The following is an exchange I had with one of the nation’s most recognizable wrestling officials. I thought you might find it interesting.
This note to you is long overdue – I’ve read every one of your blogs and your writing is spot on. Well stated – many times over.
I’ve shared your concerns about the slow, certain death wrestling faces if we continue down this same old path of mediocrity. Additionally, the “sports fan” we compete for has no reason to pay to watch us when there are many other exciting alternatives available.
I’ve written to the NWCA on several occasions about my concerns and the response is predictable – “ho hum, leave us alone.” They don’t understand how difficult it is to watch the sport anymore. From 1978 thru 2001 I have been slowly tortured to death by the boring nature of Division I competition.
I don’t think most coaches and wrestling fans realize how close we are to a funeral.
How big is your bandwagon, and how do you (we) attract more like minded souls? They’re out there!
Dear Name Withheld,
Thank you so very much for the kind note. It is appreciated and I share many of your sediments. We are close to seeing unpleasant things befall the sport. And as I see it there are only two ways that things will change.
- The sport totally collapses and our myopic leadership, without anyone left to lead finally quits and goes away. When and if that happens, it will be people like you who help us pick up the pieces and rebuild wrestling from the ground up.
- Or there’s a nationwide coup as a result of a colossus failure to perform in Rio and membership starts a “throw the rascals out” revolt.
The first one took place to some degree when the AAU was replaced in the ‘70’s by the USWF. That forced everyone who was anyone in the AAU, except for Newt Copple, to jump ship and become part of the leadership team in what is now USAWrestling. What was left at the AAU were non-political individuals who were only interested in doing right for those who remained. From there the Union was rebuilt to where it is today, 1/3 the size of membership of USAWrestling with a budget that is 1/60th the size of Colorado Springs’ and a staff that is 1/35th as large.
At the NCAA, high school and international levels what I’ve observed is leadership likes the way things are . . . they feel that the outcome of any change someone may make could have a negative impact on their standing in the sport. That uncertainty is too daunting for them to endure. It seems they would rather change professions after the sport implodes than take a risk with the unknown even if that unknown is predictably known.
As you might guess, all this isn’t rocket science. There are so many common sense approaches to change that are being overlooked . . . it’s really quite maddening.
One of them is to support the “a point scored is a point earned” approach to improving action and excitement. I’m really committed to that change.
(For those who haven’t heard of a point scored is a point earned before, look to the right and click on that title 11 blogs down from the top. It’s the most important change we can make in the sport.)
All this is a sad state of affairs but nothing we do is going to make converts out of coaches. Just as a mind is a terrible thing to waste, so too are they impossible to change.
Consequently I’ve resigned myself to the way wrestling operates and I’m cataloging their inactivity in my writings so I can say “I told you so” sometime down the road. That may be a childish approach but I don’t know anything else to do.
I agree, your treatise on “a point earned is a point scored” is a huge step in the right direction. One of the reasons I gave up collegiate officiating was too many of the finest trained and conditioned athletes in the world would beat their best opponent by one point, and then an average competitor by two. Seldom was there any real risk taking, and most dual matches would yield one or two good to great matches, two or three matches with a few flurries and four or five matches that were quite frankly duds.
I don’t blame the athletes – they simply wrestle to the level the rules permit and that which their coaches insist on . . . basically that means get a 1 point lead and sit on it.
I stated something similar to a comment I believe you made a while back that goes like this: the athletes will wrestle to the rules but seldom do more – but as referees, administrators and coaches we need and we must find a way to reward attackers. A point earned is a point scored does exactly that.
And regarding another one of your opinions you are correct – get the coaches out of the rules meetings. That’s most definitely the fox in the hen house scenario.
Frankly I had never considered your point earned is a point scored idea – and every time I read it the more I like it. It’s all about continued scoring and attacking – all the way to a fall. Under that concept a great wrestler and his team is rewarded for continuing to do what he or she does best; and that’s to be spectacular!
And can you imagine what would happen when a great collegian joins the international ranks after his developmental years – he’ll be more than ready for the Iranians and Russians.
On a different subject, did you see where the United States finished 4th at the World Cups in Los Angeles this month? We were defeated by Iran in the semi-finals and then Georgia in the match for the Bronze medal.
You can imagine how Colorado Springs feels we did when they spend most of their time in post mortem talking about how well the event was received and how smoothly everything ran. But not how we finished.
Everything did go well administratively and as a result kudos to Pete Isais from the national office; he’s the brightest star we have within a constellation of white dwarfs.
Just as important to wrestling is the Titan-Mercury Club. Their invaluable assistance smoothed over any rough spots the Cup had while providing a certain level of refinement that’s seldom seen at events run by Colorado Springs. It’s too bad the TMC isn’t the National Governing Body; they actually know how to make things happen at the upper levels.
Speaking of USAWrestling, where was USAW-California regarding the work that had to be done to make the World Cup successful? One of the event managers was overheard bemoaning how little they did for the event . . . and “they didn’t even sell one ticket.”
As to the competition itself, there were certainly some memorable moments and a few great bouts. But note to USAWrestling; you lost to a team for 3rd place whose country is half the size of our state of Georgia with a population that’s 1/4th as big not to mention we were enjoying home court advantage! And if Azerbaijan had brought their first team, it’s quite possible we would have been wrestling for 5th and 6th against Mongolia instead of Georgia for 3rd.
Why is any of this acceptable and why doesn’t this outrage everyone who loves wrestling and America? We outnumber and outspend the rest of the world in wrestling by a lot and continually look to Burroughs as the face of our program and the sports lone Superman. Apologies to Kyle and Adeline here, they both have S’s on their chests too but 3 stars in a galaxy of 18 isn’t very blinding.
As usual our leadership failed us, the coaching staff failed us. The athletes did what they could but without proper training, which they aren’t receiving, the results speak for themselves.
Frankly it’s embarrassing. But am I the only one who feels this way? Are we actually that bad or is something else wrong? Our numbers and resources should give us at a minimum the equivalent of 2 Burroughs, 1 Snyder and 1 Grey . . . per discipline.
In the absence of that I’m confused, what magic wand does Colorado Springs have that they wave over membership that numbs everyone into accepting one dismal performance after another year after year? Or did they buy some pixy dust from Disney to use on their Board of Directors? I can’t believe that 40 very accomplished and intelligent men and women don’t see this for what it is . . . everyone being afraid of offending someone so the tough decisions are never addressed.
If USAWrestling’s medal count were numbers on a spread sheet for any Fortune 500 company stock holders would being going absolutely bananas. Leadership would be shown the door so fast their heads would spin. But instead the Board of USAWrestling keeps giving its Executive Director raises and annual bonuses for what one must assume is a job well done.
Leadership should not receive financial at-a-boys for having an impressive handicap in golf, but to produce in wrestling. Compensation should be determined by international performances, not managing three dozen or so self-motivated employees. What did the Board see regarding our performance at last year’s World Championships that made them vote for another raise and bonus? With home court advantage, we only had 3 wrestlers in the finals for all three disciplines in the Olympic weights. That’s 3 out of 36, not an effort worthy of writing home about.
In contrast did you know that at one time in the 1970’s, when America’s folkstyle programs were twice the size of what they are today, we won more World and Olympic Gold Medals than all the other Olympic sports with the exception of track and swimming which had twice as many athletes competing in twice as many events.