Alumni Plaza the center of the Dowagiac campus


Five women's basketball players

Cameron Thomas, Junahya Johnson, Charlee Balcom, Amara Palmer, Ariana Lemons

Five wrestlers

The Board of Trustees breakfast honored 10 wrestlers who qualified for nationals

Hesson, Caleb, Hector

Coach Todd Hesson talks about the wrestlers while All-American Caleb Ishmael and Scholar All-American Hector Garcia show off the hardware

Hardware from March to Missouri

Kamryn Patterson and Nalani Williams display plaques which trace the women's basketball journey to Missouri

Tori, Cameron, Macey, Charlee

Jay Daniels' women's basketball team hears about Dr. Mary Young-Marcks' 40-year SMC teaching career

Junahya Johnson, Detroit

Junahya Johnson, Detroit; Nalani Williams, St. Louis; and Ariana Lemons, Michigan City, Ind.

SMC Board Celebrates Athletics Success, Adds Three More Teams

Published on April 11, 2024 - 3 p.m.

The Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees celebrated athletics success at the national level on April 10 with a breakfast for the women’s basketball team and men’s wrestling’s 10 national qualifiers prior to its regular monthly meeting.

During the session in Mathews Conference Center West, the board also voted unanimously to expand athletics in Fall 2025 by adding women’s wrestling, women’s track and field and men’s track and field.

At the annual Long Range Planning meeting in March, college administration had provided data showing the growing popularity of high school girls’ wrestling in the area and the relatively few colleges offering the sport.

“There are only 22 NJCAA schools nationally offering women’s wrestling,” said Mike O’Brien, VP for Institutional Advancement at the time. “To our knowledge, SMC would be the first two-year college in Michigan to offer the sport. We want to provide scholarship opportunities for more young women to continue their passion for wrestling and compete for championships while preparing for a career.”

The addition of both women’s and men’s track and field will strengthen the overall running program at SMC and provide even more opportunities for athletes in sprinting, distance and throwing events.

Jay Jenkins’ women’s basketball team compiled a 27-5 record in his first year as coach, culminating in a trip to the NJCAA National Championships in Joplin, Mo. The Roadrunners, who went 15-1 at 1st Source Bank Fieldhouse, finished as MCCAA Western Conference and Great Lakes District B champions, with Jenkins named Great Lakes District B Coach of the Year.

All-American Cameron Thomas will continue her playing career for the NCAA Division 1 Stetson University Hatters in DeLand, Florida. Criminal justice major Macey Laubach plans on becoming a probation officer. Tori Eldridge will transfer to Ball State University to become a football manager. Kamryn Patterson eyes a real estate career. Nalani Williams wants to be a lawyer.

Board of Trustees Chairman Tom Jerdon said, “The board is very proud of you all. We thank you for taking a risk on SMC” when it returned to intercollegiate athletics in 2022 after a 25-year absence.

“Employers should really look at hiring college athletes because it’s harder than high school varsity with the time commitment, studying on the bus, playing through painful injuries and leaving whatever’s going on in your personal life in the parking lot. You have to have a short memory when you’re on the court or the mat, same as a career in sales, for instance.”

President Dr. Joe Odenwald added, “This college is in its 60th year because citizen leaders stepped up and said they wanted young people and adults to achieve their potential. When we watch you succeed on the mat, on the court or in the classroom, it’s all about reaching your potential.”

“These student athletes leave the college stronger,” Odenwald continued, “and make the economy stronger as they depart. Kudos to our coaches and others who recruited, developed, mentored and helped these students to the finish line.”

SMC Wrestler Caleb Ishmael was named NJCAA All-American in the 149-pound weight class.

In addition, five of Wrestling Head Coach Todd Hesson’s wrestlers, Nathan Andrina, Hector Garcia, Hunter Heath, Colby Klinger and Vinny Patierno, were selected NJCAA Scholar All-Americans by the National Wrestling Coaches Association.

SMC Wrestling finished 22nd at the NJCAA Nationals and 17th in Division 1 — eight spots higher than 2023.

“SMC bringing back sports was huge because it got these guys in school. Kids don’t always see education as an investment that will pay off five or 10 years down the road. The first year when you start a team, there’s a bond that ends up lasting forever,” Hesson said.

The 31 wrestlers’ majors include business, sports management, supply chain management, welding, construction trades and automotive technology.

In other business, trustees honored Dr. Mary Young-Marcks for over forty years of service and presented a five-year service pin to Andrew Wright of Stevensville.

Wright earned an associate degree in business in 2018 and joined the business office in 2019 while completing his bachelor’s degree in 2020 through the Ferris State University program. He was a cashier for two years, then in July 2021 became a staff accountant, primarily processing and managing accounts payable.

Trustees accepted a $1,000 gift to the college and acknowledged 12 donations to the SMC Foundation totaling $14,190.