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2 committee chairs go to the mat for wrestling

Jackie Paquette, associate athletics director at UIndy and chair of the Division II Wrestling Committee, congratulated UIndy wrestler Brody Conner, a business management major, after he qualified for the 2018 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships. University of Indianapolis photo

Both Jackie Paquette and Karen Langston were new to wrestling when they began working in college athletics. But their careers led them to develop expertise in the sport, and now they’re leading the two committees that run the national wrestling championships for Divisions I and II.

Paquette, associate athletics director for student support and community engagement at UIndy, oversees the sport on her campus and is chair of the Division II Wrestling Committee. Langston, senior associate athletics director for external affairs and capital projects at California State University, Bakersfield, oversees it on her campus, too, and is chair of the Division I Wrestling Committee. Both women were elected to their positions because of their passion for and dedication to wrestling.

The two are leading their committees at dynamic times for the championships. In Division II, the committee seeded the top eight wrestlers in each weight class for the first time, and in Division I, the committee seeded all 33 wrestlers in each weight class for the first time.

“Division II had not seeded the NCAA tournament for over 10 years,” Paquette says. “Our committee felt that the wrestlers who beat nationally ranked opponents throughout the season should be seeded high. This way we can hopefully put everyone on a path that has been earned.”

Karen Langston

Langston said the decision to seed the entire Division I bracket for each weight class was a heavily debated topic. After everyone had their say, the committee decided seeding all competitors was best for the sport.

“The technology we use in the selection process provides us the opportunity to do this,” says Langston, who is the first woman to chair the Division I Wrestling Committee. “We seeded all 33 wrestlers in each weight class because we have the data to support it.”

After the hard work of selecting and bracketing the tournament is done, the committee members become like fans and enjoy the competition.

“I grew up playing all types of sports, and I’m a massive competitor,” says Langston, who was a member of the 1987 Division II champion women’s volleyball team at California State University, Northridge. “What I relate to wrestling most is how hard they work and how emotionally invested they are. The sportsmanship in the sport is amazing considering how physical the sport is.”

Paquette wasn’t a student-athlete, but she has always been a huge fan of athletics. “Since middle school, I’ve always been a person who helped behind the scenes to get things ready for the teams to play,” says Paquette, who plays an integral role in UIndy hosting one of the biggest Division II regular-season tournaments each December. “I travel with our wrestling team and handle all of the logistics. My dad jokes that I’ve found a way to make what I love doing a career. He can’t believe it.”

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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