Shenandoah University’s men’s wrestling program announced its inaugural schedule on Friday morning, a 13-event regular-season slate that leads up to the NCAA Division III regional tournaments in late February.

Hornets head coach Tim McGuire, who was hired to lead the first-year program in September, said on Friday he was excited to announce the 2020-21 schedule, the most recent step toward kicking off the program’s first season in November.

“It was one of the hardest things that I was working on in the beginning, just having a clean slate working on the schedule because all the other teams across the nation, they already have a schedule that they wrestled this year, so trying to figure out where we fit in had its difficulties,” McGuire said. “We developed our schedule to best prepare our wrestlers for the NCAA tournament. We didn’t look for easy competition like many first-year programs would. We have pretty high goals and high expectations, so we will be wrestling some of the top teams nationally and regionally, and I believe we put together the best possible schedule for our athletes to develop and be ready at the end of the year.”

That schedule includes the Hornets’ first-ever home match – and only one of the season – on Jan. 7 against fellow first-year program Emory & Henry, which will take place in the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics and Events Center.

To recognize what McGuire said is a strong local wrestling community that starts with “phenomenal” youth programs, SU’s head coach is planning to turn the Hornets’ home dual into a “Winchester wrestling festival” of sorts. McGuire said a dual match between two local youth programs, followed by a high school dual, would precede SU’s match against E&H.

“We have a really great wrestling community right here, so we wanted to bring in everyone,” McGuire said. “We have a tremendous roster and wrestling class coming in this first year. I give a lot of credit for that to the wrestling community we have around, and that’s why we were able to develop a tough schedule. Putting it together, we wanted to have our first home meet that really involves everyone.”

Shenandoah’s first season begins with a Nov. 1 trip to the King of the Mont Open at Penn State-Mont Alto. After making the first of two trips to Alvernia University on Nov. 8, SU will make a weekend trip to Salem for the Southeast Duals on Nov. 14 and the U.S. Marines Corps Star City Classic on Nov. 15.

Roanoke College – yet another first-year wrestling program – is hosting both of the latter two events in conjunction with Virginia Blue Ridge Sports, according to a news release from Shenandoah University.

McGuire noted that the Star City Classic will feature “a ton of some of the best wrestlers in the nation.”

The Hornets also have tentatively scheduled trips to Johnson & Wales University’s Wildcat Open in Rhode Island and the Pete Willson Invitational at Wheaton College (Illinois) at the end of January. McGuire noted that though the trip to Wheaton will become an annual “staple” of SU’s schedule, the Hornets may not be able to make that trip next January due to financial restrictions brought on by COVID-19.

“These are two really tough national tournaments where we get to kind of see where we’ll stand when we go into NCAA tournaments,” McGuire said.

Shenandoah, a member of the Southeast Region, will compete in the Southeast Wrestling Conference Championships at Emory & Henry on Feb. 13. McGuire noted that the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, of which SU is a member in other sports, is likely to sponsor a wrestling championship starting in 2021-22.

The NCAA regional tournaments take place on Feb. 27, with the NCAA Division III Championships scheduled for March 12-13. McGuire noted that conference tournaments have no bearing on regional qualification, and Shenandoah can enter one wrestler in each of the 10 weight classes for the regional championships.

– Contact Brad Fauber at bfauber@nvdaily.com