Monday, July 20, 2009

Forty years ago today

Forty years ago today I was working at the East Locust Street Dairy Queen in Davenport, IA – trying to earn enough tuition money for my sophomore year at Saint Ambrose College. In between serving banana splits and Dilly Bars I watched Neil Armstrong land on the moon. The manager had brought in a black and white portable TV so that none of us would miss history being made. NASA taught us an important lesson – a group of people can accomplish anything if it means enough to them.

Forty years ago today Dan Gable was preparing for his senior season at Iowa State University. He had not lost a wrestling match in high school or college and on July 20, 1969 most of the American wrestling community thought him unbeatable. Just a few months later, in Evanston, IL, Larry Owings shocked Gable and the wrestling world by winning the 1970 NCAA wrestling championship. Gable would rebound from that loss and go on to a World Championship and an Olympic Gold medal as an athlete and then would coach the University of Iowa to 15 NCAA team titles. Dan Gable taught us another important lesson – you can triumph over setbacks and go on to greatness.

Forty years ago today 226,681 high school boys were anticipating the beginning of wrestling season. In the 2008-2009 season 259,688 high school boys and 5,527 high school girls wrestled interscholastically.

Forty years ago today there were over 250 more college wrestling programs than there are today. It’s a pretty simple observation – there are more potential college wrestlers than in 1969, but at least 6,000 fewer opportunities.

The wrestling world spends so much time fighting the elimination of college programs that we think very little about adding teams – and yet every year new squads enter intercollegiate wrestling. There are many roadblocks to starting a new program – finances in these economic times, lack of alumni recognition, Title IX, etc. Let’s use the lessons taught us by NASA and Dan Gable. Let’s join together and fight back.

Of all of the things standing in the way – the current interpretations of Title IX may be the most steadfast. It will be a long and arduous battle to bring sanity to gender equity discussions. Let’s look instead at schools where gender proportionality is not an issue. (I’ve picked a random school from all divisions but NJCAA). Please note that these selections are based primarily on numbers.


Park University in suburban Kansas City has an enrollment that is 51% male and currently has three more women filling athletic roster spots than men. Three other schools in their conference have wrestling teams. One of those, Missouri Baptist, also has a women’s team. Even with Baker University beginning interscholastic competition in 2009-2010, Kansas high school wrestlers are underserved with future opportunities. Park would seem a good prospect for adding both a men’s and women’s team.

NCAA Division III

Green Mountain College

The reinstatement of wrestling at Norwich University still leaves Vermont with only one college wrestling team. Green Mountain’s enrollment is 52% male, but 59% of all athletic roster spots are filled by women.

NCAA Division II

Florida Institute of Technology is 65% male. They have more women’s teams than men’s, but roster spots are 53/47 male to female, leaving room, under proportionality, for a wrestling team. Major League baseball player, Tim Wakefield is a Florida Tech grad and has a history of supporting athletics in Florida (not just baseball).

NCAA Division I

Toledo University is evenly split by gender. According to data on their website they have 185 female athletes and 162 male. That leaves just enough room for a wrestling team. Toledo has a wrestling history, including 1971 NCAA HWT champion. Greg Wojciechowski. They are also in the MAC Conference, which has other wrestling teams.

Does this mean that establishing wrestling at these schools will be easy? No!

Does this mean that these are the only schools that should be targeted for expansion? No!

I offer this up only as a slightly different way to approach the growth of college wrestling.

Next week we’ll discuss the rest of the battle.


Litehouse said...


Nice post, I like the strategy that you propose. I think it could be a winning strategy.


Jim Brown said...


Thanks for reading. Now we just need someone to act.