to grow.”
Riley did receive support from the recreation department. For conferences, they were willing to put a credit card on file for Riley and the team to rent cars. This year, the wrestling club has a coach, Clancy Stockton, and is transitioning to holding practices on campus.
“Before, we had a lot of really experienced guys on our team … we had some volunteer coaching every now and then,” said Riley. “But since we have Clancy Stockton, he handles more of the coaching side. As students, we still kind of take care of the administrative stuff. But, as far as running practices, teaching actual technique, it’s a load off your shoulders. And it’s not just that, it’s much more legitimate.”
Looking toward the future, the club recently received funding from NKU’s recreation center for a wrestling mat, which costs about $7,000, and they continue to sell T-shirts and hold fundraisers to pay for conferences and competitions.
“It sounds like a pretty common idea, but I don’t think it’s something that really crosses a lot of people’s minds,” said Riley. “I think it’s good to get the word out, especially on a university campus, how easy it is to get support from the university and start your own thing.”