Monday, May 26, 2008

A day to remember

A day to remember

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I was there when Doug Zembiec became an All-American. Wrestling for the US Naval Academy in the NCAA championships in Iowa City in 1995, Zembiec finished eighth and earned his AA status. I wish I could say that I remember all of his matches – it would make for a better story. In fact – I don’t remember any of them.

The son of an FBI agent, Doug Zembiec was a two-time state champion at Albuquerque La Cueva High School. In an interview in the Albuquerque Journal, his wrestling coach, Ron Owen, remembered, “Whatever you asked of him he was going to do it, and then he was going to do a little more. He had a super work ethic and led by example. He was one tough kid.”

Upon graduation from the Naval Academy, Zembiec was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. In 1999 his Force Reconnaissance Platoon was one of the first special operations forces to enter Kosovo. In 2004 (then Captain) Zembiec became famous as the “Lion of Fallujah” – a name given to him by his comrades.

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He was decorated for bravery for his actions as a rifle company commander during the month-long campaign. He would receive the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with Combat V, the Purple Heart and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal. In November of 2004 he was rotated home for a stateside assignment and in July of 2005 he was promoted to Major. He would not be home long. Doug Zembiec felt that his ultimate role was that of a combat leader, so he went back to Iraq. On May 11, 2007 – just a little more than a year ago – Major Doug Zembiec was killed by small arms fire in Iraq. He left behind a wife and young daughter.

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Too often we forget that the young men and women who go to war and die are sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters, and husbands and wives, and moms and dads and – yes – wrestling teammates.

Lance Corporal Randy L Newman was a high school wrestler in Oregon before joining the Marines. He was killed August, 2006 by a roadside bomb.

Marine Sgt. Brian McGinnis’ high school wrestling coach tried to convince him to go to college. Instead, McGinnis enlisted in the Marines. He died March 30, 2003 when his helicopter crashed.

Army Sergeant Damien Ficek was captain of both the football and wrestling teams at Beaverton (OR) High School. Two months after graduating in 1996 Ficek enlisted in the army – eventually becoming a Ranger where he served until the end of his enlistment in 2000. In July, 2002 Ficek enlisted in the Army National Guard. He was a student at Washington State University when his unit was called up and deployed to Iraq. He was killed by small arms fire December 30, 2004 near Baghdad.

Army Staff Sergeant Patrick Lybert was an Eagle Scout and a high school wrestler. On June 21, 2006 in Afghanistan his unit came under a sudden violent attack. The unit was in the process of stowing recently arrived supplies and was caught off guard. Sgt. Lybert was the first to be able to return fire and did so until the rest of the unit could join him. Sgt. Lybert was killed in the action and posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his valor.

While in high school, Marine Sergeant Glen Martinez finished third in the Colorado state high school wrestling tournament. Less then a month ago he was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

So, today – before you head to the Memorial Day furniture sale or before you fire up the grill for the family picnic – take a few moments to remember the fallen – and their families.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Where does it all end?

Where does it all end?

Wrestling has been a part of education for 2,500 years. Socrates said, “I swear it upon Zeus, an outstanding runner cannot be the equal of an average wrestler.” Last Tuesday, May 13, 2008, Arizona State University eliminated wrestling (along with men’s swimming and men’s tennis) from its’ athletic opportunities. Here is a link to the university’s press release from Lisa Love, Vice President for Athletics.

http://www.intermatwrestle.com/news/newsdisplay.aspx?ID=7262

Heritage doesn’t matter.

The Sun Devils are one of only eleven teams to ever win the NCAA Division I team championship – and the ONLY team west of Oklahoma to do so. They have produced numerous All-Americans, several NCAA individual champions a World Freestyle champion and a couple of Olympic Silver medallists. Former NFL defensive star, Curley Culp, won an NCAA heavyweight championship for ASU in 1967.

Apparently a rich tradition is not enough to save a sport.

Here’s 7X US Freestyle champion, 1992 Olympic Silver Medalist and Arizona State graduate, Zeke Jones, winning his 1991 World Freestyle Gold Medal.




