Drexel’s varsity wrestling team will have a new conference home when the 2013-14 season opens, as the Dragons will join former Colonial Athletic Association conference-mate Hofstra as two of the newest members of the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association. The EIWA announced on Thursday that it will add Drexel, Hofstra, Binghamton University and Boston University to bring the league’s membership to 18 schools.
Drexel joins the EIWA after 12 years as a member of the CAA. During that time, the Dragons boasted five CAA champions, including 197-pounder Brandon Palik this season. The Dragons sent a total of 34 wrestlers to the NCAA Championships while a member of the CAA.
“We are very excited about joining the EIWA,” Athletics Director Dr. Eric Zillmer said. “Our academic profile and our ambitions in Division I wrestling match those that are currently members in the EIWA. At Drexel athletics, we are proud of our rich history in the sport of wrestling, having had NCAA national qualifiers every year dating back to 1998. As an institution, we are invested in graduating our student-athletes and have a reliable track record of being completely gender equitable for all of our sports. By joining the EIWA, we believe that the best is yet to come for Drexel wrestling.”
The EIWA is made up of members who hold league affiliations in other conferences for the majority of their other sports. Members from the Ivy League include Brown University, Cornell University, Columbia University, Harvard University, Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania. American University, Leigh University, Bucknell University, the United States Military Academy at West Pont and the United States Naval Academy are all affiliated with the Patriot League. Current Big East member Rutgers University, Northeast Conference member Sacred Heart University and Centennial Conference member Franklin and Marshall are also part of the EIWA.
“Everyone at Drexel is excited about joining the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association,” Head Wrestling Coach Matt Azevedo said. “The EIWA has been around for more than 100 years and has a storied history in the world of collegiate wrestling. There are so many outstanding institutions in the EIWA and I am honored to know that Drexel will be competing with them next year. I would like to thank President John Fry, Dr. Zillmer and [Deputy Athletics Director] Nick Gannon for their support of our wrestling program and this move to the EIWA. We have a bright future ahead of us."
The EIWA, which received 45 bids to the 2013 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships and saw six of them earn All-American honors, has a long tradition of excellence among its member institutions.
The Drexel program will be entering its third season under Azevedo in 2013-14. The Dragons won eight dual matches last season, including a 24-19 win over George Mason in the first ever Grapple at the Garden, held at New York's Madison Square Garden. The Dragons sent two wrestlers, Cimato and Brandon Palik, to the NCAA Championships this season.
“The coaches and EIWA administrators looked at this and thought that Drexel and Hofstra were a great fit for our conference,” said EIWA Executive Director Greg Strobel. “I've often wondered why Drexel and Hofstra weren't in our conference already, as it makes sense for them to be in this conference logistically because of their location and familiarity with our existing teams. This will be exciting for our fans, and we are looking forward to this year's tournament with Drexel and Hofstra participating alongside our existing members.”