The Running Eagles will host a regional qualifier Feb. 22, two weeks before the national tournament in Topeka, Kan.
The regional highlights a competitive schedule for the second-year Life program, beginning Nov. 2 with the Citadel Open in Charleston, S.C. Life will also host Truett-McConnell in a dual match, as well as the Georgia Intercollegiate Championships on Feb. 2.
Last year, Life saw four of wrestlers — Trey Hicks, Jason Fraser, Dillon Schouw and Oliver Brukhardt — qualify for nationals after the east region qualifier at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, N.C.
After watching Lindsey Wilson take home the region crown last season, the Running Eagles hope to be the team hoisting the championship trophy in their own gym — in the process, advancing as many wrestlers as possible.
“We’re really excited to bring this kind of big wrestling event to Georgia and to Cobb County,” Life coach Mike Miller said. “It’s just one more thing to help promote wrestling in Georgia and make it an even bigger sport, and to keep growing it. More and more colleges are getting teams, and it’s an opportunity for kids to take advantage of a great sport.
“And because it takes place the week after the Georgia state high school championships, it’s an event that will bring the fans together one more time at the end of the season to enjoy the sport.”
The NAIA’s east region includes 12 schools and stretches as far west as Missouri, Indiana and West Virginia.
“There are, I think, four regions and the top four in each weight class automatically qualify for nationals,” Miller said. “And then, there are at-large selections, so, with the 12 region schools, we can have up to 144 guys participating at the event.”
Life didn’t shy away from hosting the qualifier. Miller, assistant coach Ron Gorman and “other guys behind the scenes” put together a proposal that was submitted to the region’s other coaches.
Now, it will be up to Miller and his staff to put on a show because there will be a lot of eyes on the campus.
“Having the tournament at our place brings people and, even more important, potential recruits to campus,” he said. “With regionals being after the state tournament, this event is like icing on the cake for wrestling fans in Georgia. They’ll still be excited about wrestling and they’ll want to see more.
“We’ll be able to give that to them. It should be an exciting event.”