The Penn State, Ohio State Dual

A truly outstanding meet with the sport being the ultimate winner. Well, sort of, kind of, well, not really.

The very first thing I noticed when I turned to the Big Ten Network 15 minutes before airtime was a Penn State-Iowa basketball game that was taking place in the Bryce Jordan Center.

I said, “what, I thought tonight’s match was at home?” Then the announcer’s indicated I was right, but the match was scheduled for Rec Hall instead.

Immediately I was shaking my head and then uttering, “you’ve got to be kidding?”

The biggest dual meet of the year and maybe of the decade, with 8, count them, 8 national champions wrestling in the 10 weight classes, and a total of 18 of the 20 wrestlers ranked nationally . . . and the meet is being relegated to Rec Hall?

Don’t get me wrong, Rec Hall is a great building with a storied past, but it’s woefully inadequate for a Super Bowl like dual.

For those who are unaware, Bryce Jordan seats 16K and can accommodate upwards of 2k more with mat side seating and a lenient Fire Marshall. Rec Hall can’t handle 7K even if they allow rafter seating.

I get it, it’s wrestling versus basketball but half the seats in the BJC were without butts for that PSU-Iowa basketball game. And conversely, tickets for the dual meet were as scarce as wrestlers in Boise State’s wrestling room.

The administration at Penn State could have filled Bryce Jordan twice over for the Ohio State dual . . . and most likely doubled gate receipts. (To my point, yesterday the Iowa-Penn State dual was held in Bryce Jordan and it was a sell out, well over 16k fans were present. And the Hawkeyes don’t even have 1 NCAA Champion in their lineup although they are always a strong draw.)

So, who at Penn State didn’t think about the impact this decision would have on the sport as a whole and its bottom line?

Do you realize that wrestling has never been in the black anywhere in America? The sport at every institution loses money every year with PSU being the closest of all the universities to breaking even with a deficit of over 100K. Those numbers are the latest statistics I could find which I believe are two years old but the point is, the sport isn’t doing well. Actually, it’s on food stamps and welfare.

Tell me, what’s wrong with hosting the match in Bryce Jordan earlier in the day, or the next afternoon? Both time frames would have worked, both teams were free of any obligation then and neither were scheduled to go again until the following weekend.

Now I did read that the Lions preferred Rec Hall because it shut out Buckeye fans from acquiring tickets. I can understand that thinking even if it is nearsighted, but in the larger picture it’s a terrible business decision. And why the sport struggles so.

Yes, I realize there’s an added cost in going to the BJC given that PSU doesn’t own the building so charge an extra $5.00 per ticket and the negative goes away.

The point here is the sport desperately needs a program, any program, to show a profit. We need to demonstrate to athletic administrators across the country that we can be self-sufficient if given the opportunity.

Note to coaches, administrators don’t care about your All-Americans and winning record, they are only interested in the color of the ink your program is producing.

This is exactly why the President of Boise State said last Spring, “wrestling is a dying sport!” And if it’s not dying, the best that can be said is the sport’s in neutral when so many other ones are growing in participation numbers, media interest and revenue production. None of that bodes well for wrestling when you realize what our sport could be.

Today we have less than 50% of the collegiate programs we had in the 1970’s and half as many fans. I know that doesn’t look good for us but what makes it far worse is the growth of so many other sports that once were far below wrestling’s numbers. Put simply, we’re becoming less as others become more.

But congratulations just the same to Cael and all the Nittany Lion wrestlers and support personal for the huge win; it was an evening well served.

USAWrestling Had A Great Year

The organization won 32 World Medals this year and 14 of them were Gold! Plus, they brought home the 2017 Senior World Team Title!

Kudo’s to all, exceptional job! Congrats also to Bill Zadick for being named National Olympic Coach of the Year. Well deserved.

Whereas Russia Had A Miserable Year

For the first time since 1951, the Russians failed to have a senior level World Champion at any weight, in any style! I wonder if that had anything to do with the IOC jumping their bones regarding decades of epidemic level doping? It serves them right; but it’s also saddens me to think of all the other great wrestlers the world has produced who had to settle for less than Gold as a result of their indefensible, widespread and government sponsored cheating? A question to chew over: given their medically bionic power, were they ever great wrestlers or just very good wrestlers with great power? That cloud of doubt seems to have merit when you evaluate their recent drop in performance.

