How Wrestling Wins – Chapter 4

x and o

Chapter 4

Regarding the crew from USAToday, not one inch of copy ever made it into print. Neither the finals nor the team scores earned even a box score mention, exactly what NASCAR receives on a regular basis for something as uninteresting as qualifying times for even their lesser races. So what does all this mean; simple, everything else that happened in sports that weekend was more important than what we were doing in Oklahoma City.

Message received; wrestling isn’t relevant.

Many in the sport look to what we believe to be a strong scholastic base to support our optimism for wrestling. Unfortunately those numbers don’t hold up under scrutiny. In 1978 we had roughly 375,000 high school wrestlers in a country of 195 million citizens. Today the United States has 315 million people and 272,000 scholastic wrestlers. So that means with the drop in participation numbers and an increase in our population base, we’re at 50% or half of what we use to be in the 1970’s. And relative to the number of high school programs, we’ve lost more of them in the last 30 years than we’ve lost collegiate programs.

Now I guess it’s appropriate to commend our sport for always trying to see the glass as half full. There’s no doubt we’re optimists in many ways, rose colored glasses and all but to point to the low hanging fruit as proof of the sports health while ignoring the fact that the rest of the tree is dying is deeply depressing.

Wrestling doesn’t need to make changes to survive, it needs a major overhaul.

We’re in trouble folks and honest introspection, as much as it might hurt, must start at the sports core and why I’m writing.

“Wasn’t it the woolly mammoth who said, “Who me, I don’t need a sweatshirt?”

The most current slant on the health of the sport comes from USAWrestling regarding this past summer Olympic catastrophe. “We did it! America joined hands with the rest of the world and through our collective leaderships saved wrestling.”

Not true; that statement is clearly worth at least 3 Pinocchio’s. Yes we’d all like to believe the sport came together and they did to a degree but that’s only part of the story. What leadership isn’t telling anyone is they were the ones who provoked the fight in the first place. They were the ones who repeatedly, and inexcusably, punched the IOC Executive Committee in the nose with their arrogance. Now they want the wrestling community to focus on what appears to be compassion on their parts for driving the IOC to the hospital.

Wrestling created the hostility, our leadership triggered the response that each of us felt with great clarity. FILA primarily and USAWrestling to a lesser extent is directly responsible for the millions of dollars and thousands of man hours the sport spent, and couldn’t afford, fixing something they caused. Now they want our gratitude for a job well done that a majority of which was actually accomplished by Russia’s President Putin and a few ultra-rich sultans in the Middle East.

It’s interesting to note that every member of both organizations leadership teams after the smoke cleared still had jobs. Once again arrogance, entitlement and I’ll cover your 6 o’clock position while you cover mine way of doing business. This is why wrestling remains dormant and we’ve grown accustomed to failure; because no one is ever accountable. The term, “I take full responsibility” actually means “I will not resign and I’m not about to hold anyone else accountable either.”

We might want to ask ourselves; if leadership at FILA and USAWrestling is capable of overlooking the truth, are we actually safe? They say we are but is the relationship with the IOC really fixed?

If you remember, it was about a year and a half ago when wrestling was not only a Core sport in the Olympics but it was one of the two foundational sports out of 28 that make up the Summer Games. Since then we’ve been downgraded to Provisional sport status on the strength of receiving 1 more vote from the IOC than was required. Stated differently, we were only 1 vote away from not making it back into the Olympics. I know you didn’t hear that from USAWrestling.

The bottom line is we’re definitely not sitting at the head of the Olympic table, nor are we even at the table. Instead we’re eating in another room with the children where we’re expected to be seen and not heard. That’s embarrassing, our sport and each of you deserves better.

The point is wrestling is in as much trouble internationally as it is domestically because FILA (now United World Wrestling) doesn’t have an oversight committee and USAWrestling has a Board of Directors that’s the size of an orchestra. There’s no one managing the managers in Geneva and Colorado Springs is actually run by 3 people (depending on who’s counting) who fancy Alexander Dumas’s all for one and one for all management style. It’s a quid pro quo relationship that doesn’t benefit the sport, only those in power.

Let’s take a moment to discuss this year’s miserable 9th place finish by our world freestyle team and Greco’s equally poor performance.

It was so bad our freestylers were only 1 point away from finishing 11th as a team and Greco only had two wrestlers that placed in the Top 10. I’m not talking about medaling here, I’m talking about finishing in the Top 10 of their individual weight classes.

We did so poorly that both squads finished behind Cuba as a team; that’s an island nation which is smaller than New York with half their population.

How bad is all this; well, given that America has more wrestling rooms and wrestlers than any country in the world, has better nutrition, medical care and far more sports psychologists than anyone else, you tell me?

I just can’t believe having all this going for us that USAWrestling can’t succeed. Something is definitely wrong and it’s been repeating itself year after year now for over a decade.

Do you realize that since the Olympics in 2000, America has had not counting Jordan Burroughs whom I’m not sure anyone can take credit for given his God given talent, that we’ve had only one world freestyle champion! America should have one every year, not one every 14 years. It’s leadership; we have the car and the engine, just no driver.

As to those perception changing rules the world’s governing body adopted as a result of our Olympic challenges, you should have seen the Gadisov-Gazyumov world finals at 97 kilos. This match could be Exhibit A regarding how well the new rules are falling short of their goal. Gadisov won 2-1 in the finals, but all three of the points scored by both wrestlers came from the sports very subjective “shot clock.” Yawn.

Gazyumov was put on it twice and failed to score both times in the allotted 30 seconds, and Gadisov once with the same outcome. The Gold Medal was actually won in a match where no one scored an offensive point. No takedowns, no reversals, no exposures, no escapes. Try explaining that to the IOC who, given their recent displeasure of wrestling, directed our leadership to find ways to increase scoring and make our events more spectator friendly.

The announcing at the World’s was almost as bad. Who picks these people? The match was full of misstatements and short on any background information or any mention of athlete rivalries. Scoring was not explained, there was little enthusiasm in the announcers voice and quite honestly, a conversation with my dentist would be more exciting.

A video of that finals match can be seen here but I have no idea why anyone would want to watch it. But, if you’re going to chance it, pour yourself a glass of water first; it’s quite dry.

The second directive the IOC made perfectly clear to wrestling’s leadership, but not reported in the news, was the need to eliminate cheating. Matches were being bought, titles given away and at times it was so obvious that anyone who could add 2 plus 2 plus 2 and come up with 6 could recognize it.

Here’s a pretty good example of how well the old FILA has done to discourage unprincipled officiating. This was the middle weight Greco finals for the Asian Games held this month.

As you read the article, scroll down to the Iranian vs. South Korean match. I felt so sorry for the referee. Anyone who can cheat an athlete this badly has to be totally devoid of scruples.

Now I realize our problems can’t be laid in the laps of any one organization or individual but collectively all of us are responsible. I’m not sure who said it but there are three types of people in the world. The kinds that make things happen, those who watch things happen and the third group is where wrestling is now; about to wonder what just happened?

Wrestling must focus on the creation of an environment that attracts new spectators while doubling its efforts to retain the athletes it has.

