LA PLUME — When Matthew Grimaldi took over as athletic director at Keystone College nine years ago, bringing back the wrestling program was one of his initial thoughts.
It became a reality last Thursday when the college announced it will reintroduce the varsity sport for the 2016-17 season. Keystone will compete as an independent in NCAA Division III.
Wrestling was discontinued at Keystone following the 1990-91 season due to a lack of similarly sized colleges competing in the sport at the time. Coach Larry Fornicola led Keystone’s wrestling team from 1965 through 1990 and was inducted into the National Junior College Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1980.
“Once I came in as athletic director, I’ve always said it would be good to go back to the roots,” Grimaldi said. “It’s always been in the forefront of my mind as we’re growing our programs. I think it was just the right time.
“We have such a rich history and great alumni base. Their support is going to be instrumental in our success.”
Steve Mytych, 28, who currently serves as an assistant wrestling coach at Wyoming Seminary, was tapped to lead the reintroduction of the program. He previously served as the head coach at Wyoming Area and as an assistant at Bloomsburg University and Lehigh University.
“It’s quite an honor knowing that I’m going to be a coach at a brand new program,” Mytych said.
Mytych is looking forward to new the possibilities that will be available for student-athletes due to Keystone bringing back the sport.
“A lot of kids cut wrestling short in college because there’s not many opportunities,” he said. “As for wrestling in the area, I think this gives kids another opportunity. I’m going to be recruiting in the area and I’m very excited about it.”
Grimaldi believes Mytych is a great choice to lead and rebuild the program.
“He has a really great wrestling background,” Grimaldi said. “He has the contacts locally which will help grow this program and he’s well thought of in the wrestling community.”
As a Division III independent, Keystone will be eligible to schedule a wide-variety of opponents, including the possibility of competition with other regional Division III schools such as Wilkes University, King’s College and The University of Scranton.
“Pennsylvania is a wrestling-rich state and this gives us an opportunity to start some local rivalries,” Keystone College Senior Director of College Relations Fran Calpin said. “We will have ample competition right in our backyard.”
Grimaldi noted the sport’s popularity across the state and country as a reason he thinks it will be a success at Keystone.
“Wrestling is growing at the interscholastic and collegiate level in all divisions,” he said. “Fifty-seven schools have added it in the past 10 to 15 years at the college level. Wrestling is also the sixth-ranked sport of all interscholastic sports nationally in terms of number of participants.”
While Keystone’s current conference doesn’t support the sport, there are opportunities for associate memberships, according to Grimaldi, although they will spend at least one or two years as an independent.
“In my gut, I think we’re probably going to be very good and competitive,” he said. “How competitive we are is going to drive where we look to go to approach a conference.”
Dave Rosengrant contributed to this story. Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.