And Then Shame On The IOC

How could the International Olympic Committee allow any of the athletes from Russia to compete in the Winter Olympics? I thought we had rules with serious consequences for violators regarding the use of anabolic steroids? And worst of all, the violator this time was the country itself!

I could see from an outsider’s perspective, specifically those not in competition, how this is a feel-good story . . . we’re allowing those who chose not to violate the most sacred of rules to have a path to citizenship . . . I mean competition?

However, it seems the penalty that the IOC imposed on the Russian Federation was purposely written in disappearing ink. A wink-wink, nod-nod sort of agreement between leaderships. “We’ll start by acting indignant, then levy heavy penalties and then when you begin to offer us the right amount of inducements we’ll create work arounds proportional to the incentives.” Does anyone doubt that’s a possibility?

As for the use of performance enhancing drugs, there is no doubt in my mind that they were dirty even when I wrestled against them 40 years ago. I’d swear that everyone one of them was capable of doing push-ups under large cars and small trucks.

But in Rio they were finally, actually, completely and unquestionably caught cheating. Now two years later, and the very first Olympiad since then, the Russians are back.

So much for rules, regulations or their transgressions. They weren’t even forced to say 5 Hail Mary’s or 1 “I’m sorry.”

I get it, athletes shouldn’t be penalized for something their country did, especially if the ones competing are clean. But that’s crap; the only way rules are effective is when they bite everyone who’s in the organization. When a CEO makes a bad decision, everyone in the company pays. When a commander in the field screws up, soldiers die. When a quarterback throws a pick-6, his entire team suffers.

But here, it seems the Russians were playing roulette with the odds in their favor. They knew they were too big to be allowed to fail, because the IOC needs them more than they need to enforce their rules.

So, did anyone get hurt here? Well, actually yes. As soon as the scandal broke two of the three men who masterminded their doping program died under curious circumstances. The other one didn’t wait around to find out what happened, he fled the country.

Now the athletes are not only back but representing oh, wait for it, Team OAR (Olympic Athletes from Russia). Wow, how cunning of the IOC, no one will ever know who these athletes are representing or be able to compare metal counts. Oh look, here’s today’s medal count for the Top 9 countries.

Medals Race
Total Today

NOR

Norway

3 5 3 11 +2

NED

Netherlands

4 4 2 10 +3

CAN

Canada

3 4 3 10 +3

GER

Germany

5 2 2 9 +2

USA

United States

3 1 2 6 +2

FRA

France

2 1 2 5 +2

OAR

Olympic Athletes from Russia

0 1 4 5 +3

SWE

Sweden

2 1 0 3 +1

ITA

Italy

1 1 1 3 +2

So, tell me again, I missed it, what was their penalty for cheating?

We’re Still A Class Group

Not a wrestler, a coach or a fan, at any time throughout the year, took a knee during the playing of our National Anthem. We may be many things, and certainly a very diverse bunch, but wrestling is America . . . it’s amber waves of grain, hard work, discipline and even with varied political views, we’ve always been united under one flag.

Jacob’s Cradle; Almost Done

I’m glad to report that I’m close to finishing the book I’ve been writing. That frees up enough time now to restart these blogs; at least on a limited basis until its published.

Regarding the book, this was my first attempt at a 300-page novel. I hope it’ll be received as graciously as you welcomed my blog.

As to the story line, the book is about Jacob Charles, a middle-aged man in his early 30’s who’s determined to retire from wrestling as an Olympic Champion. Before he can do that though, he has to overcome more than his share of hardships; from the death of his young wife and the twin boys she was carrying to avenging the loss of his father at the hands of an international assassin. But most of all, it’s the story of love found, love lost and love regained; all wrapped around the CIA, Interpol and the underbelly of international wrestling.

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17 thoughts on “The Penn State, Ohio State Dual

  1. Wade,, still follow you as much as I can, from our high school and college days
    Recently I have regained a great interest in college wrestling as I did following you 45-50 years ago
    About psu- Ohio State, I also was greatly upset at the choice of center hey used
    Until I heard the big 10, determined the time for each event and psu had to go with what they could

    • Great to hear from you . . . it’s been a while! Hope you’re doing well.

