When Brett Coffelt began recruiting students to join his fledgling Marquette University Wrestling team at the beginning of the school year, he took a decidedly novel approach to the task.
"I walked around looking for people wearing wrestling shirts" and asked if they wanted to wrestle, said Coffelt, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences.
Thanks to his efforts — which also included relaying information via word-of-mouth and the popular online directory www.facebook.com — Marquette is returning to the mat for the first time in more than four years.
In June 2001, the university officially dropped its wrestling program after 52 years of existence, according to the April 21 issue of the Tribune. Since then, students who wanted to continue wrestling have had to return to their high schools to coach or train. Otherwise, they gave up the sport entirely.
When Coffelt decided to attend Marquette in spring, he said he knew he would have to give up wrestling.
However, "I started to think, maybe there was a way to start this up again," Coffelt said.
Within the first week of classes, Coffelt said he got the idea to establish a wrestling team at Marquette.
At first Coffelt "didn't think it would be so formal," but interest in the team was much greater than he anticipated.
One of those interested was College of Business Administration sophomore Rodney Michna, who started wrestling during his freshman year at Ashland (Wis.) High School but stopped when he got to Marquette.
"Wrestling wasn't the main thing once I got to college," he said. "It wasn't a top priority."
Michna joined MUW not long after hearing about it and has become one of the team's regulars, compiling a 1-2 record at 125 pounds.
MUW is currently awaiting club sport recognition from the university, which Coffelt said would likely come in late January or early February. Once it is approved, the team will enter the North Central Conference of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association.
For now, team members practice with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Riverside High School and compete as unattached wrestlers in open dual tournaments, in which anyone can participate.
MUW's ultimate goal, Coffelt said, is to be able to practice and hold meets on campus.
In addition to recruiting wrestlers to the team, Coffelt also took on the responsibility of finding coaches. He was able to secure head coaches Dan Loberg and Bob Christenson as well as former Marquette wrestlers James Jaramillo and Phil Bronsteatter as assistant coaches.
Coffelt was "relentless" in persuading Loberg to coach, according to Loberg, who had resigned from his coaching duties at Mukwonago High School.
"I looked back to when I was in college," Loberg said, "and it's not fair to these guys to not have the same chances I did.
"I'd do everything in my power to give them the ability to pursue their own passions."
The next event for the team is Saturday's Triton Open, at Triton College in Chicago.