Wrestling needs a Donald Trump

By | February 23, 2016

In listening to the few who are trying to defend USAWrestling it’s apparent their organization desperately needs new leadership and of the type that brings a wealth of business knowledge to the table. Now I’m not talking about The Donald’s political positions or whether you prefer Democratic tenets to Republican beliefs, but if we’re to ever stop the bleeding, wrestling needs people with histories of business success, not those whose skills center around managing events.

Unfortunately there will be those who disagree with this opinion and feel that wrestling is doing fine. Maybe that’s true within the sport but not outside the cocoon where the rest of us live. Ask Athletic Directors in private what they think about our sport? Talk with any marketing group that has offices in New York City and ask them why wrestling isn’t on their radar? Do a personal study; compare how wrestling markets itself in relation to other sports and what you’ll find won’t be easy to swallow.

The fact is wrestling isn’t doing fine. Programs are disappearing, spectator numbers are dwindling except in a few geographical pockets, forfeits are increasing, retention rates at the elementary levels are the worst of any sport and we can’t even find one major sponsor in all of America who is willing to advertise with us. And all this is happening while sports who were non-existent 20 and 30 years ago are passing us by.

The problem is we’ve been doing things the same way for so long that it’s unfathomable to imagine what the future could be under effective leadership. Television contracts, six figure salaries for all collegiate coaches, international dominance, standing room only duals, athletes becoming house hold names and sponsorship dollars flowing in every direction. We could have it all but leadership doesn’t want it because there’s this little thing about losing one’s position when the company or organization he or she manages rises above their level of incompetence.

How many of you remember that domestically wrestling use to be bigger than soccer 30 years ago and that the UFC use to be nothing more than semi-organized brawls before Dana White took over? How about Rugby, the newest Olympic sport who most American’s can’t even tell you how they score points but it has passed us by along with Lacrosse and Squash, two other sports who want our spot in the Olympics.

Remember the IOC has capped the number of sports the Summer Games can have at 28, so for every one they add, one has to be subtracted.

That should make all of us nervous because I’m not aware of anything USAWrestling is doing outside the sport to keep wrestling off the chopping block come 2020, especially when heads didn’t roll when we lost the Olympics two years ago. Maybe I’m off base here but over 6 decades of life has taught me that the quickest way to change behavior is to attach consequences to failure. The reason why Wall Street controls the world’s economy is the word consequence, it dominates their culture. A simple downturn in company stock or a misstated phrase in the media is enough to have a CEO on the street looking for work. It’s accountability, it’s a dog eat dog financial corridor where only the best of the best survive as a result of consequences.

Now given the magnitude of wrestling losing the Olympics two years ago let me ask, who at USAWrestling lost their job or at the very least was demoted when we got the boot? The answer is no one so the next question should be; what’s the motivating factor for Colorado Springs to keep their eye on the prize between now and 2020?

Now you’ll hear they have it covered. But do they? It’s not so much about what the sport is doing internally, but how are we being perceived and compared to others like USALacrosse, a sport whose influence continues to climb that had 20,000 members 18 years ago and now has over 400,000 with a staff of 70 and a 17 million dollar budget. It’s the fastest growing sport in America and how we compare to them along with Squash will determine our Olympic future.

Let’s go over that again. If you’re a number’s person, USALacrosse has well over twice as many members, fans and momentum as USAWrestling, twice the staff as USAWrestling and yet is operating on a budget that is just a hair larger than USAWrestling’s bloated one. And Lacrosse has accomplished all this in the last 18 years! That sounds to me as if they’re operating as a business while our NGB is still in sport manager mode. These levels of achievement are the sort of things the IOC finds attractive when they begin the evaluative process.

Another issue worth spending time on is the area that the IOC listed earlier as being a dynamic failure of wrestling’s leadership, and that was the level of inequality between men and women in both competitive opportunities and positions of leadership. That was one of the most significant reasons why we lost our luster in the eyes of the IOC and subsequently our position as an Olympic sport.

So maybe we should ask, has anything changed because it doesn’t appear so.

The following sentence is part of the IOC’s Mission Statement and reflects the importance they place on the relationships between males and females in sport.

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.

