(Editor's note: University of Providence athletics release)
GREAT FALLS -- The University of Providence athletic department announced the hiring of Matt Atwood as the head coach of the women's wrestling program Wednesday afternoon.
Atwood joins the program from Midland University in Fremont, Neb., where he served as the head coach of the women's program. Atwood takes over the program from Carlene Sluberski, who was hired as the head coach of the women's wrestling team at Eastern Oregon.
"We're really excited to welcome Matt to the University of Providence," athletic director Doug Hashley said. "He has all the right attributes we want for the head coach of our program, and we're excited to see where he can take us."
Before being promoted to the head coach of the women's wrestling program at Midland, Atwood served as the assistant coach for both the men's and women's programs. Before Midland, he was a volunteer assistant coach at Concordia University for one season. He also served as a student assistant at Concordia for a semester after graduating from the program in 2016.
Atwood also attained success on the mat. In his senior season at Concordia, he was named first-team all-conference in the Great Plains Athletic Conference and won the GPAC title. In high school, he won an individual state title and was part of three Kansas state championship teams.
"I couldn't be more excited to be at University of Providence and in the great state of Montana," Atwood said. "The support system at UP since I have arrived has been nothing short of amazing and I'm thankful for everyone making me feel at home."
Atwood joins a program that is well positioned for success. The team lost only two athletes to graduation after finishing third at the Cascade Collegiate Conference Championship and ended the season ranked No. 9 in the final NAIA coaches' poll. Eleven wrestlers had qualified to compete in the 2020 NAIA National Championship before it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This season, the Argos were ranked No. 9 in the 2020-21 NAIA preseason poll.
"I'm happy to see the program was ranked ninth this season," Atwood said. "Being in the top 10 is a good starting point, but I think I speak for the girls by saying we have higher goals than just being in the top 10. I truly believe we can have one of the top teams in the country this season, and I am excited to watch them compete."
Though he hasn't officially met the team in person, Atwood has been getting to know them over Zoom calls. He knows the upcoming season will be highly unusual during the pandemic, but is excited to see his team make the most of the opportunity given to them.
"COVID-19 has taken a toll on these athletes, no doubt about it," Atwood said. "It took a national tournament from them last season. I hope we can safely navigate through it and come out on the other side stronger and more motivated because of it. I expect to have a lot of fun watching this team and program grow. I'm very excited for the future of this program and to watch these young ladies develop, not only athletically, but academically and spiritually."