Please notice I have yet to use the words fan or fans in this document. Instead I use spectator or spectators for a very specific reason; consistency. You see wrestling has this tendency to interchange words that have different meanings. And with such regularity that it’s probably why Roget began his thesaurus, Webster his dictionary and why spectators and referees scratch their heads.

To be clear, fans are individuals who enjoy the sport of wrestling but don’t necessarily attend events. Spectators on the other hand are those who purchase tickets. So coaches, athletes, table workers, support personnel and anyone who receives a complimentary ticket or sneaks in the back door are not spectators.

By that definition it should be obvious that wrestling is extremely short on spectators and long on fans. That puts us in the serious liability category with most athletic administrators and another reason why we’re not on the media’s radar as a desirable sport. Attendance is always the deciding factor when the media decides what to cover.

Here’s why the 2014 Maryland State High School Championships wasn’t covered. Granted it’s not Pennsylvania, Ohio or California which have better crowds but for a majority of the states, I’m sorry to say this is representative of who shows up for wrestling. Then when you eliminate those 300 athletes, 200 coaches, 50 event personnel and 24 officials who can be seen here, well, how many actual spectators did this tournament have?

Part 5

Now let’s talk about another aspect of wrestling that should get every ones attention; stalling. It always seems to be a problem for the sport and it certainly is; but the why of it always seems to elude our leadership. That’s because we define stalling one way and Webster defines it another. This is why spectators become confused when stalling is called and why officials never seem to get it right.

In wrestling we refer to stalling as inactivity or a lack of action; but you won’t find those words used in any of Roget’s editions under the word stalling.

Stalling (Thesaurus: English US) delaying, deferring, postponing, suspending, arresting.

So when officials call stalling and the spectator, especially those who are new to our sport, sees action taking place, they become confused.

Action (Thesaurus: English US) movement, motion, battle, fighting, combat, clash.

Wrestling’s problem with stalling is we have a disconnect between the word and its meaning.

All this is easy to fix but I should warn you, you won’t like what I’m about to suggest; at least initially. So give it some time before you call for my beheading.

To begin, may I suggest that we eliminate the word stalling from our vocabularies as well as any mention of it in our rule books and replace it with the word action; which happens to be the same adjective that FILA uses. Then from that point forward everything we do, think and say must be defined by that word.

Now I realize most of you will say, “I don’t like it” as you read further but please take the time to let this seed geminate before condemning the solution. In one sense we’re all on the same page that everyone wants to see action and no one wants inaction. Can we all agree on that? I need you to answer that question before you read any further.

Let me ask a couple questions. In football, a wide-receiver who’s running for a touchdown and being chased by the cornerback and free safety; is that action?

No question about it; it’s what makes football so exciting, the breakaway touchdowns. But if that scenario were a wrestling match, wouldn’t the ball carrier be penalized for stalling because he’s eluding contact and not engaging his opponent? Isn’t he purposely running away from the other players so he won’t be taken down?

Does a running back seek out the middle linebacker or does he do everything he can to avoid him? Doesn’t that mean the runner is stalling if he doesn’t get tackled? But can we agree there’s a great deal of action due to the avoidance of contact?

In boxing, Mohammad Ali would have been disqualified from every match he ever competed in using the rules of wrestling. He never took a step forward ever, always dancing, dodging and moving backward while jabbing those who pursued him into unconsciousness. But wasn’t he the best ever at creating action; even if he was stalling?

Tennis players don’t hit the ball to their opponents; isn’t the idea of tennis to keep the ball away from the other person? In wrestling we’d consider that stalling as well because the players aren’t “engaging” their opponents. But the basis behind tennis is to stop the action before it gets started; make the other guy miss the ball. Yet millions love to watch how well tennis players can stall.

The job of a basketball player is also to keep the ball away from the other team. Basketball is all about playing keep away and the more it succeeds the more action the spectator sees. But like the other sport examples, if basketball was played using wrestling rules, whoever has the ball would be guilty of stalling.

Might there be a common thread here? Every sport, including wrestling, adores action. But in wrestling, it’s the only sport I know that goes out of its way to penalize action.

“Now wait a minute Wade, what do you mean we penalize it?”

Chapter 5 next Sunday.

How Wrestling Wins – Chapter 3

If you like what you’re reading, please pass this on to others. The only way change will occur is by awakening those who make a difference; our fans. It’s obvious leadership isn’t making the changes.

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Chapter 3

Now I’m not sure whether our wrestling community is eternal optimists or ostriches, but too many of them point to the new spectator base at Penn State as an example of the sports health; while others are encouraged by the number of young children that join our ranks each year. ESPN adds fuel to the belief there’s a turn-around coming based on their willingness to broadcast, and impressively I might add, every session of this past year’s sold out NCAA Championships. Then there were not 1 but 3 staff writers in Oklahoma City from USAToday.

All these have to be good signs; right?

Well, not really. What Penn State is doing is nothing more than what Iowa did when they were number one. And no one is mentioning that Iowa’s spectator numbers dropped off last year given their three year fall from grace as the nation’s best program. So it’s unreasonable to point to whoever happens to be the flavor of the day and use them as an example regarding the sports health. How institutions like Oregon State, Purdue, UT-Chattanooga and Lock Haven are doing with attendance numbers are far more indicative of the sports health.

To be clear our #1 challenge, wrestling’s 500 pound gorilla is too few spectators.

It’s so bad at times that the revenue schools receive from individual dual meets doesn’t even cover the evening’s janitorial expenses. That single issue is the torpedo that will sink wrestling’s ship unless we agree that revenue production is the issue all of us have to address and then focus our efforts to correct it.

That is why these pages are so important to wrestling; if we were to ask wrestling’s leadership what they believe the sports largest threats are I doubt very much if anyone would mention ticket sales. I actually did a short survey to see what I’d hear from some of my wrestling friends who are some of the sports leaders and not a one mentioned ticket sales. Instead their attention was focused on Title IX issues, poor classroom (APR) performance, a lack of excitement in matches, the need for more media coverage and our inability to retain athletes during their developmental years. Granted, these are all real issues in wrestling but if the sport had more money coming in than going out, these issues would become non-issues.

Now regarding the little tikes, we do have a lot of youngsters trying the sport for the first time each year but close to a majority of them, certainly over 40%, won’t return for their second season. We’ll cover the why of that later but if any corporation in America lost as many new customers as wrestling does, two things would happen. Stock holders would go on a corporate executive firing spree and then look to outside help to figure out why their customer retention rate is so bad.

But not wrestling, no sir, not us because the way we do business has little to do with how the business community does business. We consider those that quit not worthy of our time and prefer to repeat what we’ve always done which is run the sport like a governmental handout program; where the recipients aren’t aware or even sympathetic to the producers struggles. In folkstyle, which is our life blood, it’s all about their inability to balance the books and unfortunately it seems that coaches aren’t even aware there are books. Money just appears in their budget every year; where it comes from or who produces it isn’t their concern. That in and by itself should have alarm bells ringing everywhere. It seems the only way our sport is going to survive their naïveté is by the use of a two by four upside the head. Well, maybe that’s a little harsh but you get the idea. Wrestling has to become a business where our W’s and L’s are judged by our P’s and L’s.

