Monday, January 26, 2009

The road to Cedar Rapids - Volume 4

I was introduced to college wrestling by a Division III wrestler. I’ve told the story many times – a friend of mine competed for Augustana College in Rock Island, IL and asked me to ride with him to Ames to watch Dan Gable wrestle. The first meets I attended after that trip were at Augustana. It’s almost forty years later and now I’m watching Dan’s grandkids run around the floor of Carver Hawkeye Arena in singlets and headgear during Hawkeye meets. I’m also still watching Division III college wrestling. The NCAA Division III Championships are just 5 ½ weeks away so I thought I’d share some random thoughts about wrestling at our smaller colleges.

It could be a tight race.

Going into this season many fans thought that Wartburg would easily defend their NCAA team title. Coach Miller’s squad returned three national champions and seemed to strengthen the lineup when Mark Kist transferred from Iowa State. When St Johns upset perennial powerhouse Augsburg early in the season it appeared that Wartburg was head and shoulders above the closest competitors. Augsburg’s win over Wartburg in the finals of National Duals changed all of that thinking. The battle for the team championship in Cedar Rapids may just be much tighter than expected.

All the news, all the time

Andy Vogel is the head wrestling coach at Gettysburg College. He also created and maintains It is a highly informative site with current Division III results, rankings and news. There are videos, a photo gallery and a discussion forum. Andy’s selection of a Wrestler of the Week is my favorite feature. He recognizes wrestlers that you might not normally hear about.

Where’s the anger?

Norwich University recently announced the elimination of its wrestling team. The NWCA and USA Wrestling have launched efforts to get the Norwich administration to reconsider the decision. There was some minor grumbling on internet wrestling forums in the first few days after the announcement. But since then fan interest has faded. Why the fan apathy? Is it because Norwich is a D3 school? If so, why should that matter? Twenty-seven student athletes are losing a part of their educations. Or – are we simply tiring of the struggle to save intercollegiate wrestling? Please don’t give up on Norwich so easily. Contact their administrators and urge them to reconsider this decision. Here is updated contact information:

President Richard Schneider
Norwich University
158 Harmon Drive
Northfield, VT 05663

Executive Assistant Mrs. Judy Bailey

General Gordon R. Sullivan (Ret.)
Chairman of the Norwich University Board of Trustees
Association of the United States Army
2425 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington VA 22201
email of the General’s personal aide Ms. Ann Belyea

Why not go on the offense?

That’s right – why not work to ADD wrestling programs – especially at the Division III level? A December New York Times article cited a recent survey of 371 private colleges and universities. Approximately “two-thirds said they were greatly concerned about preventing a decline in enrollment”. According to statistics from the National Wrestling Coaches Association published in the current issue of WIN Magazine, the average operating cost of a Division III wrestling team is $71,700 per year and the average squad size is 24 athletes. Tuition at private 4-year institutions averages $25,000/year (source: Over a quarter of a million American high school students wrestle, but there are less than 10,000 intercollegiate varsity wrestling roster spots. I suspect that many more high school wrestlers would continue on at the college level if the opportunities existed.

If a school attracts 24 new students because they have the opportunity to continue to compete, that equates to an additional annual income of $600,000 for that school. Startup costs are less than those of many other sports and facility requirements are not extravagant. Smart schools would be adding wrestling teams – not dropping them. NAIA-affiliated schools seem to be figuring this out, ala California Baptist, Grand View and Baker University. Why can’t the smaller NCAA affiliates follow the NAIA trend? Why not try?

Cedar Rapids championship update

Flood recovery continues. Red and white “We’re Back” signs continue to pop up all around the downtown. Several restaurants and bars within walking distance of the US Cellular Center have re-opened.

Penguin's Comedy Club will be featuring TC Hatter and Marcianne the weekend of the championships. Penguin’s is now located in the Clarion Hotel and you’ll have time to get to the late Saturday show after finals.

The Iowa Conference now has a website available for the championships. You can visit it at

I will again be hosting a reception at the Cedar Rapids Marriott, Thursday March 5 from 5:00 to 7:00 PM. Please join me and your fellow wrestling enthusiasts for food, beverages and lots of wrestling talk.

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