      I don’t think the Big 10 sticks to their guns about the time or even the day if the host and their competition decide it’s better for the sport of wrestling and income streams to move it a couple of hours one way or the other of for a day.

  2. Forgive me for playing devil’s advocate. Wrestling?

    What wrestling? What exactly is wrestling anyway?

    Is it a sport designed by daddy to toughen up his son or a sport designed by mommy to insure her little darling doesn’t get beat up?

    Is wrestling a ground sport or a sport where you see how many times you can take a person down, letting him up just to take him down again?

    You make dozens of rules to make mommy happy, and then complain the officials are deciding the outcome of the match. Daddy would say, leave them alone as along as they aren’t hurting each other, let them wrestle, let them solve their own problems.

    Wrestling is not fighting, but neither is wrestling a politically correct dance designed by mommy.

    Wrestling is supposed to be a sport where two boys beat each other up without injuring each other. Wrestling is supposed to be one-on-one. Wrestling is supposed to be messy.

    Wrestling is supposed to toughen your little darling up so the military doesn’t have to toughen him up should he decide to serve in the military.

    Look at your rules. Name a year you haven’t had rule changes.

    Name a year you haven’t decided to ban a move or hold because it was dangerous or you haven’t decided to clarify stalling or you haven’t decided something about the clock. How did boys wrestle a hundred years ago without killing each other if they didn’t have your rules banning everything? How did boys deal with stalling a hundred years ago? Did boys worry about the clock a hundred years ago?

    You and your rules committees have it all wrong.

    Don’t be religious about time clocks. A hundred years ago, time clocks weren’t important. Wrestlers and coaches couldn’t use the clock as part of their wrestling strategy, like they do now.

    How much of wrestling is about the clock? You stop a match during a pinning situation when time runs out. Coaches yell at wrestlers telling them time for the period is running out.

    If a match is exciting, the clock should be ignored. If a match is boring, the match should be ended in a draw, irrespective of how much time is on the clock.

    Don’t have referees decide stalling. That’s a problem for the wrestlers to solve. If they go off the mat, put them back on the mat in the same position, near as you can, to the position they had when they went off.

    If one wrestler is stalling, it’s up to the other wrestler to take him down, and beat on him a little, if possible.

    If the wrestler on top is stalling, it’s up to the wrestler on the bottom to get out of the situation, and not rely on a kindly referee to come to his rescue.

    You’re afraid of stalling because you have that blasted clock. Get rid of that blasted clock, tell them you will stop the match and call it a draw if they want to stall, and see what happens. Tell the coach, too many draws and you will DQ the team for the rest of the year, not just this one dual, and see if the coach teaches his charges not to stall and what to do about stalling.

    You say pins are the goal in wrestling? Or do you? What is the goal in wrestling? I say pinning an opponent is the goal, but I’m willing to bet you have coaches who will disagree.

    Reward wrestlers for accomplishing goals, not tactics. Pinning is the goal. Take downs and escapes and reversals are tactics. Near falls aren’t goals. Near falls are failed attempts, close but no cigar, at accomplishing a goal. Being close should only count in horse shoes.

    You’re too afraid of draws, which I can understand in individual tournaments, but why are you afraid of draws in dual matches?

    If pinning is the goal, only pinning should count toward team points.

    In summary,

    As long as wrestling is a politically correct dance designed by mommy so her little darling won’t get a scratch, or designed with goals to avoid pinning or make it easy to win a wrestling match without pinning, wrestling is doomed. We have plenty of other sports for mommy’s little darling where they will be perfectly safe. We have lots of other sports for coaches who want their charges to win without having to work hard to pin an opponent. There are plenty of non-contact sports to choose from.

    I apologize for unloading. Wrestling is doomed. I don’t think you even have consensus among your coaches what constitutes wrestling, and what should be the goals for wrestling.

    You may think you have a consensus, but your rules and your reliance on the clock and your reliance on the referee solving all your problems with wrestling suggest otherwise.

    Wrestling claimed to be a combat sport last time I checked, or is that no longer true?

    How will I know when wrestling is no longer doomed? I will know wrestling is no longer doomed when the military no longer has to toughen up mommy’s little boys in boot camp. I will know when wrestling can again lay claim to being a combat sport, not just for a select few who would be good at combat anyway, but for the vast majority of its participants.