As to the athletes, wouldn’t it be nice, or logical, or prudent or sensible to find out why we lose so many wrestlers each year and actually address the issues? Isn’t that what business does every hour, day and week; don’t they evaluate their products and services and marry the results with the needs of the consumer? But not wrestling!

Granted, it’s nice to know that ESPN thinks enough of us to broadcast our national championships but I wonder; is being on television a good thing? If our product is as inferior as could be argued given our non-existent spectator base, why would we want the country to see something we can’t sell?

Broadcasting doesn’t make a product good or bad; it just makes it very public and that’s never good when the product your selling people don’t care to see.

It’s sort of like a vitamin deficiency but in wrestling’s case it’s a excitement deficiency. Television is never the answer when the product being broadcast is damaged. It’s so bad we can’t even give it away for free to the networks.

Back to the NCAA’s; when you take into account that the numbers of networks and sports channels are growing faster than the availability of quality content, being broadcast on ESPN or any other network isn’t as impressive as it used to be.

Some might not realize it but the NCAA bundles their championships so when a network wins the right to broadcast a highly desirable series of events like the Men’s Final Four in basketball, they are also signing on to air Women’s Field Hockey, Women’s Cross Country and Men’s Wrestling as an example. It’s all or nothing for the networks when they win the bid and you have to give the NCAA credit here, they’re doing their part to help the lesser financed sports. But to automatically assume that wrestling is doing okay as a result of such exposure is a bit of a stretch.

Now regarding last year’s (2013) NCAA Wrestling Championships, ESPN had 800,000 viewers as opposed to 1.2 million who watched the Division III Football Championships. Women’s softball and men’s lacrosse, that has fewer D-I teams than wrestling does, outperformed us in viewership numbers as well. At the 2012 Olympics in London, all three of wrestling’s disciplines had a little over 8 hours of total television coverage during 8 days of competition compared to women’s soccer that had over 9 hours of coverage in just their first day of competition. So we might ask ourselves, “How well is wrestling really doing?”

On the subject of television, there are three types of broadcasts; earned, bought and novel.

If you have an earned status like baseball or football you’re on television because they pay for themselves in spades through advertising dollars. But on the other hand are sports like wrestling who have to pay networks to show up because no sponsor wants to risk their money given our poor viewership numbers.

As to novel, the X-Games when they started were novel, Chinese ping pong was novel when it aired in the 60’s and the Olympic sport of Curling is always novel because it’s the type of competition that’s never broadcast or so infrequently that networks know the Nelson Ratings will be strong enough out of public curiosity to justify the expense.

Wrestling is like two school teachers who are trying to apply for federal aid to send their son to college. They’re too poor to afford $40,000 a year but they make too much to qualify for any financial assistance. With wrestling being the world’s oldest sport, it’s too well known to be classified as novel but too boring to justify the expense of coverage. So if we want to make it on television we have to:

  1. Improve wrestling’s value proposition so sponsors see a financial reason to jump onboard. That means finding a way to seriously increase the number of eyeballs we have watching the sport.
  2. Wrestling needs to produce its broadcasts like the sport of golf. Jump around from mat to mat like they do from hole to hole and in both cases highlight great shots. Seldom do you ever witness an outstanding approach shot in real time. Everything is video delay. Wrestling should consider that as well so we can cut and splice great scoring techniques together.

Can you imagine how bad the television ratings would be for golf if the cameras just followed one foursome around for an entire 18 holes? We have a similar issue when the networks try and broadcast two wrestlers who score a total of 3 points during 11 minutes of a championship bout. Definitely crickets.

As to this year’s sellout, the NCAA finals had just over 16K spectators sitting in an arena that seats just over 18K. So it wasn’t quite as sold out as people were saying and many of the seats that weren’t filled were in the lower bowl where television audience could see the spectator gaps. What message does that send the country about the importance of our sport when prime seating at our premiere event goes unfilled? Does that happen at the Super Bowl, the World Series or in any NBA playoff game? I think not.

For this year’s NCAA’s when those gaps appeared, where was the NCAA’s decision makers? If we’re going to be broadcast in primetime, how tough is it to move people from the upper bowl into the empty seats in the lower bowl where the television cameras pick up everything? This is Marketing 101, but not in wrestling. We don’t have people in power that look around and say, “Houston, we have a problem” and then set out to correct that which is both obvious and correctable.

This is how the WWE (originally the World Wrestling Federation) made it in television. In the 1950’s when they first began broadcasting their events they would place their ring in the center of a large room with bleachers on one side and TV cameras on the other. They would then “paper” the room each night which is a theatrical term for handing tickets out to anyone they could find who had a heartbeat for the purpose of filling unsold seats and building “buzz.” Throw in some simulated crowd noise to make 400 sound like 4000, some well-placed spot lights, low lighting, a few cardboard cutouts of spectators in the upper rows and that’s how they became the industry of smoke and mirrors. Today they’re worth somewhere close to a billion dollars.

Amateur wrestling would never think of ever doing anything like that . . . it’s too disingenuously successful. But we should think about the facilities we select for competition because perception is often reality and the basis of a strong marketing program. The size of the facility coaches select OR the way they set up what they’re given matters. Atmosphere is everything.

Ideally, if you’re expecting 2 people to show up for a match, coaches need to find a gym that seats 1.

During my years of coaching wrestling at Clemson University the football program decided they wanted to add a 10,000 seat upper deck to the north side of the stadium. The first step in this process was to sign a contract with a marketing company out of California to determine the viability of the project.

Cutting the story short, Clemson paid a half million dollars for the following conclusion. “If you have more than 10,000 spectators on a waiting list for season tickets, then build the upper deck. If you have 9,999 or less; wait until you hit 10,000!”

The company based their conclusions on the principle of supply and demand. They wrote that the most important reason why Clemson had such a large waiting list was envy. Those who didn’t have tickets were jealous of those who did and those who did felt fortunate or superior to those who didn’t. Emotions like these elevate the perceived value of a product or in this case a season ticket beyond that of its face value.

They indicated the reverse was true as well. The greater the number of empty seats, the more the perceived value of each ticket drops below face value.

What does this mean to wrestling? When coaches select large basketball arenas for competition they do immeasurable harm to the sport through perception. It’s all about supply and demand. Attract 5,000 spectators to a match and put them in a 15,000 seat arena and wrestling coaches become excited. But those in attendance tend to feel they overpaid and are stupid for coming given so many others didn’t. Having two-thirds of the arena empty sends the message that the event wasn’t worth attending. This is what happens when supply outstrips demand and one of the reasons why our spectator numbers drop.

For my larger matches at Clemson back in the 70’s, I would move them to the universities smaller of two fine arts theaters and put the mat on the stage. The hall sat roughly 600 which was a third of what our smallest gymnasium sat. The mat just fit and the only drawback we had; out of bounds on one side was a 4 foot drop into someone’s lap. No one complained though, the first three rows we’re reserved for sororities. What meant the most was we’d fill the hall and have students on campus complaining about not being able to get in.

