Morgan State University wrestling team, circa 1960s (Courtesy of Morgan State University)
Morgan State University wrestling team, circa 1960s (Courtesy of Morgan State University)

Morgan State University announced last week the return of competitive collegiate wrestling to its athletic programs, making Morgan the only historically Black college or university (HBCU) in the country to offer the sport of wrestling at the NCAA Division I Varsity level.

Following a 24-year hiatus, the sport’s revival comes as the result of the largest donation in history to Morgan’s Athletic Department: a $2.7-million gift from HBCU Wrestling (HBCUW), according to the university.

HBCUW’s new initiative reestablishes wrestling programs on HBCU campuses, in partnership with billionaire philanthropist and former hedge fund manager Mike Novogratz.

The university has also been working on the return of wrestling with Beat the Streets, a Baltimore-based nonprofit.

“The purpose behind this donation is to create access and equity which will serve to further diversify the sport of wrestling by providing opportunities for student-athletes that do not currently exist,” Edward Scott, Ph.D., vice president and director of Intercollegiate Athletics at Morgan said.

“We are extremely grateful to Mike Novogratz and HBCU Wrestling for this tremendous contribution to Morgan State University Athletics.”

The gift, which is among the largest received from a private donor to the university, will provide funding for men’s wrestling at Morgan and will support up to nine full scholarships annually.

The Morgan Bears have a rich history in the sport of wrestling that began in the early 1950s.

The Bears dominated competition throughout that decade and continued the trend in the ’60s, capturing Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association [CIAA] titles in 1963, 1964 and 1965, among many other achievements.

The program also saw success in the 1970s, ‘80s and early ‘90s under the leadership of Coach James Phillips.

Under Phillips, Morgan produced four national champions and more than 75 wrestlers achieved All-American ranking.

Morgan’s wrestling program was discontinued at the conclusion of the 1996–97 season, in part because of a lack of resources, the university said.

“Historically, Morgan has served as home to a nationally competitive, championship-caliber wrestling program, producing numerous national champions in the sport,” David K. Wilson, Ed.D., president of Morgan State University, said.

“We embrace this opportunity of being the only HBCU nationwide offering a D1 varsity wrestling program, and we invite those seeking a competitive athletic experience in this sport, and a world-class education, to consider Morgan State University.”

The University said in a statement that over the last decade, there has been an influx of African-American students participating in wrestling globally.

Approximately 20 percent of the All-American wrestlers in NCAA Division I, II and III and NAIA are African American. In 2021 alone, five of the 10 NCAA Division I wrestling champions were African American.

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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