LEWISBURG — When Bucknell University reinstated wrestling for the 2005-06 season, coach Dan Wirnsberger and athletic director John Hardt had a plan for making the Bison one of the top programs in the East.
Part of the plan was a wrestling- only training center that could help Bucknell not only on the mat but in recruiting.
However, only in their wildest dreams did they envision what they were sitting in this week.
“I never imagined I would be in a building like this,” said Wirnsberger. “There was some plans and some thoughts, but I was never able to foresee us having a wrestling-specific training center.”
Bucknell opened the doors to the public Monday to the $12 million Graham Building, located right next to Sojka Pavilion. The first floor of the building houses Bucknell Student Health, the Counseling and Student Development Center and a new Wellness, which provides space for faculty and staff wellness initiatives, as well as student-focused programming.
The crown jewel of the building is the second floor and the Graham Wrestling Center.
The building and wrestling center is named after Bucknell alum Bill Graham, who wrestled for the Bison for four years and was captain his senior season. The 1962 graduate was instrumental in bringing the sport he loved back to life at Bucknell. His prior gift of approximately $8 million led to the installation of Graham Field for field hockey and women’s lacrosse, created an endowment to support women’s varsity sports — primarily women’s crew — and allowed the wrestling program to regain varsity status.
“I can’t say enough of what Bill Graham has meant not only to athletics but what he has meant to the university as a whole,” said Hardt. “What he has done for Bucknell will have a lasting impact on students for years to come.”
His most recent gift of more than $7 million led to the Graham Building and the new home for Bison wrestling.
“Soon after we reinstated the program, we hired Dan (Wirnsberger) as head coach and we sat down with Bill (Graham) and discussed the expectations of the program,” said Hardt. “We wanted to be one of the leaders in the East and knew it would take continued commitment to the program.
“We knew back then we were going to have to build a wrestling support facility to get to the top in the East.”
The layout of the center is unlike any in the country and is centered around a 50-by-100 foot mat room that has a stateof- the-art camera system.
“With the camera system we can tape the wrestlers doing drills and then on the screens on the wall have a 25 second delay for the playback and they can see what they did,” said Wirnsberger. “You can sometimes tell an athlete what they are doing wrong until you are blue in the face, but the old adage of seeing is believing rings true.”
The center also includes a strength and conditioning area next to the mat area, along with bleacher seating, which will come in handy for recruiting visits.
“We used to scurry around looking for chairs just so we would have enough places for recruits and parents to sit and then cram them all into our old mat room,” said assistant coach Kevin LeValley. “Now we have enough room for them to watch practice.”
Another design of the center is the storefront glass look along the wall that allow coaches to look into the office, team room and treatment room, which features a cold and hot tub along with a full service athletic training facility.
“The storefront glass is such a great design,” said Hardt. “It gives such an openness to the space and allows the coaches to truly see what is going on.
“The design of the entire center is first rate and the execution of the design was top shelf.”
The locker room comes with a lot of small touches, including a safe with an outlet to allow wrestlers to charge their phones and other devices while at practice and perfectly-sized shelves to keep running shoes and wrestling shoes. The locker room opens into a team room that has a kitchen, tables and a lounge.
“The team room is just outstanding,” said Wirnsberger. “It gives the student-athletes a place to come to before practice, a place to call their own.”
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