Hickman High School wrestling coach Doug Black dreads rainy days. Precipitation turns his practice room into a series of puddles.
“When it rains, it leaks water really bad,” he said. “It leaks in 40 or 50 different spots. It’s not a very pleasant room.”
Wrestlers enter their practice area, under the bleachers of Hickman’s football stadium, by walking across the back parking lot and through the men’s bathroom.
Black also worries about unnecessary knee and ankle sprains from students bumping into bare walls during practice.
“It’s dangerous,” he said. “Because of the cramped space, we have more injuries than we should.”
Bucky Pescaglia, parent of two Kewpie wrestlers, said the practice room is an embarrassment.
“It’s shocking to see a school with such a large enrollment have such a poor facility,” he said.
Those concerns prompted Pescaglia and others to propose plans for a new $500,000 to $700,000 wrestling facility. The Friends of Hickman Wrestling booster club paid an architect to draft plans for a new building.
On Monday night, the Columbia Board of Education approved those preliminary plans.
The district’s facilities committee will also review the proposal and explore a possible partnership between the district and the booster club.
Board member Elton Fay asked about the possibility of expanding the building to accommodate other activities, which would cost more than the current proposed project. Deputy School Superintendent Jacque Cowherd said the plans are promising.
“At this point, the administration believes the wrestling facility will not only enhance wrestling, but also other programs at Hickman,” he said.
Because no money is budgeted for construction of the building, the booster club would be responsible for raising the funds.
“It’s not going to be easy,” said Pescaglia, who is the booster club president. “But if the public sees what we have now and what we’re trying to provide, they will support us.”
Architect Stuart Scroggs, who drew up the design, told the board the free-standing building would be south of Hickman’s existing tennis courts. Measuring 105 feet by 60 feet, Scroggs said the facility would feature two 40-by-40-foot practice areas, a weight room, coach’s office, storage space and two locker rooms.
“This will be a very functional place for the team to practice,” Scroggs said. “This facility will enable them to raise the level of the wrestling program.”
Black agreed, saying the added space would allow him to recruit more wrestlers. Now, about 30 students practice in a space designed for 15. Black said the new building would accommodate as many as 60.
“You get a nice place to work out and you get more kids involved,” he said.
Black also envisions other uses for the building during the offseason, including tumbling classes, cheerleading practice and a place for football meetings.
“People don’t want to use our room now because it’s not nice,” he said. “This is going to be a first-class room. The kids will finally have a place to be proud of.”
Scroggs estimated that, after the money is raised, the building could be constructed in six to eight months.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the board approved a change in policy that no longer allows the Missouri Division of Family Services to interview students on school grounds. The change puts Columbia in compliance with a state law passed during the last legislative session.
“It’s going to affect procedures as they relate to the DFS,” Cowherd said. “But nothing else.”