In support of this ongoing commitment to equality the IOC Executive Board is comprised of 36% women whereas in wrestling, the UWW has 14% in leadership positions and USAWrestling has the following numbers:

Percentage of women in leadership roles at USAWrestling

Executive Committee . . . 7%

Board of Directors . . . 14%

Finance Committee . . . 0%

Ethics Committee . . . 0%

Executive Staff . . . 14%

Junior Olympic Committee . . . 17%

Freestyle Committee . . . 0%

Governance Committee . . . 0%

I think you’ll agree that these percentages are abysmal and don’t bode well for our sport when the women’s wrestling program here in the states, and globally, represents 25% of the programming. And why is it that the men’s freestyle team competes in 6 weight classes, the men’s Greco-Roman team competes in 6 weight classes and the women only get to wrestle in 4 freestyle weight classes? The IOC wants equality in sports, not explanations or excuses.

Back to wrestling and the importance of us operating like a business. Are you aware that each of the commissioners of Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the NBA and the National Hockey League never participated in the sport they administer? But most have either law and/or post graduate degrees in business from schools like Stanford, Harvard and Penn. That’s how major sports become major, by being smart enough not to hire from within and always reaching out for the best.

Wrestling needs an equivalent of Donald Trump the businessman to lead us out of our own ineptitude.

As to my latest Freestyle or Folkstyle blog, I’ve only heard from two individuals who felt my assertions were off base and interestingly both were USAWrestling personnel. In contrast, my go get’m Wade responders are running over 15 to 1 in favor of my willingness to share my opinions. To them I say thank you!

What I’d like to do now is clarify some of the misnomers that arose from the previous blog.

On the subject of National versus Regional training centers, I’m not sure the RTC’s are creating the desired effects if winning matches were the reason for their creation. There’s no doubt that having multiple training centers is exceptionally convenient for the athletes but does that convenience equate to success? So far no and why leadership can’t see that beats the hell out of me.

Remember, world class wrestlers must have access to two distinct facets of training.

  • The type of coaches who can provide technical skills that are equal to or greater than what the opposition is receiving.
  • And most importantly, daily steel sharpens steel workouts – in the international styles.

Of course it doesn’t hurt to have some of Jordan Burroughs skill sets but in the absence of those, quality coaching and solid workouts are a must. And once again, this is important, in the style you are going to compete in.

Let’s take a closer look at the RTC’s. To begin a few of them have tremendous staffs but far less than the 30 plus centers that USAWrestling is sanctioning. And given that these locations were developed more as a means of allowing our top flight athletes to train collegiate athletes in folkstyle than preparing for international competition, it’s not a wonder why we struggle against the world’s best. Regional Training Centers are a feel good, look good horrible idea.

Can you imagine how well Denver Bronco’s would have done this season had the front office allowed their 53 man roster to split into small groups and workout separately in 30 different locations across the country? Then on Sunday’s come together as a team just before kickoff. If you think that’s a stupid idea you’re right but that’s exactly what USAWrestling is allowing to happen. It‘s like they’re operating on a how can we position our programs to guarantee middle of the pack finishes?

Everyone knows wrestlers must have great coaches to succeed and we have them here in America but they’re spread out all over the landscape. Athletes also need championship caliber steel sharpens steel workouts because no one aspires to international greatness by wrestling athletes who are aspiring to national greatness; especially when the latter is being trained in folkstyle for NCAA competition. But that’s what Colorado Springs is supporting and we wonder why we’re not winning? None of this would occur if we had business leaders in charge because even with minimal knowledge of wrestling, corporate America knows how to evaluate what’s working, what’s not and then adapt.

Regarding my Folkstyle versus Freestyle blog, I’m still of the position that this debate is just a ruse that USAWrestling developed to hide their ridiculously poor performances internationally. But, if Colorado Springs really believes in what they’re saying, why in the last 16 years has the organization dramatically increased, and I mean dramatically increased the number of folkstyle events they offer? Prior to 2000, it used to be that springtime and summer was our international seasons, when everyone’s interest shifted from folkstyle to freestyle and Greco but not anymore. Go to themat.com and count the number of folkstyle events they sanction all throughout the year. If this is truly the evil discipline that they suggest it is, you won’t be able to tell it by their event calendar.

