Big Bend Wrestling Set to Make National Noise
Wrestling roots run deep at Big Bend Community College. Those same roots run even deeper in the Columbia Basin. Now, Viking wrestling will have an opportunity to show the rest of the nation the significance of those roots with both its men's and women's wrestling programs accepting an invitation to join the National Junior College Athletic Association's (NJCAA) ranks as a Division I wrestling program.
The move became official on January 18.
"Today is a monumental day for both our men's and women's wrestling programs … past and present … as well as our entire athletic department, the college, and the greater community," Director of Athletics John Meeks said. "Wrestling is such a valued part of our community, and what better way to elocute wrestling's storied tradition at Big Bend than on a platform visible to the entire nation. Few words adequately describe the excitement within our programs and the trajectory we see for the future of wrestling at our college."
Wrestling's inception as an intercollegiate sport at Big Bend dates back to the 1960's. However, the program was shuttered soon after due to budgetary constraints. In 2017, after a long hiatus, a strong contingent of college and community leaders took it upon themselves to revive the dormant program. It did not take long for the programs to regain success on the mat, as the 2021-2022 women's wrestling team was crowned national champions, competing as part of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA).
"The NCWA has long been a trailblazer for the sport of wrestling," stated Meeks, who's in his second year as athletic director. "However, our membership in the NJCAA offers our wrestling programs the opportunity to continue to compete in our geographic footprint; host multiple home events each year and open doors to competition against new like-minded institutions across the nation."
New coaches for both the men's and women's wrestling programs were hired in the summer of 2023 and charged to plot a course for the future of each program. Daviaire Dickerson was chosen to lead the men's program, bringing with him significant experience as a head men's and women's wrestling coach at the four-year level.
"Transitioning (to the NJCAA) marks a significant chapter for Big Bend Community College wrestling. It symbolizes our commitment to excellence, growth, and fostering a competitive spirit," said Dickerson. "It not only elevates our program, but enriches the entire institution, bringing a new level of athletic achievement to our campus.
"This move is more than a shift in affiliation, it's a testament to our dedication to providing top-tier athletic experiences for our students and contributing to the broader wrestling community. Together, we'll seize the potential that the NJCAA offers, shaping a legacy that extends beyond wins and losses,"
With Dickerson in full direction of the men's program, former four-time Washington state champion and collegiate National Champion wrestler Desiree Zavala was chosen to lead the Lady Vikings, and she has not missed a beat.
"Women's wrestling is one of the fastest growing sports in America, and especially prevalent in minority groups," Zavala said. "With Big Bend being a Hispanic-Serving Institution, we are staying true to our commitment of providing not only a high level of education, but a high level of athletics to match. It also provides a pathway for talented wrestlers to continue honing their skills and potentially progress to higher levels of education and wrestling.
"One of the highlights of this transition is the fact that our program will be able to solely focus on Freestyle wrestling, instead of having to split between both Folkstyle and Freestyle. This transition will help push our athletes to become more successful not only on the mats, but in the classroom as well."
Additionally, in December of 2023, Big Bend wrestling was awarded a $40,000 grant through the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC), earmarked specifically for facility and program improvements. Beginning with the 2024-2025 season, both men's and women's wrestling teams will have their own newly renovated 2000-square foot practice facilities.
One thing is for sure … the move to the NJCAA has BBCC wrestling poised to set the academic and athletic bar higher than ever before.