Bellarmine University’s intercollegiate wrestling program will be making the move from NCAA Division II to Division I, the Louisville-based school announced Tuesday.
The transition — which will start after the completion of the 2019-2020 season — will take four years. During that time, Bellarmine will not be eligible to compete in NCAA championship events.
Once the transition is complete, the Bellarmine Knights will be the only Division I wrestling program in Kentucky.
Most Bellarmine varsity sports will be competing in the Atlantic Sun (ASUN) conference which had officially invited the school to join the conference this week. However, for now, wrestling (along with field hockey) will compete in Division I with independent status because most ASUN member schools do not offer intercollegiate wrestling.
The oldest and greatest sport is actually a fairly new varsity sport at Bellarmine. Almost exactly three years ago, the school announced it would be absorbing the wrestling program at St. Catharine College, a tiny college in central Kentucky which had announced in June 2016 it would be closing its doors, effective immediately. Bellarmine stepped forward after another Kentucky-based school had said it would welcome athletes from three other sports but not wrestling. Head coach Spencer Adams, a three-time NAIA (National Association Intercollegiate Athletes) All-American wrestler at Campbellsville University of Kentucky, had coached at St. Catharine before taking the helm of the new Bellarmine program three years ago.
For the past three seasons, Bellarmine wrestling had competed in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, compiling a 9-5 record during the 2018-19 regular season. In March, two BU Knights — 125-pounder Brandon Lucas, and Gage Branson at 149 — became Bellarmine’s first wrestlers to compete at the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships in Cleveland, both just missing becoming All-Americans.
Founded in 1950, Bellarmine (pronounced BEL-ur-men) University is a private, Catholic, four-year school located just outside downtown Louisville, Kentucky’s largest city. Bellarmine has an enrollment of approximately 3,600 students.