Grace Hall on the campus of Lehigh University was unique in its own way. What a great place to wrestle; but only if you were wearing a Lehigh singlet. It had the appearance of a 1930’s smoke filled boxing arena complete with fans sitting in the rafters. Athletes would literally have to step over fans to get to the mat to wrestle.

Liberty University (then Liberty Baptist) had a similar hall where they use to wrestle. Built in the late 1800’s or so it seemed, it sat maybe 500 and had impossible acoustics. I hated wrestling there as a coach because I couldn’t hear myself think. The crowd noise would echo back and forth off the brick and mortar and they always drew a standing room only crowd. I think the students loved intimidating the visiting teams more than they enjoyed whatever sport they were watching; but it certainly worked for them.

So what does this mean today; wrestling needs to scale back and find facilities that are more closely aligned to the number of spectators they expect to attract. The sport must elevate its perceived value and nothing does that better than filling a gym.

Chapter 4 next Sunday.

How Wrestling Wins – Chapter 2

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Chapter 2

Drawing a sport parallel, for the last twenty or so years Judo has been taking a beating in participation numbers and subsequent revenue dollars with the advent of the UFC where I might add, Judo players dare not tread. The meteoric rise of Brazilian Jujitsu and America’s fascination with the whole Mixed Martial Arts industry is killing their sport. To limit the carnage, Judo changed their rules to something they believed would encourage excitement and action by introducing high amplitude techniques and tougher rules on passivity. What occurred instead were referees penalizing their athletes more frequently and inserting themselves into the action which the fans disapproved of. This was their attempt at bottom up adjustments which is exactly what we’ve been doing in wrestling, and failing at it I might add.

Boxing has also been on the losing end of the MMA explosion. When was the last time you saw a title fight being broadcast on a major network? The days of sport figures like Mohammad Ali and Mike Tyson are all but gone. In its place is the intellectual stimulation that the UFC brings to television. Yes, I just referred to what the UFC does as being intellectual stimulation. I’m not talking about the blood, guts and gore portion of the sport although many do like watching a can of whoop ass being opened on someone. But it’s the strategic triple threat that spectators enjoy watching and the number of opinions they get to share with the guys that are sitting next to them. They love the striking, the wrestling and the submissions combined with all the various ways there are to win and exponentially the amount of defenses athletes need to know and offenses they need to learn. It’s just a far more cerebral sport than boxing or wrestling for both the athlete and the spectator. Basically, why go to a one or two ring circus when you can go to one that offers three rings for the same price and the same time commitment while getting to witness someone being overcome by a superior foe?

Regarding our sports growth, I will admit that we’ve had some success at adding a few smaller programs to both our scholastic and collegiate ranks, but those efforts only offset a fraction of the demise of larger more significant programs. So even though our program numbers seem to be holding steady of late, our political clout is diminishing rapidly. Anytime you trade in an Audi or BMW for a Fiat you still own a car but it’s not a step up or even a lateral move.

Concerning the current availability of athletic scholarships, those figures are even more dismal than the number of programs we have left; especially for those who aren’t among the nation’s Top 20. The result of this financial decline has been America’s best wrestlers are congregating into a smaller pool of major schools. This certainly helps the mega conferences like the Big 10 and it strengthens individual programs like Oklahoma State, Edinboro and Virginia Tech but the result is the rest of the field, the other 90%, is seriously weakened and put at risk of being dropped because of 1) the financial impossibility of keeping up with the Jones’ and 2) the blow-outs that are occurring between the serious D-I programs and the rest of the schools.

Note to Boston University . . . scheduling Penn State at home last year didn’t help the program as some might have imagined. Bringing in a big boy to impress the school’s administrators only pointed out with definite clarity that Boston’s fully-funded Division I program wasn’t close to being a fully-funded competitive Division I program. Inviting the Nittany Lions onto your campus only served to point out to Terrier administrators that the resources they were pouring into their wrestling program was for not.  

Please don’t be upset. I didn’t write this to evoke the ire of the New England wrestling community. I did so the sport can learn by the example of others. My mother use to always say; “experience isn’t the best teacher. It’s the experience of others that is a far better way of learning,” and she was right.

Administrators in every region of the country need to know that all capital expenditures are worth the pain they had to endure to acquire the capital. Watching your team getting taken out to the wood shed doesn’t do that very well. 

As a result wrestling is rapidly losing its middle class which isn’t good for the sport any more than it’s good for society. We’re turning into the haves and have nots and it won’t be long before the have nots have not a program.

One of many answers here is tuition-only based scholarships which I realize just the mention of is heresy. But if the great disparity we have between haves and have-nots cause programs to be dropped and with it thousands of opportunities lost for wrestlers yet to come, then I’m willing to risk the irreverence of such a statement.

Wrestling programs must become solvent and working at it slowly only speeds up the chances of them being dropped. Like losing weight; the quickest way to accomplish it is to eat less and work out more. The most efficient way of balancing a budget is to spend less and gross more.

Now I am aware of all the reasons why a tuition-only based scholarship is a bad idea. But in the big picture, having a wrestling program with 9.9 tuition-only scholarships is far better scenario than having no program with only a memory of 9.9 full scholarships.

Fixing wrestling’s ills is all a matter of balancing the sports budget.

As you read more, I know you won’t agree with half of what’s being suggested. But I’m not really suggesting we do anything, I’m only throwing out ideas that are designed to make each of us think. If I’m fortunate enough to do just that, then I’ll consider myself successful. The whole concept here is to suggest that we consider making some course corrections. What the sport ultimately selects will be leadership’s choice. I’m just trying to make everyone aware that there are alternatives to what we’ve been doing.

How serious are our problems; let’s assume for a moment you owned $750,000.00 worth of widget stock in 1980. Since then each of the company’s annual reports have indicated that sales in widgets has declined and you’re losing $10,000.00 a year.

What do you do; sell or hold?

Initially you probably decide to hang on in hopes of a turn around. That’s the smart play; there are always hiccups in the marketplace. But 10 years later your portfolio still has widget stock and you’re down over $100,000.00. You see management trying to reverse the trend but it doesn’t seem to be working. The story you’re hearing is that corporate is pointing fingers at a poor economy but somehow that doesn’t hold water given other widget manufacturers seem to be doing okay.

The only likely conclusion is the company is either doing a poor job of making or marketing the product, has poor customer service or ineffective leadership. But you hang on just the same because you believe in widgets and bailing out does mean the loss of over $100,000.00.

Another 10 years come and go and management is imploring you to stay the course . . . “we’ve made significant changes.” But the only thing you see changing is your 401K is turning into a 101K.

Today it’s almost 35 years later and your stock is now worth $320,000.00, down over $400,000.00. Being able to pay for your children’s college education is now in question and your wife left you $200,000.00 dollars ago. She mentioned something about stupidity and not being able to see the trend, not to mention your willingness to believe in executives who said; “trust us, we know best.”

Well, wrestling had 750 collegiate programs back in 1980 and today we’re down to 320 in all three NCAA divisions. And given the slippery slope that hit gymnastics toward the end of their run as a meaningful NCAA sport, we could be under 100 programs by the end of the decade, or worse yet, just a memory like collegiate boxing is now. As to wrestling’s “trust us” leadership and “we know what’s best,” I don’t see it. The facts say otherwise.

