Auburn University Mat Cats pin down all of the wrestling team’s needs.
The Mat Cats are the hostess organization for the Auburn Wrestling Club. From providing water to watching the wrestler’s weight, the Mat Cats do everything they can for the wrestling team.
“We are there to show them moral support,” said Michelle Gropper, senior in accounting and finance and president of the Mat Cats. “But we also video tape and score all of their matches. We really just want to show them that we’re there for them.”
The Mat Cats formed in the early ’90s when the University changed wrestling from a varsity sport to a club sport. Since then, the Mat Cats have operated with 20-25 girls every year to show their support for their favorite sport.
“We really want to get girls interested in the sport,” Gropper said. “Everyone is here because they have fallen in love with the sport, whether it was in high school or since they came to college.”
The Mat Cats’ main duties, outside of cheering as hard as they can for the Tigers, are to video tape and score all of the wrestling team’s matches.
This means the team travels to all of the wrestling team’s matches, whether they are in Marion or in Hampton, Va., for the National Collegiate Wrestling Association national championships.
Amanda Burns, sophomore in pre-nursing and vice president of the Mat Cats, said the most rewarding part of being a Mat Cat was being recognized for their contributions at tournaments.
“At nationals the past few years we have been asked to help out,” Burns said. “It feels good that they trust us enough to help out.”
The Mat Cats do all of their own fundraising in order to travel to every tournament. In addition to other fundraising efforts, the Mat Cats are employed by the University to clean up the coliseum after big events.
“To keep costs down we clean up after basketball games and gymnastics meets,” Burns said. “That means we literally walk through the rows and pick up all of the trash.”
Gropper said the Mat Cats’ traveling experiences and extensive fundraising have led to a close relationship with the team.
“It seems like we celebrate someone’s birthday every week,” Gropper said. “We are a very tight-knit group because we are all here for the same reason; that we love wrestling.”
William Griffin, junior in chemical engineering and president of the wrestling club, said the wrestling team appreciates the Mat Cats.
“They are a huge help to us,” Griffin said. “It’s nice to get of off the mat to a bottle of water. Having them around allows the wrestler to focus on the match instead of keeping track of food and medical forms. It helps everything run a lot smoother.”
Griffin said any girl interested in joining the Mat Cats should attend one of the wrestling team’s practices to get a feel for the sport.
“It’s a great organization; a great way to help out,” Griffin said. “You get to travel a lot and it’s a great way to get involved.”
The NCWA season starts Oct. 31, which means the Mat Cats start coliseum clean-up duty this week.
Gropper said the Mat Cats’ effort is worth the reward.
“Some wrestlers may not always show their appreciation, but they take notice of who’s there and what we do,” Gropper said. “We really grow to become a family.”