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Originally published Wednesday, March 18, 2009 at 1:58 PM

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Portland State cuts wrestling program for lack of wins, academic, financial problems

Portland State University says it is dropping its Division I wrestling program because it has done poorly in the classroom, at the bottom line, and on the mats.

PORTLAND, Ore. —

Portland State University says it is dropping its Division I wrestling program because it has done poorly in the classroom, at the bottom line, and on the mats.

Torre Chisholm, the school's athletic director, called it a sad day as the school announced the decision on Wednesday.

The program was in "serious distress, and the university lacks the resources to fix the many problems," he said.

The wrestlers had failed in recent years to meet minimum NCAA academic standards that include grades and the graduation rate, subjecting the program to scholarship reduction penalties, according to Mike Lund, the assistant athletics director.

"It was just one of three things that brought down the program, but it was obviously a major factor," Lund said.

Chisholm's statement said the academic failures were so severe they could "impact Portland State's entire athletics program, including its Division I status."

In December, Chisholm asked university President Wim Wiewel to review the program, and Wiewel created a seven-member task force. The panel held two public hearings, reviewed academic issues, the athletic budget and competitiveness issues.

"I was impressed by the outpouring of concern for the wrestling program," Wiewel said Wednesday. "However, this emotional support has not resulted in reliable financial support to sustain the program."

The school has been unable to duplicate its Division II success, with national wrestling championships in 1967, 1989 and 1990.

But since converting to Division I status in 1996, the wrestling team has finished last in the Pac-10 each of the last seven years and defeated just one Division I level opponent in the past three years.

This year, however, the team had improved, going into the conference tournament earlier this month with a 5-14 duals record in the third season under coach Mike Haluska, the best since the 2002 squad went 9-13.

But the task force recommended that Portland State convert the wrestling program to club sport status, and Chisholm and Wiewel agreed.

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School officials said that members of the wrestling program receiving athletic scholarship money will continue to receive the same dollar amount, provided they maintain good academic standing for the next three years or until they leave the university, whichever comes first.

Wrestlers who wish to transfer will be provided with individual support.

Portland State competes in the Big Sky Conference in other sports, including football, basketball and track.

In July 2007, the University of Oregon announced it was dropping its wrestling program following the 2007-08 season to revive its baseball program for the 2008-09 season.

The decision survived a court challenge by the Save Oregon Wrestling Foundation and the group Equity in Athletics, a coalition of wrestling supporters that included a son of the late Ken Kesey, the author of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and former wrestler himself.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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