Those who are leading just aren’t capable of leadership or we wouldn’t be where we are.

Actually those widget numbers aren’t completely accurate. We do have roughly 320 active collegiate programs but since 1972 we’ve lost a bunch more than 430, roughly somewhere in the neighborhood of 650 programs; the difference being the number of programs that were added after 1972 and then subsequently dropped.

That makes me wonder, what is the actual number of individual opportunities that were lost for those who wanted to wrestle but couldn’t as a result of these programs being dropped? Is there anything that makes someone think the gymnastic scenario isn’t a real possibility in wrestling? Remember we have Title IX issues nipping at our heels and an economy that’s only doing well around select pockets of the country where wrestling hasn’t always been strong. The outcomes of all this is a whole bunch of athletic administrators who are looking for ways to prop up their bottom line and simplify their lives. And to be truthful, they don’t care which Olympic sport or sports take the hit, it’s all about fiscal responsibility and reducing the number of headaches they have to endure.

The million dollar question becomes; when should we panic as a sport? When do we say enough is enough? When there are only 25 programs left, or is 100 the magic number?

To me, I was beside myself when we hit 600. Actually every program we lose is too many so why are we still sitting on our hands at 320 and saying, “oh golly geese”?

Where’s the outcry?

When did Kodak panic? They were perhaps the most iconic of all photography companies who didn’t feel a need for alarm until it was too late. They never saw the digital age coming or if they did, they ignored it because “we’re Kodak!” Sound familiar; we said “but we’re wrestling” last summer when the IOC threw us out in the cold. In each case leadership wasn’t asleep at the wheel, they were wide awake with their hands on the wheel when they hit the tree.

Now we might want to consider looking to wrestling’s newest threat, Mixed Martial Arts. Who can deny the success they’re enjoying in the combative industry where wrestling competes for the same eye balls and dollars. This is a huge threat because the UFC is to wrestling what the digital age was to Kodak and even given the experience of others we still refuse to see the larger picture. Pun intended.

Now when you add in the very strong possibility that collegiate athletes in football and soon to be basketball are about to receive either salaried contracts or additional stipends beyond scholarship limits, non-revenue sports shouldn’t be nervous, they should be terrified!

Do you think salaried contracts aren’t possible in college athletics; I’m sure you’ve already read about the football players at Northwestern University who won their case in court. They sued the university to be declared employees and to be given the right to create a players union. The court agreed with them on both counts and where this will go is anyone’s guess but the potential ramifications are devastating to more than just non-revenue sports. Here’s what Dan Wetzel wrote in May for Yahoo Sports:

“Schools are going to have to share additional resources with the players who make the money and that means tough decisions about the players and programs that don’t generate money. That’s the endgame hereIt’s straight capitalistic America.”

Two weeks after he wrote that a majority of the Pennsylvania State System Universities received a complaint filed by the Women’s Law Project with the U.S. Department of Education regarding athletic inequality. Without arguing the merits of the case or taking one position over another here, the outcome will most likely be a reduction in the number of men’s programs at 9 of the 13 Pennsylvania state schools that make up the conference. They certainly don’t have the resources to simply add more women’s programs so something has got to give. That means wrestling teams at schools like Clarion, Bloomsburg and Lock Haven who are only shells of what they use to be have a right to be anxious.

More recently the NCAA approved two significant changes to their by-laws which came from the Northwestern University unionization effort. The first is to allow a cost-of-attendance stipend to be given to all scholarship athletes in the country’s 5 largest conferences. Depending upon institutional variances, each athlete will receive an annual check for somewhere between two to seven thousand dollars above and beyond a full scholarship. What that means to athletic department budgets; at the University of Wisconsin as an example, they need to find an additional 2 million dollars of annual revenue to cover these costs. At the Clarion’s of the world, that number is way in excess of their total budget in all sports.

The second change is all NCAA student athletes are now allowed to be given access to an unlimited number of meals per day, plus snacks. This means, besides the cost of the food, schools will need to keep at least one of their dining room lines open and staffed 18 hours a day which will add significant costs to the athletic departments bottom line. These changes will have profound effects on budgets and individual programs:

  • Schools outside the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and Southeastern conference will be at a recruiting disadvantage given they simply can’t afford to keep up with the big boys regarding the cost of attendance stipends. So the rich are about to sign even more exceptional athletes than they already have. That’s not good for wrestling.
  • Given the unlimited number of meals and snacks schools are now allowed to offer their athletes, the more affluent institutions will certainly do so while those with tighter budgets won’t. This means the competitive gap between the major conferences and the Appalachian States’ and Boise States’ of the world is about to widen. That’s not good for wrestling.
  • To minimize the chances of athletic programs at smaller schools fading into the abyss, Athletic Directors will look for ways to ease financial obligations. That seldom means across the board cuts in athletic department budgets, but rather a reduction in the number of sports offered at each institution because Athletic Directors will always protect the competitiveness of their programs versus instituting across the board cuts. That’s not good for wrestling.

If all this isn’t scary enough, a federal judge just ruled in favor of Ed O’Bannon who sued the NCAA regarding the revenue they annually generate from selling the rights to athletes names, images and likenesses. This ends a five-year battle that O’Bannon and others filed on behalf of college athletes to receive a share of the billions that are generated by colleges through huge television contracts.

This effectively forces big schools to create a trust fund to pay athletes up to $5,000.00 per person, per season for the years they competed. This ruling effectively strikes down the NCAA’s definition of amateurism which in the past has kept athletes from receiving anything beyond a full scholarship.

What this means going forward is it is yet another attack on athletic department budgets. That means administrations will have to make even tougher decisions relative to their programs. Basically there are three options, and the second one never occurs.

  • Find additional revenue to cover the new costs.
  • Cut all their current sport budgets to make up the difference.
  • Reduce the number of sports their department offers.

There’s little question that college sports are about to see some major changes to the way they do business and every program that isn’t carrying their own budgetary weight will soon become a member of the intermural department.

The slippery slope wrestling has been on just got a great deal steeper.

Bob Bowlsby, a name that most of us in wrestling should know as he was the person who hired Gable at Iowa when he was the Athletic Director there before moving to a similar post at Stanford and now he’s the Commissioner of the Big 12. He’s wrestling’s most ardent supporter and had this to say about the current state of affairs:

“I think all of what’s currently happening in college sports will in the end cause programs to be eliminated. I think you’ll see men’s Olympic sports go away as a result of the new funding challenges that are coming down the pike.”

This is not Chicken Little saying “the sky is falling,” it is one of the most influential figures in all of college athletics providing his viewpoint. Olympic Sports are going to be eliminated!

Now comes this . . . the American Sports Council (ASC) has warned for years that gender quota activists were setting their sights on applying Title IX’s proportionality rule to high school sports. Now, with a recent federal court ruling, that day has come.

In a September 19, 2014 decision U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court judgment in the case Ollier v. Sweetwater Union High School District.

