Wrestling program to expand

Dan Sabin and his fiancee have plenty of familiarity with the sport of wrestling, as they were both All-American wrestlers in high school and continued their careers into college.

That mutual love of the sport has evolved into much more for Sabin, and Oakland University’s female students are receiving a unique athletic opportunity because of it.

After talking to his fiancee, Cindy, as well as current Oakland men’s wrestling coach Kyle Nieporte, the former varsity wrestler at the University of Mary (N.D.) has put together a women’s wrestling team at OU.

For now, the squad will compete as a club sport and is scheduled to start competing in the 2010-2011 athletic year, just like the men’s team.

Another similarity to the men’s squad is the small roster size in the inaugural season of competition.

“We will be small in numbers to start off, but expect to have no less than 15 girls in our second year,” Sabin said. “Right now we have two to three girls who will be attending OU due to the creation of the women’s wrestling club. The girls we have planning on wrestling for us are all All-American contenders, and should make some noise in our first year.”

The current roster includes Cindy Kaffenberger (from Jamestown College) and Haley Slivensky (Oakland Community College), but has tentative verbal commitments from Kiarra Lane (Muskegon CC), Shannon Carter (Baker College of Flint) and Summer Asbury (Atherton High School).

Sabin knows the challenge of starting up a program in a sport not widely showcased in the college ranks.

“It (scheduling matches) may be difficult as most likely all our events will be away, due to the low number of teams competing in women’s wrestling,” Sabin said. “However, in future years we hope to host a few meets and maybe have a few Canadian teams come over and compete.”

In the Women’s College Wrestling Association, there are only 13 colleges in the country that offer women’s wrestling as a varsity sport.

While Michigan is one of the top states when it comes to women’s wrestling at the high school level, the state currently has just two schools represented in the WCWA — Marygrove and Northern Michigan University.

In terms of women’s wrestling as a club sport, there are 21 colleges in the National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Association, although only about half are very active.

“It isn’t a very common college sport, but there are new programs started every year (at least two new programs the last two years). The colleges with varsity programs have about 30 women on each team,” said Sabin.

Those unfamiliar with women’s wrestling may consider it identical to men’s. There are similarities, but the differences are equally important.

Training is similar to men’s wrestling and some of the same moves that the men use are used by the women.

Women, however, wrestle freestyle — the style used in the Olympics — while collegiate men wrestle Folkstyle.

There are also variations in scoring and overtime procedures between the two sports.

Accumulating over 150 wins in high school, being a two-time high school All-American, three-time All-State wrestler and three-time state placer in the freestyle/Greco-style makes Sabin qualified as a wrestling coach at this level. The choice of women’s wrestling came from his fiancee, who will be attending Oakland in the fall.

“I’ve always been a large supporter of women’s wrestling,” he said. “I also operate a website,

www.uswomenswrestling.com, which does rankings, news articles, results and more.”

Sabin and his squad will be fundraising throughout the year so that they will be able to travel to the WCWA Nationals, held at Menlo College (Calif.) in January.

They will also compete at the NCWWA Nationals which is held in Philadelphia, Pa., the same location as the men’s wrestling nationals.

“It is open to all female students who wish to learn how to wrestle, even if they’ve never done so before,” Sabin said. “It is a great way to stay active, meet friends, lose weight and have fun.”

For more information about the team or how to join, visit their website at www.oaklandwomenswrestling.com.