By Sarah Turner, Sports editor
It’s hard to deny the growth of the University of Montevallo’s athletic department over the last few years. Since 2020, Montevallo has seen the addition of four new programs, including esports, cycling, acrobatics and tumbling and wrestling. These programs have brought in many new student athletes from around the world to compete for the Falcons.
Montevallo’s wrestling team was officially announced in May of 2022 by university president Dr. John Stewart and athletic director Mark Richard.
“We look forward to adding to our high-achieving student athlete population,” said Richard in a press release after the announcement.
Now, in the waning weeks of 2023, competitions for the brand new team have begun. Because the program has just started, it is solely made up of freshmen and transfer students. There are 37 brand new Falcons on the team, but Jeffery Tubbs and Cory Jones, two of the team’s sophomores, explained the season has had its ups and downs.
Tubbs and Jones both attended Thompson High School in Alabaster, Ala., beginning their wrestling careers in middle school.
“For me…I tried every sport, didn’t really like it, but then I tried wrestling and I was like, I can actually do this,” explained Jones.
Both Tubbs and Jones are also transfer students, with Tubbs coming out of Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala., and Jones coming out of Allen University in Columbia, S.C.
Tubbs and Jones said they both had some apprehension coming into a brand new program. Tubbs was specifically concerned about the level of commitment from the coaching staff.
“If they weren’t gonna be 100% committed, then I wasn’t either,” he said.
But after speaking with head coach Daniel Ownbey, Tubbs and Jones were eager to get to work. Jones explained that he felt Ownbey was going to work very hard for his athletes and to build the new program. Ownbey spent his last two years as the head coach at Wheeling University, a Division II school in Wheeling, W.Va.
“He was very pinpoint on stuff… he was very helpful without being too mean or too over-the-top,” said Tubbs.
Both athletes said there were a lot of differences between Montevallo and their previous schools.
“At my old school, I could just breeze through the practices,” said Jones. “Here at Montevallo, you gotta take every practice one day at a time.”
Tubbs added, “they definitely extend your limits.” Jones continued with a laugh, saying, “hasn’t broke me yet, but it be close sometimes.”
Most athletic teams at Montevallo compete in the Gulf South Conference. However, the GSC does not offer wrestling, so the team competes in Conference Carolinas, which is home to some of the best wrestlers in Division II.
Conference Carolinas has member institutions throughout Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina, meaning Montevallo’s wrestlers spend a lot of time on the road.
The Falcons had a dual meet against Allen on Nov. 8, their second competition of the season, earning the program’s first win against Jones’s former school.
“For a team to win a tournament, every person has to do well,” explained Jones. Every individual competitor is in a different weight class, and receives a certain amount of points in their matches, depending on how they win, that contribute to the overall score of the team.
Jones is in the 125 weight class and said that he wrestled well that day. He also said that earning a team victory there meant a little bit more to him, as it was one of the meets he was most looking forward to during the season.
Tubbs is in the 184 weight class, and was named the men’s Montevallo Player of the Week for his personal success on the mat during the meet.
“It kinda tells everybody in our conference that we’re here to stay really. We’re not just a first year program, but we came here to win,” said Tubbs.
Following the dual meet against Allen, the Falcons competed in another duel against Newberry University on the same day, one of the best teams in the Conference Carolinas, but unfortunately suffered a tight loss to the Wolves.
Tubbs has high hopes for the team, even after the early season loss. “We went toe to toe with the second team in the conference, and with a team full of freshmen, I think we can really get that up,” said Tubbs.
On Nov. 15, Montevallo hosted Midway University in a duel. Nearly 2,000 Falcon fans packed the seats of Trustmark Arena to watch Montevallo’s first-ever wrestling meet result in a win for the home team. The energy in Trustmark was electric according to those in attendance. Tubbs won his matches handedly in front of the Falcon Faithful.
The team hopes to carry that energy into the rest of their season and both athletes have big goals for the coming months. Tubbs is looking to reach All-American status this year, while Jones hopes to achieve the same thing at some point in his career at Montevallo.
The team is looking for all the support they can get in Trustmark Arena on Jan. 30, at their second and final home meet of the year.