Reaction

As you would expect, the wrestling community is shocked and outraged. In an interview appearing in Wednesday’s (5/14/08) Des Moines Register, Bobby Douglas, the man who coached the 1988 Sun Devils to their NCAA team title was quoted as saying, “More than anything, if Arizona State goes, the West goes. In an interview in Thursday’s Iowa City Press-Citizen, Douglas also said, “I’m really frightened for wrestling. We don’t have that many friends. Wrestling is not a favorite sport of many athletic directors …” In the same Press-Citizen article legendary, former University of Iowa coach, Dan Gable, said, “To me there is no program that’s totally safe…”

Longtime Arizona State wrestling booster and benefactor, Art Martori (founder of Sunkist Kids wrestling) was quoted in Wednesday’s Arizona Republic, "When they commissioned that building (the Riches Wrestling Complex), I shook Lisa Love's hand and said in my speech that hopefully ASU would never use Title IX as an excuse to get rid of wrestling," Martori said. "All these schools have a book on how to drop sports and which ones to drop so they don't push back. Talking about an endowment now is absolute (expletive) after you've let all the horses out of the barn instead of coming to us before. We asked her to please come to us if she ever wanted to cut it. I know three people who would have put up a minimum of $50,000 per year."
Of course, the internet is abuzz on both sides of the issue. The relative importance of college athletics is a frequent topic of posts.


“Eliminate all sports from academia. College is for learning, not playing games.”


“Put the money they spend on sports into education and there would be more successful human beings.”


Really?


Some historians claim that Socrates’ most famous pupil, Aristocles, was renamed Plato because of his broad wrestling stance.


One of the most influential scientists of our time, Nobel laureate, Dr. Norman Borlaug, has frequently cited his high school wrestling coach as being the educator that influenced him most by teaching him tenacity and perseverance.


Novelist, John Irving (a former college wrestler) has said, “The discipline of wrestling has given me the discipline to write.”


Just what is opportunity?


Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." It was landmark legislation that changed the landscape of American education. One of my daughters played college tennis and graduated from law school – two things that would have been far more difficult without Title IX.


Every time a wrestling program is dropped Title IX is roundly criticized by the sports’ advocates. The law is a good law – its’ interpretation has gone awry. Proportionality is one of the guidelines of Title IX compliance. The concept is that participation opportunity percentages for each gender should mirror the gender percentages of the general student population of a particular school. In other words, if 56% of the students at Whatsis University are women, then 56% of the athletes representing Whatsis should also be women. Without question, this has lead to far more opportunities for women to compete in intercollegiate athletics. Traditional sports like softball, swimming and volleyball all exploded in popularity. Colleges added teams in field hockey and soccer. Some colleges got creative and added things like competitive cheer and rowing (in a corn field). More recently, women’s lacrosse has started to spread west into the heartland and is providing even more young women an opportunity to experience intercollegiate athletics.


However, in these challenging budgetary times many college athletic directors have given up on trying to increase opportunities for women. Instead they take the easier road – the elimination of men’s teams. It’s not just wrestling – look at the roster of sports teams at many colleges and universities and you’ll find women’s tennis – but not men’s; women’s gymnastics – but not men’s; women’s swimming – but not men’s; softball – but not baseball. Title IXs’ most vocal proponents will point out – accurately – that even with the reduction of men’s teams the gender participation gap remains.


At first blush, the proportionality guideline seems straightforward. However, the question that is never allowed to be answered meaningfully is, “Are enough women interested in intercollegiate athletics to fill all of the roster spots needed?” Title IXs’ most powerful advocacy group, The Women’s Sports Foundation, vehemently opposes interest measurement in any way.


Let’s look at this in another way. In 2005 20% of all undergraduate and graduate engineering degrees were awarded to women. Is this because engineering schools are discriminating against women? On the contrary, they are investing heavily in trying to recruit female students. But it appears – after 30 years of universities and professional engineering societies trying to attract more women to the field – women are not interested in engineering at the same level men are. If colleges and universities were forced to apply proportionality to this discipline as they are with athletics then Title IX would be mandating the closure of most engineering programs.