    Please forgive me for unloading.

  3. Wade excellent content, love reading about wrestling when the person is a well versed and honest as you are.

  4. Wade, glad that you’re back putting ink on paper in public. I’ll be looking forward to your book, but even more so, to your thoughts and comments on a brighter future for wrestlin – on a more regular basis – wrestling needs your voice. Now . . . If they would just listen.

  5. Welcome back Wade. I am with you. I do not look at your opinions as negative but typically matter of fact. So many people are too timid to speak their mind candidly. Too many people want to be politically correct. Our sport needs to be promoted, evolve and grow. I see too few leaders and coaches willing to take initiative to do this. Glad your blog is back in action! I agree OSU @ PSU should have been scheduled to enable nearly 10,000 more fans to watch in person. It could have been done easily. I agree Bill Zadick and USAW had a great season and also agree the Russians I wrestled were freakishly strong!

    • Thanks Kenny . . . . overall my point is that business managers should be making business decisions and coaches should coach. Coaches want to win and they will always decide, regardless of the outcome, on decisions that gives them the best chances of winning. And that’s okay, that’s what they’re paid to do but it’s also why we’re going backwards. Hope you’re doing well.

  6. Wade I always enjoy your perspective. Why so gloom though. I understand Title IX has taken away 50% of our wrestling programs but let’s try not to be so negative here…. I just watched Mich. vs Ohio State. If I read your words correctly I think you said PSU’s budget for wrestling is $100,000… Well there were around 8,000 people at the wrestling match that I just watched. I don’t know how much a ticket is… lets just say $10.00. That’s $80,000 right there! Not including the concessions and t-shirt sales! After paying door people and refs and custodians, that one match pretty much pays for their season…. And that one match tonight will bring back fans to MIchigan Univ. Also that one match between Penn State and OSU will bring back fans from all over. And the Match between PSU and IOWA was another sell out crowd. Come on Wade solutions here, not problems. And I know you have a knack for solving problems in our wonderful sport of wrestling. I gave one solution and no one listened…. lol…

    • PSU’s wrestling budget is way more than $100k. Wade stated they were $100k in the red two years ago.

      • I didn’t say that was their budget, and it’s way over a million dollars each year. I said when the smoke clears each year they are in the red by over 100k.

    • Mark . . . maybe I didn’t choose my words carefully enough, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say or suggest that PSU’s budget is 100k, it’s far more, well over a million, but when you subtract expenses from revenue, they are over 100k in the hole and the Nittany Lions are the closest thing we have to making ends meet of all our major institutions.

      I’ve tried the positive route and will continue to do so as best as I can but I always hear, “I know there are solutions to our problems somewhere but that one isn’t it.” It doesn’t matter what I write, that’s the response I hear more times than not.

      In my opinion, in order to get people thinking you have to make them aware of how bad it is, regardless of how disturbing that might be or contrary to what you may want to read.

      And on that subject, you/we/anyone CANNOT point to the 2, 3 or 4 best programs in America and then point to their 2, 3 or 4 best dual meets and say, “see, we’re fine and getting better.” If you insist on looking at it that way, then allow me the courtesy of pointing out the 350 other universities and colleges that have more wrestlers and parents in the gym than fans in the stands.

      Wrestling has to stop looking at the PSU-OSU type of duals and point them out as being what the sport is. They’re anomalies, clearly not the norm. Granted, it’s what we want the sport to be but to think that way is to mislead oneself.

      • Wade speaks the sad candid truth above. To solve this attendance issues, coaches need to do more than Xs and Os. They need to engage college SIDs and marketing departments, high school booster clubs, and the media and get more fans in the seats. Youth programs and parents need to attend high school matches and high school teams need to attend college matches. We also need to produce an exciting and entertaining event.

        • Get a program vs program dual. Youth, Jr High, and High School all together. Build community. Build rivalries.

          Long, all day tournaments — at all levels — are brutal on fans (and their backsides).

          • Wade always has good ideas. We need more folks in wrestling community taking consistent and persistent actions.

            Brad Hiatts’s comment nails it.

  7. Good to see you back at it Wade!

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