PHCC preps for wrestling program

Justin Smith (Contributed photos)

As Patrick Henry Community College’s (PHCC) Athletic Department plans to develop a wrestling program, the college has begun renovations of a wrestling room and plans to recruit up to 30 wrestlers by the fall.

Athletic Director Brian Henderson, and College President Dr. Angeline Godwin, have been in talks regarding wrestling for some time.

“For years -ever since I was first hired- Dr. Godwin had expressed interest in wrestling. We’ve just not had the space available for it,” said Henderson.

He added that the shutdowns and cancellations prompted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation provided college administration time to evaluate and discuss new opportunities, and to develop creative solutions to make the program feasible.

While COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to discuss the program, it also poses a challenge for the college in moving the program forward. Henderson said that the college is “entering this exciting new adventure with extra care and caution. We, the PHCC athletic department, coaches, and student-athletes will continue to adhere to all national and state guidelines as it relates to COVID.”

Sample PHCC wrestling uniform

Due to the uncertain nature of athletics programs across the nation, the college administration said they will move forward with a new program only if they can do so in keeping with state and national health recommendations and guidance from the National Junior College Athletics Association which governs athletics programs at two-year colleges.

“While we’re keeping an eye on the COVID situation – aware that we may need to be flexible with our plans for the fall – we are moving forward with recruiting student-athletes. We have an extreme amount of interest and a need for a two-year college wrestling program in our area,” Henderson said. “As for all sports, NJCAA leadership is monitoring the COVID situation closely and will make the best decisions for the safety of our student-athletes. Season start dates may be delayed. Whatever decision is made, PHCC will be ready to continue providing academic and athletic opportunities for all student-athletes.”

Justin Smith, the former head wrestling coach at Franklin County High School, has accepted the position as Head Coach of the program. Tim Nininger, the former head wrestling coach at Cave Spring High School, will be his assistant. In the inaugural season, the coaches plan to build the program through local talent.

“We are very well aware of the strength of wrestling in our area,” said Smith. “We aim to be a force in the wrestling community here in Southwest Virginia.”

Both Smith and Nininger have extensive wrestling backgrounds. Before coaching at Franklin County High School, Smith was a NCAA Division I wrestler at Liberty University. Prior to wrestling in college, Smith had a four-year letter-winning career at Franklin County High School in Rocky Mount, Virginia. During his junior year in high school, Smith was a district champion and a state Judo champion at 130 pounds. During his senior year, he earned both honors again despite wrestling up at 145 pounds.

Tim Nininger

Tim Nininger also experienced success as a competitor and a coach. He won the state title wrestling for Christiansburg High School in Roanoke. After high school, Nininger went to Clemson University where he earned All-American honors wrestling for the Tigers. After college, he became the Head Coach for Cave Spring High School where his team earned multiple state champions and All Americans.

“Together Tim and I have over 20 years of coaching experience and over 40 total years of experience with the sport of wrestling,” said Smith. “We have a proven track record of building strong wrestling programs and we are excited to be given the opportunity to do the same at Patrick Henry.”

“We absolutely believe we have the right coaches to lead our wrestling program,” said Henderson. “I’m excited to support them as they create many new opportunities for the student-athletes of our area and beyond. “

PHCC wrestling aims to begin taking to the mats in Fall 2020 depending on the guidance the college receives from the NJCAA. For those interested in joining the program, contact Brian Henderson at bhenderson@patrickhenry.edu.

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