At what point do you bring educational opportunities for Arizona high school students into the argument? Over 5,400 students participated in high school wrestling there last year. Those students now have no opportunity to have wrestling as a part of their education at a major university in their home state. In fact, these young people now only have Embry-Riddle and Grand Canyon University as home state options if they want to continue wrestling. The backlash from this is down the road. Youth and high school wrestling continue to grow in popularity. Who’s going to teach and coach these kids ten years from now if the most likely candidates are forced to go out of state to compete in the sport they love while earning a degree in education?
Wrestling is the most democratic of sports. You don’t have to be 6’7”, or weigh 300 pounds, or run a fast 40 to win a championship. The athlete that works the hardest, learns the most and perseveres almost always triumphs. In what other sport would you find an athlete with one leg come within one overtime match of standing on the medal stand at his sport’s major college championship? Anthony Robles, Arizona State’s freshman 125-pounder did just that. Anthony embodies everything that is great about wrestling and had always dreamed of being a Sun Devil. He must now look elsewhere.


And then there’s the money


Most institutions of higher learning – especially state schools – are under serious financial pressure. Declining tax support, increased enrollments and shifting demographics are straining budgets everywhere. Almost no wrestling programs generate enough revenue to support themselves. Only the University of Iowa has averaged over 7,000 fans in attendance the past two years. Schools like Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Minnesota will average in the 3,500 – 4,500 range. With only six or seven home meets a year at most schools, ticket sales contribute little to the finances of the wrestling programs. Many schools earn additional money operating wrestling camps. The success of these camps largely depends on the success and profile of the school’s coaching staff and the popularity of youth wrestling in surrounding areas. But when it’s all tallied, almost all wrestling teams are “in the red”.


So what do we do – quit?


Haven’t you been reading? That’s not what wrestlers do.


I’m just a fan, but I have some suggestions.


We need a leader.


Many people play leadership roles throughout the sport. However, most of them have their own particular constituencies and agendas. We need someone with a high profile who’s out there on the front lines and has the power and ability to pull disparate factions together for a unified cause. I nominate Dennis Hastert. He has taught, coached wrestling and has retired from congress. I don’t know who would be better. Congressman, will you do it?


Add more opportunities for women.


Athletic directors need to address the real mission of Title IX and work harder to offer more women’s sports. May I suggest women’s wrestling? A few schools have added women’s teams in the past two years and the National Wrestling Coaches Association has added a women’s division to its’ National Dual Tournament. This is going to be hard work. We have to start by giving girls more exposure to wrestling.


We also need another Division I NCAA school to add a women’s team. High school wrestling is exploding in Texas and it is one of the few states with separate boys and girls championships. If one of the Texas Big XII schools would add both men’s and women’s wrestling we would make great strides.


Win in the court of public opinion.


Here’s my dream scenario – Anthony Robles, bi-lateral amputee and 2001 NCAA Division III national champion, Nick Ackerman, and Olympic medallist Patricia Miranda are all on Oprah talking about the world’s oldest and greatest sport. More than the wrestling community must care about the future of the sport.


Make wrestling an urban sport.


According to Al Bevilacqua of Beat the Streets more than half of America’s middle school and high school students have no opportunity to wrestle interscholastically – primarily in our nations’ largest urban areas. Someone needs to take the lead in Detroit and Chicago the way that Al and his associates have done in New York. Urban wrestling participation will put greater pressure on colleges to offer opportunities commensurate with the needs of their constituencies. It will also grow the sport’s support base.


Endow – and how!


As the week has progressed the feeling has grown that, just maybe, ASU made this announcement to blackmail major donors into endowing the program. I don’t know if that’s true or not. However, one way to turn the fortunes of college wrestling around might be to permanently endow the sport at as many colleges and universities as possible. There’s no guarantee that will work. Alumni at Marquette University fully endowed their program and it was still dropped. But – I would suggest that it might go a long way to reversing the current trends.


Oh yeah - don’t wait until the elimination announcement has been made before you decide to save your favorite team! Do it now!


I have used a lot of resources to write this blog.


Jason Bryant’s blogs have been a major help.


http://intermat.wordpress.com/


As previously cited, I have used articles from The Des Moines Register, The Iowa City Press-Citizen and The Arizona Republic.


I also relied heavily on John Irving’s 2003 New York Times essay, “Wrestling With Title IX”.


http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C00E2DB1339F93BA15752C0A9659C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=2


Folks, if you really love wrestling - athlete, coach or fan – we have to spend less time arguing about who’s to blame and a lot more time advancing the cause.

Monday, May 12, 2008

But, Mom - I really want to wrestle!

But, Mom – I really want to wrestle!