From the Ninth Circuit court’s decision:

“The Government’s position rejects Sweetwater’s argument that Title IX should be applied differently to high schools than to colleges, as well as the idea that the district court’s ‘substantial proportionality’ evaluation was flawed. We agree with the Government that the three-part test applies to a high school.”

Imposing Title IX’s proportionality test on high schools will have an even more devastating impact on scholastic sports than it has wrought on collegiate sports. In most high schools, the gender balance of students is essentially 50/50. Despite this, there are about 1.3 million more boys than girls participating in high schools across the country. This is just another very substantial reason why wrestling needs to change the model they’re using.

Chapter 3 next Sunday.

How Wrestling Wins – Chapter 1

x and o


As part of the wrestling community for over a half a century, my fondness for the sport has developed into a deep and everlasting respect. It has to be the greatest sport a young man or woman can participate in or a country can offer its children. In many ways it could be considered a pugilistic ballet; a combination of finesse, force and beauty. If you were ever a wrestler or spent time with those who were, you know why America needs the sport now more than ever.

Wrestling is about family, men and women, sons and daughters, responsible and resilient, individuals who are capable of persisting under the harshest of conditions, usually by themselves and never because they have to, but instead because they want to and look forward to the challenges.

Many from the sports ranks have aspired to become President of the United States, Nobel Laureates, Oscar Award Winners and astronauts, directors of orphanages, executives of Fortune 500 Companies, members of the military’s most elite fighting units, educators and of course coaches who help develop America’s next generation of citizens. We’re actually quite a diverse bunch. But regardless of the occupation, those who wrestled are always ready to give back to others just as they were so graciously given when they were young and even on occasion lost their sense of direction. This is how the wrestling community plays it forward for society.

Best of all, it doesn’t matter if the wrestler was an All-American or second string to an average wrestler on a below average team; graduates from our ranks are known for their tenacity, confidence and ability to outwork those around them and of course those who oppose them. These transformative effects in wrestling are the result of the discovery of pain; when lungs burn, muscles ache and ones self-esteem becomes challenged. That’s what the sport does better than any other; it teaches humility and how to accomplish the uncomfortable. Wrestlers learn rather quickly how to make the best of bad positions and when to cut their losses. They acquire leadership skills by first learning how to follow those who came before them and then use those skills to direct their lives and assist others with theirs.

There’s not a better sport for America than wrestling and for all its benefits it’s amazingly inexpensive. With the possible exception of cross country, its number one on the cheap meter which makes it accessible to anyone from uptown, downtown, across town or out of town, be they rich or poor, big or small, tall, short or handicapped. As long as there is a blade of grass in someone’s backyard, regardless of how many programs we lose, you’ll most likely find two boys wrestling over top of it. That’s just the way it is with children and wrestling, it’s the most natural of activities and the absolute best form of self-defense a person can learn.

All this leads us to the sports first challenge . . . we know who we are; the problem is no one else does. That has been a public relations nightmare for us; it’s as if wrestling wants to keep its greatness away from the public. We talk to one another about our sport and its significance to life but that’s where it ends.

Our survival hangs in the balance of us being as tenacious about sharing our story with the public as its athletes are in fighting off a single leg. Wrestling must win this battle because America needs as many wrestlers as it can produce. For nowhere in sport and certainly within our culture can you find individuals who have endured the level of physical, emotional and psychological stress that wrestlers go through on a daily basis. They constantly push themselves harder than any segment of society and display a mental toughness that is unrivaled in sport. Wrestlers consistently operate at higher levels of fortitude and resilience than anyone else because the sport demands it of them. And in relation to other activities, wrestling excels far beyond the norm in teaching self-control, the development of accomplishment-based skill sets and fine tuning emotional constraint.

But none of this means very much unless we can get the message out.

The next challenge we face is the seriousness of the sports decline. More and more wrestling looks like a framed copy of Murphy’s Law. This is why I’ve spent months developing this 80 page document, because the seriousness of what we’re experiencing is so vital to the sports survival that I wanted to make sure this effort was both informative and worthy of your time.

The smart play wasn’t to remind everyone how bad we’ve been at being good stewards of the sport or point out individual guilt. Instead, most everyone I spoke with suggested I consider taking baby steps in my writing style, spoon feed the readership, stay away from offending anyone while putting an extra emphasis on being agreeable. They indicated the nature of man being what it is; the only way we could win was being amiable.

But they are all absolutely wrong. Knowing the sport and its players as I do, regardless of how well this document is written, or the amount of honey used, there will always be those who carefully consider the points being made and those who never will. That’s wrestling, a bunch of fine lines that exists between the strength of tenacity and drawback of pigheadedness, the importance of persistence and the shortcoming of obstanance.

Instead I just began to type and refused to concern myself with offending those in charge because the time has come for the wrestling community to vote on how well leadership has done. To do that they have to hear the other side of the story so they can separate fact from fiction.

In my opinion, is everything leadership’s fault? Yes, absolutely. They’re the ones who have been at the helm, they’re the ones who have had the power and they’re the ones who are privy to inside information that the general population doesn’t get. Yet here we are, at the bottom of the athletic barrel about to go over the falls.

So I thought if not me, who will point the finger of blame. If not now, when?

Please understand, I don’t expect much to come of this effort but if I can help you see the sport in a different light then maybe, just maybe you as a group can affect what I don’t have a chance of doing as an individual. But if I fail in my quest, here’s a prediction.

If wrestling isn’t financially self-sufficient by 2020 it will only be an intermural sport on college campuses.

So here we go; the outcome of my efforts is before you and they consist of months and months of writing and introspection, re-writing and reflection.

Part 1

In Washington DC circa 1955 a newspaper did a story on wrestling and it listed two reasons why the sport was having trouble relating to the public.

Wrestling Challenges

The first was spectators are thrown for a loss by the scoring system. Nothing has changed in 60 years.

How can a boy win 10-3 and only earn 3 points for his team when in dozens of other sports every point scored is a point recorded? Can you imagine LeBron James scoring 44 points in a game and then the public address announcer informing the audience that because of his outstanding effort the Heat will receive not the 44 he scored but 5 team points? That’s what we do in wrestling when a person wins his match 22-7. Why shouldn’t the team whose wrestler scored 22 points get to keep 22 points and the vanquished his 7 points? Hasn’t each athlete earned that right as a result of his effort? But actually LeBron would have never gotten to 44 points because he would have been forced to sit down after scoring 15 more points than his opponent. How crazy is that – but that’s wrestling for you!

I know; we’ve always had 3 point decisions, 4 point majors, 5 point techs and 6 point pins. Well, not really. The 4 point majors and 5 point tech falls only came into being in the 1970’s. Before that there were three scoring sequences.

  1. A tie which gave both teams 2 points each.
  2. A win by decision and regardless of how many points were put on the board the victor received 3 team points, the loser 0 points.
  3. A pin which was worth either 5 or 6 team points. 5 if the pin occurred in the second or third periods and 6 if it occurred in the first.

