LA GRANDE — Eastern Oregon University spent November welcoming a new head coach to the Mountaineers women’s wrestling squad with the hiring of Carlene Sluberski.
Formerly at the University of Providence in Great Falls, Montana, where she led the Argos to a top-10 ranking and a third place conference finish last year, Sluberski brings experience and enthusiasm to the Mounties grappling squad.
“I am very excited to be at Eastern,” Sluberski said. “It’s been awesome. Obviously, coming in at this time is kind of crazy, and (I’m) just trying to keep my head above water. It’s not a bad thing at all, it’s just crazy. I am, I’m really excited to be at Eastern, it’s a good place and I think they do things the right way, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
While taking the reins of a new team during the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging, she said that she was excited to help grow both Eastern’s program and the women’s wrestling sport as a whole.
Sluberski had high praise for EOU athletics and for the athletes on her team.
“It’s not like a huge team, but there’s a lot of good character there, good people,” she said. “They’re focused, very driven. I think that, as a whole, the individuals have high standards for themselves and high expectations … it’s a good group.”
Drive, focus and high personal standards are a facet of women’s wrestling, Sluberski said, adding that one of the reasons she loves the sport is the constant challenges it provides.
“You know, when you step out on the mat, it’s only you. You can’t hide anything. You can’t hide that you didn’t put the work in — it shows,” she said. “I think it kind of gives you a sense of personal responsibility for yourself and you figure out a way to get things done and how to do your best.”
A native of upstate New York, Sluberski got involved in women’s wrestling in elementary school. She credited her own coaches during her younger years with seeing the potential not only in her, but in women’s wrestling as a sport.
Women’s wrestling has rapidly expanded in the last decade as more and more schools expand their athletic programs to include women in the sport.
“I graduated high school in 2009, and I think there were about 10 colleges in the entire U.S. that offered women’s wrestling, and now there’s over 80, I believe,” Sluberski said.
More and more states have officially sanctioned and recognized women’s wrestling in that time as well. Sluberski said that, while only a handful had sanctioned the sport a decade ago, 23 to 25 states had done so since then.
While the pandemic is sure to keep Sluberski and her squad guessing as to when they can step back onto the mat, her hiring is sure to keep the spirit of women’s wrestling alive and well on Eastern’s campus.