Several years ago my wife and I were at the Big Ten Championships at Wisconsin. We were watching the late first night consolation rounds when my wife poked me in the arm and said, “Look.” She then pointed, literally, up into the rafters of the old “Barn” in Madison. There, by herself, was the mother of a wrestler from Purdue whose match was going on at that moment. You know the scenario, win and maybe you go to nationals, lose and your season is over. She paced, she covered her eyes, she yelled – she agonized. Eventually her son won and moved on to wrestle the next day. I wish I could tell you the rest of her story, but I didn’t pay enough attention.
However, that was the moment when my fascination with the mothers of wrestlers began.

I met Dee Pollard at the 2008 NCAA Division III Championships. Her son, Joe, (a former wrestler at the Peddie School and then Rider) is on the coaching staff at The College of New Jersey. I mentioned to her that earlier in the evening I had watched the mother of a TCNJ wrestler as her son had scored a late takedown to ensure himself All-American status. Dee then talked a little about being the mother of a wrestler. I recently asked her to share a few of those thoughts.

“Joey was eleven years old when he started with Hamilton (NJ) PAL league. He was excited to join because his dad wrestled in high school. Joey got serious with wrestling when he was fifteen years old. That is when he began wrestling year round and attending clubs. Wrestling was number one to him instead of soccer. Wrestling started to take over his lifestyle. He was always working out or lifting or running. He was always doing something that pertained to wrestling, even watching wrestling tapes when he could. I was always there for his matches. It didn't matter what part of the state or the country he was wrestling in, I was there. I did the videoing of all his matches. If it got tense I handed the camera over to another mom and she did it for me. I think it would drive me crazy if I wasn't there because then I would worry if he (was) ok, did he win or lose, is he hurt. I couldn't stand not being there. I had to watch him wrestle because I'm his mom. I had to make sure he was ok win or lose.”

I asked Dee if she ever got over being nervous.

“No I don't think i stopped being nervous from the time he started to now. Because he is coaching now … I'm still nervous because now I have ten weight classes I have to watch and be nervous about. But there is a bonus, my son is the coach … I'm so proud of my Joey. He makes me, as his mom, proud everyday of my life. I couldn't of asked for a better son. I love both of my kids equally. I enjoy wrestling and would miss it if he ever gave it up.”

By definition, no relationship is one sided. Here are some thoughts Joe shared about his mother.

“My moms influence on me as it pertains to wrestling takes up many facets. She was a caretaker, a motivator, a provider and she was even part of my high school superstitions. Now, don't get me wrong my father played just as important a role in my development as a wrestler and an individual, but this is for Mothers Day, so I will focus on her.”

“Caretaker- she was there for me win or lose. Although, it did take a while for her to understand the "wait time" after a loss. You know, the time every wrestler needs to evaluate (aka "explode with emotion") their performance. At first she used to want to come up and give me a hug and tell me I wrestled hard. Then she realized that I knew I wrestled hard, but a loss was a loss. As my career grew on, she knew the wait time did also, as my training grew losses hurt even more. So, after a while she would just casually walk by and wink at me and that allowed me to put things into perspective, that a loss is a loss and it is supposed to hurt, but I would be able to train and compete again the next day, so it was not the end of the world.””Provider- she was at every single match I ever wrestled I think. I can't remember one match looking up into the stands and not seeing my parents there. The sacrifices they made to allow me to train and achieve and wrestle at the level I have are amazing.””Motivator- She may not give Vince Lombardi or Dan Gable worthy motivational speeches, but all she had to do was tell me "good luck and this is why you train the way you do" and it was more than enough.””Superstitions - In high school I used to look up in the stands at her just before stepping on the mat and she would wink at me and that was just another indicator that it was "go time".””My mom is an amazing person, wrestling fan, caretaker, motivator, provider and of course … mom. I could never repay my mom and dad for they have sacrificed in order for me to live the "wrestling lifestyle", because that’s what wrestling is, especially in New Jersey, it is a lifestyle. You have to allow the sport and the training (both physical and mental) to consume you and then and only then will you feel a true sense of accomplishment.” ”… I'm sure you could ask any number of wrestlers and they would have very similar stories about their moms! Wrestling moms are one of a kind, there is no question about it.”

I took Joe’s suggestion and asked some “friends of the blog” to write about the influence their mothers have had on them as individuals and wrestlers.