During those years it wasn’t all that unusual to see individual bouts end by scores of 25-6 or 34 -12. Wrestlers were putting points on the board trying to pin their opponent because it was potentially worth twice the number of points than a decision. Remember that as you read the next several paragraphs, every wrestler had a very persuasive incentive to score points and his coach was more than motivated to push his athlete toward the pin.

Then the rules committee decided that it made sense to reward those who put more points on the board than others and why we now have the 4 point major and 5 point tech which is similar to the mercy rule that baseball has for its little league players. That confuses me; if we’re as tough as we claim to be, why are we treating our senior athletes like little leaguers?

Let’s take a look now at the unintended consequence of the 4 point major and 5 point tech; a reduction in pinning instruction and as a result the number of pins you see today. Why would a coach want to teach or an athlete learn two completely different skill sets when knowing just one can earn 5 team points? Being a master of takedowns assured the athlete not only of victory but being able to score almost as many team points as he/she would have by way of a fall. Basically those who were proficient on their feet could rack up so many points that tech falls became takedown clinics which supplanted the need to pin someone.

Then after pinning became a non-issue, winning by tech fall also lost some of its luster. Athletes started thinking, “If a major is worth 4 team points and a tech is worth 5 points, why am I killing myself for just one additional point? It doesn’t make sense to put myself at risk of possibility getting caught on my back for minimal reward.” The philosophy of the day became:

“I’m going to have to score probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 more points to get from a major to a tech when I consider all the escapes I have to give up to get there so why am I killing myself?”

As a result, athletes began backing off technical falls in favor of major decisions given the adverse risk to reward percentages.

Then the very same “the heck with the tech” thought process started infecting the athlete’s willingness to work toward majors. Why risk scoring all those points for one extra team point when history favors (with wins) those who take a conservative approach to scoring and where we are today.

This calculated style of wrestling has crept into our mindsets so gradually over the last 35 years that it has been virtually impossible to notice the shift; first away from pinning and then away from bonus points. Today the object of wrestling is simply to get your hand raised. If that means the only sounds we hear from the stands are crickets, well that’s simply the price of winning matches as we lose the sport.

The following represents the average points scored, per bout in the NCAA finals by year. Note the continual decline in scoring since major decisions and technical falls were introduced.

Year    Points Scored

1979               19.5

1981               13.2

1986               11.0

1994                 9.0

2002                 8.0

2005                 7.9

2013                6.9

Since the late 70’s, scoring has declined 282%. Still not convinced? During the 1970’s there were 10 pins recorded in the NCAA finals which works out to a 10% pin to win ratio. Since 2000, in the last 14 years, there have been 5 pins or a 3.5% pin to win ratio. That’s a 285% drop in pinning percentages over the last 44 years.

But the good news is we can reverse the trend if we want to, but there has to be willingness on the part of leadership. It’s all about incentives with the basic premise; if you make something worth doing, you’ll have people lining up to do it.

The NFL knows that, they constantly change their rules; a small tweak here, a noticeable change there. It’s all designed to increase scoring and why might I ask? Because they found their spectator numbers improved and media interest skyrocketed as points increased.

The following numbers represent the total points scored in Super Bowls for the first 6 years of the event versus the last 6 years. Notice the average has almost doubled over that 48 year period.

Super Bowl Points Scored

2014            51

2013            65

2012            38

2011             56

2010            48

2009            50

Average       51


1972              27

1971              29

1970             30

1969             23

1968             47

1967              35

Average       27

One way to increase the number of points being scored in a match is to increase the number of pins we see. The way you do that is make the pin worth 10 team points, or double that of a tech fall. Remember pinning for many years was exactly that; worth twice that of a decision and no one had a problem with it. So move the pin back to where it once was as king of scoring and I’m positive you’ll witness a sharp upturn in people bridging; because coaches know what will happen if they don’t start teaching half nelson’s again.

Besides increasing the pin value to 10 points, try this rule change on for size. The buzzer ending a period doesn’t stop the action if a person is on his back. The match continues until the athlete is either pinned or he fights his way back to his base.

If we want to make the pin king again, we need to put the crown in the hands of the offensive man.

The newspapers second reason why wrestling was having a tough time relating to its spectators was the rules were too complex to understand relative to the visual simplicity of the sport.

Nothing has changed there either, except now we have more governing bodies, organizations and event operators; each with their own variation of the rules and ways of handling difficult situations. That leads to each one believing their way is not only the best way but the only way; ergo the sports devastating amount of infighting over everything imaginable.

There are two things wrong with these fights:

  1. The pie everyone is going to war over is only getting smaller as a direct result of the battles.
  2. Only a small percentage of these groups actually care about the health of the sow they’re suckling from which seems to be an appropriate metaphor for the sport.

The rest of the field only wants to be positioned in a way so they’ll get more milk today than they did yesterday and if that kills the sow, so be it.

Yet despite our efforts and love for the sport, a vast majority of everything we’ve tried to right wrestling’s ship hasn’t worked. Rule changes, creative promotions, inventive marketing; they’ve all had little effect because nothing leadership has ever done was creative or inventive. All they do instead is put fresh coats of paint over decaying floor boards. It certainly makes things appear new and improved but as you can imagine, you don’t want to walk across the room.

Wrestling needs to go back to the basics and determine what it wants to be, erase most of what we’ve done in the last 50 years and start anew.

Yet it’s a testament to the greatness of wrestling, in spite of our failures we somehow manage to survive, not with exceptional growth or notable spectator interest but the word endure might explain it best. But more and more we’re like the frog who doesn’t know he’s in trouble as the pan of water he’s floating in gets increasingly hotter.

Wrestling needs a top down, not a bottom up overhaul like we do every year. We can’t win by tweaking the rules or maintaining the same mind set. That has only gotten us where we are now, bridging with Chris Taylor on top.

Chapter 2 next Sunday.

How Wrestling Wins – Prologue


Wrestling is in absolute jeopardy of no longer being an NCAA sport by the end of this decade. But amazingly, it also has the ability to become one of America’s staples in the sports entertainment industry. Actually it’s the only sport I’m aware of that has that capability; and my reason for writing this manifesto.

Everyone must understand the absolute truth about where the sport is going; and stop listening to what leadership is telling everyone. The truth is somewhere closer to 180 degrees away from where we’re headed.

So I view my words here as a responsibility, an IOU fulfillment of debts I incurred growing up in wrestling. Without a father at home, the sport provided an unending supply of role models that illuminated the path I traveled. It gave me the ability to put food on my families table, cloths on my children’s backs and a roof over our heads. I owe it far more than I can ever repay and it’s what keeps me up at night.

But be forewarned. Today’s leadership is going to say How Wrestling Wins is nothing more than a collection of out of the box viewpoints and over-the-top ideas. I’m actually expecting this because it’s the only way leadership can possibly quiet the whispers this read will launch.

I begin by reminding everyone how special and amazing the sport of wrestling is and follow that with a computation of our failings, from leadership’s unwillingness to embrace change to our community’s apparent indifference to our decline. But I spend most of my time writing about the importance of spectators and how we attract them; because without a continuous stream of reoccurring revenue the sport will disappear.

Unfortunately, nothing you read here will come to pass. It’s just an undeniable absolute that for change to occur, those who lead must see the need for that change and have the willingness to endure the discomfort of change. That just isn’t going to happen.

