Harris Family Athletic Complex unveiled to GVSU community
Facility will be home of Lakers' wrestling programs and feature resources and space for all student athletes.
Hundreds of Grand Valley administrators and student athletes along with program donors, supporters and guests gathered to officially dedicate the new home of the Grand Valley wrestling program — the Harris Family Athletic Complex — on September 13.
Built as an extension on the Fieldhouse, the Harris Family Athletic Complex houses a three-mat gymnasium with seating for 300 fans, a weight room, an expansive athletic training room available for all varsity athletes as well as offices for coaches and staff. The complex also features space for academic advising and development offices, a refueling station, and a lounge and study space for student athletes.
The men’s wrestling season begins with a match against Cornerstone University on November 1.
“I’m so excited about what men’s and women’s wrestling are going to do for Grand Valley and what they will bring to our athletic department and our institution,” said Director of Athletics Keri Becker. “You’re sitting in this new space that’s been made possible by all of you here.”
It was a substantial $3 million gift by John Harris, ’77, his wife, Diane, ’76, and the Harris family — Thomas Harris, ’80, his wife, Tammi, and John and Diane’s children, John and Meredith — that seeded the return of the men’s varsity program and the formation of a future women’s varsity program.
“It seems like not so long ago that we were dreaming about this moment, and here it is,” President Philomena V. Mantella said, addressing the Harrises. “It’s your lead gift, your generous gift, that got us up and running.”
Mantella said John Harris was devoted to the cause from day one, meeting with her in her office and displaying a PowerPoint presentation to make his case in rejuvenating the program.
The facility is named in honor of Jack and Dorcas Harris, parents of John and his brother, Thomas. The Harrises became key supporters of the Lakers' wrestling program when John joined the team in 1972.
“The Harris family began this journey about 30 years ago,” said John Harris, a former Grand Valley wrestling star and a member of the Lakers’ Athletics Hall of Fame.
“We lost wrestling, and it was a grave disappointment to us, and we said, ‘We’ve got to bring it back,’ and we vowed to do it. Now that I’m back here in this space, I have to say it’s quite overwhelming.
“I want to thank President Mantella. She has a great family pedigree of wrestling, and she understands the value of what the sport brings,” he said.
Along with the Harris family, more than 300 donors contributed to finance the complex’s construction and support the programs’ foundations.
Joey Simcoe was hired as men’s head wrestling coach in May after 11 seasons as the head coach at Tiffin University in Ohio. In mid-August, Jake Short was introduced as the women’s head wrestling coach.
“Thank you to President Mantella and the Harris family,” Simcoe said. “Without your vision, this wouldn’t be possible. Thank you to everyone in this room for making this possible.
“Grand Valley is the pinnacle of Division II athletics and will continue to be, and we look forward to being a piece to add to that legacy.”
In its 26-season span, men’s wrestling achieved national recognition competing in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) then at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II level.
Grand Valley won the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) championship five times and finished runner-up 10 times. On the national level, the Lakers finished runner-up twice and in fourth place three times at the NAIA national tournament
More than 50 Laker wrestlers were named All-Americans, including John Harris, who was a two-time NAIA All-American and a 1988 inductee into the Lakers Hall of Fame.
To learn more and help support the programs, visit gvsu.edu/giving/wrestling or call (616) 331-6000.
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