From 1988 Olympian and wrestling instructor extraordinaire, Ken Chertow…

“Both of my parents were integral to my success. My mom was always there for me throughout my childhood, while my dad was busy working intensely to support our family and pursue his career goals. My mom saw a beginners wrestling program advertised in our community and encouraged me to try it. She took me too my first practice and I have been hitting the mats ever since. Though I was not successful in my initial years wrestling in the Midwest, I kept wanting to do more and she was always willing to get me to the wrestling room.””Without my parents unwavering support throughout my teenage years, none of the success I achieved on or off the mats would have been possible. I went to junior high and high school in West Virginia and there was not access to a lot of high-level competition and coaching, but I made the most of it. I would spend my summers at camps to learn as much as possible, and my mom would help me plan the schedule and budget so I could benefit as much as possible.” ”Not too many WV wrestlers go to college, let alone earn the opportunity to go to Penn State, so I was very proud that was able to excel in school and wrestling and earn a scholarship to Penn State. When I went away to college, my mom gave me a good luck card that said
"Don't settle for being good...when you dream of being great!"
I kept that card on my dresser throughout college. I even took it with me to the Olympic Trials in Florida, and I still remember vividly reading it multiple times before I would leave my hotel room to go to the arena for sessions. My mom's words of encouragement definitely helped me live my dreams and make our Olympic Team. I often share my mom's words of encouragement with my dedicated campers and strive to motivate them to think big and work hard so their dreams will come true too.”

Cornell College coach, Mike Duroe, sent this …

“Being the oldest of five boys, (all wrestlers) my mother influenced me in a very strong way about being independent and standing on my own two feet. I had to do a lot of things in terms of work around the house, helping with my younger brothers and in general "being in charge." Constantly hearing, "if you want to be better you have to work at it" forced me to develop a strong work ethic early on. For sure some of that on the job training and being in charge has definitely influenced my coaching.”

Growing up in a small Iowa town, Charles City, which had a rich wrestling tradition was also a part of it, but the family support system, Mom being at everything she could be, practices, games, meets, etc., encouraged me and my brothers to excel in everything we did in terms of sports. School and academics were important too but sports and specifically wrestling is what made a huge difference in my life. I'll always remember one of my first few practices for wrestling I brought home my sweaty, smelly workout gear and my mom said, "if you're going to do this you better learn how to run the washing machine and dryer because I'm not touching that stuff!" That tough love at an early age helped shape our futures and pushed all five of us to become successful adults.”

According to Lee Roy Smith, the mother of the most successful “brother act” in the history of American wrestling had a slightly different approach to the laundry than Mike’s mom …

“My mom (Madalene Volturo Smith) is the best… I was the first of four boys in my family to take up wrestling. Mom did not warm up to the sport at first because she didn’t like the fact that I had to diet and control my weight. She comes from a third generation Italian immigrant family whose culture is to celebrate mealtimes, holidays and church feast days. However, once she realized what the sport did for our self-esteem and confidence she embraced it. She drove us where we needed to go, even though she had her own full-time nursing career. She made sure our workout gear and uniforms were clean and ready for matches and tournaments. If we needed some type of pregame meal, she would make sure it was prepared. She was always compassionate and sympathetic to our needs win or lose, but would never allow excuses to get in the way of being the best. After all, how could she while managing a full-time job and giving birth to 10 children! She never really liked to watch me or my brothers wrestle because it would make her too nervous, so she would leave the gym before our matches and return once it was over. Even though we mostly enjoyed success on the mat, she wanted us to have a humble heart. She and my father made for a good team that provided us with many blessings and an unconditional pro-life spirit.”

Thank you to all who contributed to this blog.

I hope you remembered to thank YOUR mom.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Do we want wrestling to be more popular - or not?

Do we want wrestling to be more popular – or not?




Shawn Johnson is from Iowa and all of us from the Hawkeye state are proud that she is. It’s already evident that NBC is pinning at least part of its’ Olympic coverage rating hopes on a cute, effervescent - but very dominating athlete.

It is almost certain that no American wrestler – men’s freestyle, Greco-Roman or women’s freestyle – will be featured in the TV spots leading up to Beijing. In fact – you may have to get up pretty early just to see any wrestling.

