MANHEIM, Pa. (EMUEagles.com) — For the first time in Eastern Michigan University wrestling history, the Eagles garnered the top spot in the nation on the National Wrestling Coaches Association’s All-Academic teams, announced by the NWCA Friday, May 22.
“I’m really proud of our guys for all the hard work they have put into winning an award as prestigious as the NWCA All-Academic Team Award,” stated Head Coach David Bolyard. “I would like to thank our athletics department for providing our student-athletes with the resources needed to succeed in the classroom and on the mat. I would also like to thank our Student Athletic Support Staff for all the time and effort they have put into our student-athlete’s academic success. Competing to be one of the best academic teams in the country was a goal our program set at the beginning of the academic year, winning the award only validates the commitment our department and student-athletes have made toward academic success.”
The Green and White finished the 2014-15 academic year with a team grade point average of 3.382, which edged out second-place Harvard, who carried a 3.372 team GPA in the 2014-15 academic year and notched the title the past two seasons. Furthermore, the award marks not only the first time in EMU history that the grapplers had captured the honor, but the team is also the first-ever Mid-American Conference team to earn the honor since its inception in the 1990-91 academic year.
Awarded annually, the NWCA All-Academic Team contains 118 student-athletes and of those, 28 were All-Americans. This year’s list also includes half of the Division I champions and eight of the 20 wrestlers who competed in the finals in St. Louis back in March.
“What’s extremely promising about the All-Academic standings for the teams and the individuals is there is a lot of competition for the top spots in these rankings,” said NWCA Executive Director Mike Moyer. “As you might expect, some of our nation’s finest academic institutions, like the Ivy League schools for example, are represented very well, but when you see schools like Eastern Michigan, SIU-Edwardsville and South Dakota State, it goes to show the nation that great educations and great educational resources can be found everywhere. These schools know they have top-notch academics and we’re glad to be able to have our student-athletes showcase it through wrestling.”
The team grade-point average was determined using a system that includes 12 student-athletes from each program. A total of 10 of these came from the wrestlers that were entries in the NCAA tournament conference qualifier. In the 2013-14 academic year, the Eagles finished 30th overall in the NWCA standings.
This season, EMU jumped 29 spots and saw redshirt-senior Brandon Zeerip garner All-Academic honors for the second-straight season with a 3.83 grade point average while working on his MBA. Zeerip represented the Eagles at the 157 lb. weight class for the second-straight season, posting a 23-15 overall record and a 5-3 record in MAC bouts. The Fremont, Mich. native nabbed his second 20-win season in a Green and White singlet, including earning a fourth-place finish at the Keystone Classic with four wins before grabbing five straight-wins en route to an eighth-place finish at the Midlands Championships. Zeerip closed out the season on a four-bout win streak before falling in his final regualr season match. The 157 lb. grappler garnered his second at-large bid to the NCAA Championships after finishing fifth at the conference championships.
“The NWCA All-Academic Team and Individual Team is one of the best acknowledgements that we can give to our coaches and athletes at the end of a physically grueling season” said NWCA Executive Director Mike Moyer. “These young men have proved that they are not only talented competitors but are leaders in the classroom as well. The NWCA Board of Directors and staff look forward to watching these student-athletes continue their success at the collegiate level and eventually as the leaders of the future once they earn their college degrees.”