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The Antelope

Out with Cushing Pool, in with wrestling room

MARC BAUER The current plan does not have bleachers and will have the Loper head flipped to the other side. There will also be training equipment in the room.

The old pool at Cushing Coliseum has been filled in with concrete and is no more. 

Construction workers have been renovating the pool to turn it into a wrestling room. The $2.5 million project has been five years in the making and is expected to be completed by August. 

“It’s just gonna help us develop guys better and having more space to be able to practice safely,” said UNK wrestling coach Dalton Jensen. “Having the external stuff of cardio equipment and weight equipment will allow us to be more efficient as we run our program.”

The new facilities include a wrestling locker room, weight equipment, coaches’ offices, a sports medicine area for the trainers, a cold tub, restroom and showers.

“Our kids don’t have to go out in the hallway and walk downstairs,” said UNK athletic director Marc Bauer. “It’s all right there. It’s all-inclusive.” 

UNK has 42 wrestlers on the roster in their downstairs wrestling room that only has two smaller-sized mats. This new wrestling room will have three full-sized mats and the Lopers might try to maintain a roster of 50 wrestlers in the future to have more matches for a JV team. 

“When you increase your numbers you’re always going to have student-athletes waiting in the wings ready for their shot,” Bauer said. “As long as you can continue to get them matches, keep them engaged, involved, making it feel like a family and a home — they’re gonna stay and want to be a part of something successful.”

UNK regularly wrestles against schools with large rosters such as Grandview, Central Oklahoma and defending National Champions St. Cloud State. Increasing the roster with the new wrestling room will help the Lopers compete and get more experience against the competition. 

“Having the extra space to safely carry that many kids is gonna be beneficial and obviously helps with our depth,” Jensen said. “There’s an engagement level to that too. You’re carrying more guys, and you still want to be able to create a good student-athlete experience for everybody and not just your 10 varsity guys.”

Jensen and the other wrestling coaches will move to the new offices in this space once it is completed. The team split practices between two groups this year because of the small wrestling room.

“It kinda loses that team camaraderie not having everyone in there at once,” Jensen said. “Having everybody in there is going to be great, and for the efficiency and development of our guys, it is going to be very beneficial.”

The project has been funded by private donations, and the wrestling team had many people step up to support this project. The team hosted a banquet featuring former Loper and current UFC fighter Kamara Usman back in October that raised funds for the project. Ron and Pam Blessing were the top donors for the project, and the facility will be named after them. 

UNK guaranteed the decommissioning of the pool so the space could be put to good use. Using the space as a wrestling room has made it easier to pitch to recruits.

“We’ve been able to walk some of our recruits in this year and show them our room downstairs and tell them you’ll never have to be here,” Jensen said. “They’ll get to straight come in and enjoy the new facility.”

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