TV or not TV – that is the question

Tuesday was a rare night on American sports television – amateur wrestling was featured in prime time on a major sports network – ESPN 2. Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos produced, The Streak, a two-hour documentary on the 34-year winning streak of the Brandon, FL High School wrestling team. Yes – you read correctly – not 34 meets –34 years. It was extremely well done and generally showed the coach, the athletes, the parents and THE SPORT in a positive light.

So what was the general reaction of the wrestling “community” to this excellent exposure? If internet message boards are any gauge, more people were intent on belittling the accomplishment (“They’d have never done that in Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey” – pick your favorite wrestling state) than on praising the production. It is the nature of wrestlers to have an “I can kick your butt” attitude, but – talk about not seeing the forest for the trees!

The day prior to that, Jason Bryant of intermatwrestle.com wrote an excellent blog on the developing debate over the relative merits of more television coverage versus greater internet access to matches and meets.

http://intermat.wordpress.com/2008/04/28/april-28-four-points-about-television/

The debate continues to escalate. Yesterday (May 4th), Martin Floreani of flowrestling.com posted a blog in which he states that wrestling is an “underground sport” and that initiatives to get more television coverage are “diluting our sport”.

http://www.flocasts.org/flowrestling/flowrestlr/profile.php?u=671&v=blog

I’m just a fan of the “world’s oldest and greatest sport”. I’ve always made it clear that I never wrestled, never had any family that wrestled and have no ties to any wrestling-related organization. I just want to watch more wrestling. Frankly, I’m not sure that either side of the argument is concerned enough with the fans’ viewpoint.
There is a commonly held belief that the potential viewing audience for all forms of amateur wrestling is small. More than one “authority” has written that only ex-wrestlers or their families will watch wrestling. That notion is misguided. Yes, from my seats in Section GG of the nation’s most raucous (and most populated) wrestling venue – Carver Hawkeye Arena – I see what wrestling can be – sports entertainment that can appeal to a broader audience.

No – I’m not na├»ve enough to think that some day wrestling will surpass football or basketball in American viewer popularity, but, jeez – the World Series of Poker?

First – take a few steps backward and improve the product. Yes, from the fan’s perspective, all forms of wrestling used to be more exciting. Is this “diluting the sport”? I think not. I recently posted freestyle match videos of John Smith, Randy Lewis and Ed Banach on a couple of different wrestling sites and the reaction was enlightening. Fans want scoring far more than they want “fighting for good position”. Yes, this will require once again tinkering with the rules, which in itself challenges the fans. More important then rule changes, however, is the need for a philosophical change among coaches and athletes. If you want fans in the seats – score some points! Pin some people! If you’re content with wrestling in an empty gym – well – you’re headed down the right path.

Fan base growth can only come from greater exposure – television. The 30+ years that Iowa Public Television has aired college wrestling has certainly contributed to the popularity of the sport in Iowa.

Does this mean that the internet has no role? Of course not! Online sites like intermatwrestle.com, themat.com, flowrestling, revwrestling and the various team message board sites all serve to heighten a new fan’s interest. This ought to be a conscious effort.

Look at the Dancing with the Stars phenomenon. How can that show be as popular as it is? For one thing – the network created an online element to the broadcast package from the very beginning. Could that carry over to wrestling coverage? You bet. Here’s a scenario. During a wrestling broadcast the on-air team would frequently mention the broadcast website. Viewers could be encouraged to vote for the “most valuable” wrestler of the event or enticed to view video of past matches involving that evening’s competitors. Someone just needs to think creatively.

Which leads us to the primary problem – too many organizations and institutions working at cross-purposes. American wrestling is governed or influenced by the US Olympic Committee, FILA, the National Wrestling Coaches Association, USA Wrestling and the NCAA (and so on). Each has its’ own priorities and its’ own marketing and promotional efforts. There appears to be little coordination. Why not create a “wrestling marketing board” to oversee a unified promotional effort? To avoid the “too many chefs” effect, their biggest task would be to hire a good marketing agency and let the agency do its job. The board could be funded in a couple of ways. One possibility is a “checkoff” system similar to that formerly used by the Beef Industry Council and the National Pork Producers. Each participating institution would add 50 cents to a dollar to every membership fee, ticket price or entry fee. All of that money would go into the pooled marketing fund. Corporate sponsorships would also play a role.

Do we want wrestling to be more popular – or not? If the answer is “yes”, changes need to be made.