Titan wrestlers volunteer to fix practice facility, save thousands


Lydia Sanchez

UW Oshkosh practice wrestling facility currently being renovated by Titan wrestling team.

Evan Moris, Assistant Sports Editor

The UW Oshkosh wrestling team has taken a hands-on approach this offseason by volunteering to be a part of the reconstruction and repair process of the Kolf sports center practice wrestling facilities to cut expenses and save money.

The Kolf wrestling room was due for improvement after years of practice on old mats and low ceiling tiles. The budget ran tight and the money was not there for a facility upgrade.

The UWO wrestling team wanted to raise the ceiling so the athletes could have more vertical to train in. Facilities Management Director JoAnn Rife is part of the planning committee for the Kolf wrestling room upgrade.

“In a previous life, the current wrestling room had been a dance studio,” Rife said.

The team sent a request to Rife to remove the ceiling, and an evaluation and estimate was done of the facilities.

“Review of work was completed against the standing UW System and state of WI policies for compliance and flow through the appropriate established process,” Rife said.
Head coach Efrain Ayala said an upgrade to the Kolf wrestling facility was necessary.

“This has been a long time coming,” Ayala said. “This room has not had a major renovation in a very long time.”

The finite amount of work needed in the renovation processes would not involve the review by higher, level boards, Rife said.

“In this case, the limited scope of work does not involve the change to the mechanical, electrical, structural and plumbing infrastructure of the built environment and is limited in trades to be used,” Rife said. “Thus this can be completed by campus facilities personnel without review by the UW System or state or WI Department of Administration’s Division of Facilities Development and Management.”
With the review able to bypass further evaluation, a suggestion to have volunteer workers was brought forward, Rife said.

“That was reviewed with campus risk management,” Rife said. “It was determined that the work that could be completed by volunteers would be limited in scope.”
The volunteers would need to be taught what to do, complete paperwork and be under a watchful eye during the rebuild.

“Each volunteer is to be properly trained and have filled out the necessary liability forms and was to be supervised by authorized personnel,” Rife said.

After the pre-construction paperwork had been completed, plans were laid out and the process of starting the upgrade of the Kolf wrestling room could begin.
“After agreement on the scope and cost of the project, a work order was submitted,” Rife said. “Work was scheduled and materials were ordered. Training for volunteers was scheduled and completed. It is anticipated that the work will be completed in time for the team’s fall season.”

Senior captain Mark Choinski said this process did not start recently but has been a work in progress for years.

“The whole process started when I first got here my freshman year four years ago,” Choinski said. “That’s when [coach] Efrain started moving the program. He was able to purchase us a new competition mat. Then he moved to getting our practice room new mats. Those alone are so much money, the funding was hard to get. Build a list on what we need first based on priorities. We got the mats. We’re building the team, getting more and more people involved, more community involved. It’s been on the agenda for years now.”

The list of changes to be done to the wrestling room are centered around the ceiling and athletic equipment.

“The ceiling needs to be removed and new LED light fixtures need to be mounted to the deck above,” Rife said. “Of note, there are several conduits that will remain in their current locations; thus this work gains approximately one foot of clear space. Existing radiant heat panels along exterior wall may need to stay as well.”

After completing the proper training conducted by UWO EH&S Specialist Lori Welch and handing in all paperwork, the UWO athletes will be able to assist with many parts the renovation process.

“General labor for the protection of or removal of all athletic equipment and mats from the affected area(s),” Rife said. “Removal of the ceiling tile and grid as directed, disposal to the dumpster of removed materials as directed, clean-up of the site, painting of the walls and restoration of the athletic equipment back into the space(s) including mats.”

Choinski has volunteered to use his personal painting company to reduce costs significantly.

“If I wasn’t volunteering my work, this would be a $10,000-$12,000 painting job,” Choinski said. “That alone is going to save our program a lot of money. Its thousands of dollars we’re saving by us being able to get these safety regulations okayed. This will cut the [wrestling] budget in less than half.”

Choinski said the team has begun its part in the renovation process but is still waiting for clearance to move forward with the project.

“We’ve done everything we’ve needed to do, and in two or three days we tore it all up ourselves,” Choinski said. “It’s actually going really quick on our end; it’s the other end that we’re waiting for. All the safety regulations and paperwork. This whole [renovation] process started a few weeks ago, but we’ve only put in a few days of work [as a team].”

Ayala said the upgrade won’t only benefit the current wrestlers but the future of the program as well.

“Any time we can improve our training facilities, people get excited,” Ayala said. “The room has not had a facelift in quite some time so this is very much deserved and needed. It also helps with recruitment. It’s really nice to show off the facilities to new recruits and be proud of our spaces.”

Choinski said the renovation will have its pros and cons for the UWO wrestling team.

“Height-wise we’re going to have double,” Choinski said. “There’s pros and cons to that. As wrestlers we like the room really hot so we can sweat. Now it’s going to be more chill in the room. Visually it’s going to be a lot bigger.”

Choinski said if everything goes as scheduled, the Kolf practice facilities will be ready by the start of the 2018 season.

“If we can get everyone else on board it shouldn’t take us much longer,” Choinski said. “We knocked out the floor part of it. The hardest part of it is done. I thought we’d be done this week. Once we get the okay, should be finished in time for the Sidewalk Scuffle on Oct. 13th.”

UWO Facility Management HVAC supervisor Tom Giesen will oversee the scheduled timeline of the facility.