Raising the roof
Taxpayers might scratch their heads in wonderment when they spot the new 10,000-square-foot structure now standing on the Nevada Union High School campus.
After all, the state’s budget woes have politicians in Sacramento threatening to slash education funding throughout California.
And now this?
The school will host a grand opening celebration for the new Nevada Union High School Wrestling/Multipurpose Facility at 6 p.m. today.
But if schools are facing such a fiscal dilemma, how – and why – in the world did Nevada Union fund a $2 million building project for a non-revenue generating sport such as wrestling?
“Not a single penny came from the school or the master fund,” said Steve Pilcher, Nevada Union athletic director and head wrestling coach. “We had people in the community that saw this need. Three years ago, we established a support group that started talking about it and we decided to do some research.
“One thing led to another and suddenly the money appeared, through private donations, through the community and through our support group. The state gave us matching funds that amounted to several hundred thousand dollars, but the money did not come from the school.”
So who are these donors?
“Because the funding was private, it’s all anonymous,” Pilcher said. “That’s the way the donors wanted it and it’s going to remain that way. We’ll take that to the grave.
“Look, 20 years from now, it won’t matter where the money came from. What’s important is that the community, the school and the kids are going to benefit from it.”
What NU’s wrestling program gets in the deal is quite a bit of elbow room. After sharing space with the NU dance program for nearly 13 years, the Miners finally have a place to roll out the mats – and leave them rolled out.
Moving mats before and after practice had become a daily tradition for NU wrestlers. Now, though, there won’t be as much rolling, lifting and toting prior to actually getting to work each day.
“It will be a great relief,” Pilcher said. “You know, as athletic director, I know that we had a problem with facilities. I mean, we’ve got volleyball, football, basketball and wrestling – all of those sports – coming together in November and December. And there were not enough facilities, especially when it rained.
“We haven’t really worked out all the details, as far as what rules there will be for using it. But it will be used for other things than just wrestling.”
Make no mistake, though, the building was constructed with the Miner wrestling program in mind. Look no further than to the right of the main entrance as two wrestlers clad in singlets square off on the building’s facade.
To the left are the school’s initials and through the glass entry way is a pristine lobby, followed by a set of doors that open to the new wrestling “room.”
“It’s pretty much a state-of-art-facility,” Pilcher said.
His assistant wrestling coach agrees. And Shane Valdez, a three-time All-American wrestler at the University of Oklahoma, knows a thing or two about wrestling facilities.
“It’s probably the premiere wrestling room in the country,” said Valdez, adding that such a facility would be tough to come by for even a college wrestling program considering the effects of Title IX on non-major sports.
“In college there was a decline (of support) and I did notice it. It was a big issue. People were trying to find a way to save the sport,” he said. “But it wasn’t just wrestling. Men’s gymnastics, men’s swimming and diving, really it’s the non-headline sports who were taking the huge hits.
“I’m all about equity for men and women sports, but the way Title IX has been interpreted and executed, men’s sports are being discriminated against. To make things equal they either have to add sports for women, which costs money, or drop a men’s sport. Wrestling is one that’s been dropped around the country.”
But, Valdez said, wrestling is actually growing in California high schools. He sees an increase of interest and not only from those pulling on the headgear.
“When I started out, I was 12 years old and I don’t remember anybody knowing what wrestling was,” he said. “Everyone knew wrestling as being the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) and pro wrestling. But now we’re on the sports pages, people are following the teams and following the results.
“I think California schools are taking it much more serious.”
And apparently, so are many generous donors in Nevada County.
“There are people in this community that are old athletes, who really understand what athletics do for kids,” Pilcher said. “The academics are a given, but athletics may not get the credit it deserves in teaching life lessons.
“The exact words of one of our donors were ‘I like what you do with kids.’ And that’s not just wrestling. He could have said volleyball or anything else. It’s what our teachers and coaches do for kids. I think having that money donated, that’s a statement about Nevada Union in general and what we do with kids. I’m proud of where I work. It keeps me smiling.”
KNOW & GO
WHAT: Grand Opening of Nevada Union wrestling/multipurpose facility
WHEN: 6 p.m. today
WHERE: Nevada Union H.S.
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