The Southeast Regional Training Center (SERTC) probably doesn’t get the publicity that it should.
The SERTC is one of the most important cogs in the Virginia Tech wrestling machine, and is one of the biggest reasons Virginia Tech wrestling has been a perennial top-10 program for the last few seasons. Most fans don’t know about the SERTC or what it does, but new Virginia Tech wrestling Head Coach Tony Robie is doing his best to change that.
The SERTC is an RTC (Regional Training Center) based on Virginia Tech’s campus. Simply put, an RTC is a training center for national-level wrestling athletes to train year-round. An RTC is not part of a college wrestling program; it is a separate entity, with its own staff and “resident athletes” who train at the RTC. The resident athletes are generally former collegiate wrestlers who have used up their eligibility and are now training for national competition beyond college. RTC coaches may or may not also be college coaches; in the case of the SERTC, Tony Robie and Tech assistant coaches Jared Frayer and Frank Molinaro are on the SERTC coaching staff as well.
Even though an RTC isn’t part of a college wrestling program, an RTC staffed with high-level coaches and high-level resident athletes benefits a college wrestling program because the college wrestlers can train not just with their own coaches and teammates, but with the resident athletes and coaches at the RTC. A good, vibrant and well-funded RTC is a great recruiting tool and development tool for a college program.
Robie says that the NCAA loosened rules and regulations regarding RTCs a few years ago, and that the reforms have allowed RTCs to become one of the most important functions of a wrestling program.
“It’s really kind of blossomed here in the last four or five years. It’s really went to another level,” Robie said. “USA Wrestling has really promoted the RTC (Regional Training Center) model. It allows Olympic-level, world class wrestlers to train, most of the time, where they went to college. It allows them the opportunity to train with college guys.
“From that point forward, it’s really become commonplace in wrestling,” Robie said. “It’s really a necessity if you want to compete for NCAA trophies and an NCAA team title. You have to have a strong regional training center on campus supporting additional athletes.”
Robie, who’s coached at Virginia Tech since 2006, has been instrumental to the SERTC since its inception roughly four years ago. What started as the Hokie Mat Club has now become one of the most important parts of the Virginia Tech wrestling program, even though the two (VT Wrestling and the SERTC) are completely separate.
The SERTC was created to foster opportunities for coaches and wrestlers at the national level. The 501 (c)(3) organization aims to promote the sport and to develop wrestlers in Blacksburg, while also helping contribute to the success of the program. All of the staff and residents train and work inside Virginia Tech’s wrestling room inside Jamerson Athletic Center.
The SERTC has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception. The organization boats four staff members, two of which are still competing wrestlers. Robie runs the entire organization, while Virginia Tech assistant Jared Frayer serves as a the development coach. Virginia Tech assistant coach Frank Molinaro coaches and trains at the SERTC, as does Ty Walz, who recently graduated from Virginia Tech. The SERTC pays all four staff members, while also funding offseason trips to wrestling events and tournaments.
“Really, what it is, it allows us to keep guys like Ty Walz around here to train in Blacksburg, to be a part of our program, and it allows him an opportunity to chase his dreams of making Olympic and World teams, and continuing to compete beyond college,” Robie said.
Keeping the SERTC going takes a ton of work, most of which is fundraising-related. Since Virginia Tech athletics is not allowed to help fund the SERTC, Robie and his assistants, as well as board members, are responsible for soliciting donations. A list of donors and donation levels can be found here.
“We’re always looking to bring new donors in and help support the program,” Robie said. “That’s what it’s going to take for us to get to the next level, bring more people in and more dollars into the Southeast Regional Training Center, so we can get to the level of a Penn State or Ohio State.”
One of the reasons Robie is pushing the SERTC is to help with recruiting. If Virginia Tech can offer recruits the chance to train with guys like Molinaro and Frayer, both of whom are former Olympians, the Hokies should be competitive on the recruiting trail when it comes to the best of the best.
“If you’re one of the top kids in the country, a top high school prospect in the country, the sport of wrestling is a very hands-on sport,” Robie said. “It’s not like a lot of other sports, where we just coach our guys. We’re in there, on the mat with them, wrestling with them and training with the. There’s a lot of physical contact with them throughout their development. Take Penn State for instance — when you have nine guys, in addition to their four coaches, that are on campus training in State College, it allows them access to those additional athletes. It is a big deal.
“We’re in a position where we can track Olympic hopefuls and say, ‘Hey, I want to get coached by Jared Frayer and I want to train with Frank Molinaro, and I want to be at Virginia Tech.’ It’s a matter of getting those resources and funding those guys,” Robie said.
The growth of the SERTC is essential to the growth of Virginia Tech wrestling. Robie says that as the team continues to cement themselves as one of the elite programs, a fully functional and powerful SERTC will allow the Hokies to push themselves into the cream of the crop.
“It’s incredibly important,” Robie said. “It’s the direction college wrestling is going right now. Every program has a regional training center. A lot of these regional training centers have coaches who coach specifically for the regional training center, and they’re not employed by the university.
“We want to be on a level player field with Ohio State, Penn State, and the Southeast Regional Training is one way we can kind of catch up with those guys.”