So in the interim, please enjoy the read. Just as great photographers shoot the same scenery as amateurs, the difference between run-of-the-mill and great are the angles they select, the lighting they use and the composition they choose. I’ll let you decide who’s right when you’re done reading but given leaderships history of using slower shutter speeds, all you can be assured of receiving from them are blurry outcomes?

Each week I will post one segment after another until the total work is in print.

How Kids Learn to Reach their Full Potential

It’s a common practice for school boards to adopt proposals that tie academic performance to after school activities. In most cases, if students fail to maintain a certain academic average they become ineligible to participate in after school activities like cheerleading, tennis and chorus.

The prevailing philosophy is that students are more apt to improve classroom performance when carrots are dangled and pressure to perform is applied. Unfortunately for some students, the ones who fall into the category of academically challenged and yes, even, academically lazy, this thought process doesn’t always live up to its billing or achieve the desired results.

There has to be a more balanced approach. Continue reading

A Call to Action – by Mike Novogratz

I had the privilege of listening to Mike Novogratz speak at the pre-meet social at this weekend’s NWCA All-Star Classic.  He left us all energized and encouraged. Here is his speech below. . . notice if you would the differences between what those who have achieved are saying and those who are struggling to lead are doing?

A Call to Action

By Mike Novogratz – Chairman of the Board-Beat the Streets-New York City

Continue reading

USAWrestling Isn’t What It Used To Be

Looking Back

USAWrestling isn’t what it used to be. I remember very vividly when the AAU were the bad guys and a fledgling group known as the USWF headed by Steve Combs wore the white hats and began making waves. To look back on it now, comparing the old AAU to the current USAWrestling, there’s not much of a difference. Both had a Board of Directors, voting members and leadership teams but in each case, the only opinion that counted came from the very top. That’s a good thing when you have people like David Stern, Roger Goodell or a Bud Selig calling the shots. They’re all businessmen who understand when politics should not impede progress. But when you don’t have that . . . Continue reading

Stieber vs. Maple

Lineups are starting to be announced for the NWCA All Star Classic.  A BIG match-up was announced that is equal to the Dake vs. Taylor event from last year.  This year, NCAA champion Logan Stieber from Ohio State will be wrestling NCAA champion Kendrick Maple from Oklahoma. At last year NCAA championships, Logan won at 133 and Maple at 141. Logan is going up a weight to wrestle Kendrick. This year they’ll be at 141 and 149 at the NCAA’s.

The All-Star Classic will take place on November 2nd at 7:15pm on the campus of George Mason University.  To purchase tickets to the event, visit the Ticketmaster website.  For more information on the All-Star Classic, visit the NWCA website.

It’s Time to Expand National Scholastic Rankings
Continue reading

All Star Classic Wrestling Clinic

Honoring Clinicians

Clinicians are the only group remaining that isn’t represented at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame or recognized by any of the national media outlets. Wrestling on the other hand does pay tribute to their coaches, athletes, contributors and officials as they should but not clinicians and I can’t figure out why?

I don’t think anyone will debate the importance and skill sets of clinicians. Their contributions to man’s oldest sport are extraordinary and for most wrestlers, clinics are the only way athletes have of meeting their heroes and the legends of our sport. Shouldn’t there be a way for us to honor these men and women for their service and as a result provide incentives for their efforts?
Continue reading

We’re Back… until 2024

Congratulations to all that did so much for wrestling.

  1. Jim Scherr for his tireless energy and effective presentation.
  2. President Putin for his sophisticative (I know, it’s a new word I just made up) approach to lobbying the IOC membership.
  3. America’s Big 5 business leaders who gave hundreds of hours of personal time and generous amounts of resources to the cause.
  4. FILA’s new President Nenad Lalovic who is making a difference and appears to have the support of FILA’s Board. And I should hope so after the Board’s lame attempt to deny any knowledge of what befell our sport. Lalovic’s two best attributes; a) he never wrestled and b) he’s a business man.
  5. Most of all, a firm handshake to the one man who single-handedly made the greatest difference on our behalf. Someone the American wrestling public has never heard of – Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah of Kuwait. He’s the President of the Association of National Olympic Committees and didn’t think the Olympics would be the Olympics if wrestling wasn’t there.

It might be interesting to note that those who weren’t mentioned above will suggest it was their leadership that won the day. I believe as time passes and the facts are known, you’ll come to the same conclusion as I have.
Continue reading

Great Video . . . Go Wrestling!

Several weeks ago I placed a video here that sold the benefits of Squash. I felt it was important for you see what the other sports were doing relative to our efforts.
So now it’s our turn. Please take a moment to watch this amazing piece of artistry from the desks of Nick Garone and Geoff Riccio. What a masterful job they did.
We Need Wrestling 2
My favorite segment was the photograph of the two wrestlers walking away from the camera arm in arm. One from the United States and the other from Iran. Powerful stuff indeed.

FILA’s Getting It, USAWrestling Isn’t

This is an article from yesterday’s New York Times.

Kudos to President Lalovic and FILA. This past week they evened the weight classes from 7-7-4 to 6-6-6 as part of their efforts to become IOC compliant and reiterated their support for women in leadership positions. That was a strong move on their part. If only FILA’s previous President would have been so attentive we wouldn’t be where we are right now.

What FILA needs to tackle immediately is Continue reading

Is Gender Equity Wrestling’s Undoing at the Olympics?

To begin . . . the following paragraph is the IOC’s Mission Statement regarding gender equity relative to events and administrative structures.

“The IOC is committed to gender equity in sport. The Olympics Charter states that one of the roles of the IOC is “to encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all levels and in all structures, with a view to implementing the principle of equality of men and women.” Its commitment extends well beyond its efforts to increase women’s participation in the Olympic Games. The IOC also recognizes that gender equality is a critical component of effective sports administration and continues to support the promotion of women and girls in sport at all levels and structures.

So the question becomes, how will the role of women in wrestling play into the IOC decision this September? Here are my thoughts:
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2013 NWCA All Star Classic – Who’s on Your Must-See List?

Last year, for the first time ever, the annual NCAA All Star Classic was an absolute sell out; complete with the names of several thousand anxious wrestling fans on a waiting list. Needless to say the sponsor, the Greater Washington Wrestling Business Network (GWWBN) was more than ecstatic.
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2020 Olympic Wrestling: We Shouldn’t Get Too Confident

It’s wonderful that wrestling received eight of the 15 votes to become one of three sports who will make presentations in September. But in no way does this mean we have room for optimism. To the contrary, all that took place in St. Petersburg was we overcame the challenges of five considerably weaker opponents while failing to persuade seven other Executive Committee members that we’re a sport worth saving.

So Let’s Look at the Competition
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2020 Olympic Wrestling – Time to Thin the Herd

I have to say watching this Olympic level challenge play out has been fascinating. It’s been a blend of emotional roller coaster meets tilt-a-whirl. I read one email and it suggests everything is a done deal and we’re back.  The next has my head spinning, where a complete overhaul of FILA and USAWrestling is being suggested because the battle is lost.
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