Millikin University Wrestling Gets Funding

DECATUR, Illinois—The Millikin University wrestling program has been awarded funding from the R.E.A.C.H.E.S. organization to provide equipment for the Big Blue Wrestling program’s return to competition in the 2015-16 academic year.

The $3,000 grant provide the Millikin wrestling program equipment from Brute Wrestling Products. The Big Blue used to the funding to purchase sublimated practice shorts, knee pads, ankle bands and tape.

Millikin Head Wrestling Coach Ryan Birt and his staff are busy recruiting a talented group of athletes to help the Big Blue program have an immediate impact when it returns to the mat this fall. The Millikin program is returning to competition for the first time since 2008. The Big Blue fielded a wrestling program from 1959 to 2008 when the program was suspended. Over the years, Millikin had 47 athletes advance to the NCAA National Championships with five wrestlers earning All-American honors. Millikin’s best finish at nationals was second place by Kip Crandall, class of 1989, in 1987-88. Millikin wrestlers have earned 48 CCIW individual championships and have earned All-Conference honors 170 times.

“On behalf of Millikin Wrestling I would like to thank R.E.A.C.H.E.S. and Walter Fisk for the grant and for all they do for the sport of Wrestling,” said Birt. “The Brute Wrestling equipment is a key piece in our efforts to have Big Blue wrestling make an impact on national scene when we return to the mat in 2015-16.”

R.E.A.C.H.E.S. (Rewarding Educational Athletic Choices Helping Each Sport) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2007 in an effort to promote, protect and preserve the integrity of amateur athletics by providing athletic and educational opportunities to all athletes of all ages and abilities. This unique experience will provide educational, technical, and lifelong lessons for athletes, coaches, parents and fans that seek to capture meaningful, compassionate, harmonious, interesting and active lives. All profits from R.E.A.C.H.E.S. will be used to support specific needs in each sport to ensure future generations of athletes, fans, parents and coaches will continue to learn from valuable lifelong athletic lessons.

Brute Wrestling was founded in 1967, in Virginia, by retired U.S. Navy Captain Josiah Henson. Captain Henson was an Olympic bronze medalist in Freestyle wrestling in 1952 and the first American wrestler to beat a Russian at the Olympics. The company began as the first wrestling mail order business. John Purnell joined the company in 1975 and in 1977 became the President and majority owner. Shortly thereafter, Purnell moved the company to Reading, Pennsylvania to begin manufacturing wrestling uniforms under the brand name Brute Wrestling. At that time, the company began distributing through a network of sporting goods dealers. In 1989, a line of soccer uniforms was added under the name Liga Soccer. In 2003, the company product line was expanded to include custom uniforms for volleyball, softball and basketball under the brand name NeuEdge Sportswear. NeuEdge Sportswear quickly became one of the leading producers of custom sublimated team uniforms in the country. In 2010, Henson Group launched a lacrosse and field hockey line under the brand Evolve Team Sportswear. Today Henson Group Sports provides a complete line of top quality wrestling, lacrosse, softball, basketball and volleyball products and apparel to sporting goods dealers; amateur and professional athletic clubs and teams; and other buyers all over North America.

Contact Bryan Marshall at 217-362-6429 or