As to injustice, and another reason why top flight athletes stay clear of the training center in Colorado Springs is a little thing called impartiality. One would think that the reason why we have a national coaches and staff is to mentor and guide every American who is capable of competing at the international levels; and just not their favorites.

The next time you attend a senior level event look around. You’ll actually see members of the national coaching staff sitting in the corner for some athlete’s; but not for others. Why is that? They should be impartial and required to sit in the stands and watch the action, not be a part of it.

I understand why it happens; they want to coach the wrestlers they’re close to and in many cases the ones who live and train in Colorado Springs. But for the rest of the country, which is by far the majority of our talent pool, they expect to receive even-handed treatment. When that doesn’t take place, it fractionates our chances for success.

Let me ask, what do you think happens when a member of the national staff shows interest in a wrestler they just coached against? I would think they’d have questions about the sincerity of the persons willingness to help. Are they actually interested in me or are they just trying to learn more about my strengths as any opposing coach would?”

And I’m sure you realize that it doesn’t matter if this conflict-ridden method of operation is a perception or reality; no one wins here and now you have yet another reason why so few wrestlers want anything to do with training at the OTC and with it the death of steel sharpens steel workouts. This simply isn’t a way to run a company or in our case, become a dominant organization in the international wrestling marketplace.

Now as always, this is the way I see things. I hope you enjoyed the read.

7 thoughts on “Wrestling needs a Donald Trump

  1. Rick S.

    You aren’t the only business producing a combat style product.

    How many martial arts styles are there? Which are profitable?

    You have how many submission wrestling styles are there? Which are profitable?

    How many styles of wrestling have you? Which are profitable?

    You have friends in the other combat sports.

    You know which combat sports are profitable and which are not, or you can find out.

    What are the profitable ones doing right, that you are doing wrong?

    Is it the products (you have 3 styles) you sell?
    Tell us about the styles of the profitable combat styles.

    Is it bad management?
    Tell us about the management of the profitable combat styles.

    Is it something else that you and everyone doesn’t see?

    Your products start with an incredible advantage.
    One of your products (folkstyle) is taught in high school as a sport.
    How do you waste that advantage?

    It’s one thing to say management is the problem, but that’s only your opinion. Everyone has an opinion. Back your opinion up with data.

    You won’t convince management they are the problem without getting data comparing yourself with profitable combat styles.

    Make the comparisons. Let the chips fall where they may.

    You may learn it’s not a management problem. You may learn it is.

    You may learn it’s some other problem. You won’t know until you collect and analyze the data.

    Make a report, based on the data, that can’t be ignored.

    Have you enough friends and contacts to gather the data?

    Have you friends in academia who can help you process the data and prepare a coherent, compelling report?

    Forgive me for being blunt. You need to go beyond opinions.

    You need to gather data to support your theory, and it the data doesn’t support your theory, you need to modify your theory or get a new theory.

    1. Rick S.

      One other word, when you gather the data, don’t, and I report don’t, prepare a questionnaire that is slanted to give you the results you want.

      Ask others for questions they would include.

      Tell management you want to gather data for a report, what the report is for, everything. Ask management what questions they want included, and include managements’ questions.

      Ask people in other combat styles what questions they would include. Their suggestions might surprise you and give you hints why some of them are profitable and some are not.

      Don’t let the questions do push polling.

      You’ll only get bad data if the questions are biased to give you the answers you want.

      You want good data. Otherwise, it’s garbage data in, bad results out.

      Once you have your questionnaire or method for collecting the data, be fair and impartial when you analyze the data. Others will want to analyze the data too, especially if the data shows they are to blame.

      The method for collecting the data, and way the data is analyzed must be above reproach.

      1. Wade Schalles

        Rick, thanks for your theory and opinion. I think l provided mine.

        The data for wrestling is pretty simple, we have no national sponsors, we never receive remuneration for having someone broadcast our events, there’s always more empty seats at matches than filled 99% of the time and that number increases every year, the amount of forfeits we’re seeing these days are at an all time high and we’ve lost several hundred collegiate programs since the 70’s, plus the Olympics . . . should I continue?

        And why hasn’t Jordan Burroughs, arguably one of the most accomplished athletes in any sport these days done a single commercial for Subway, Papa John’s, Visa or Viagra? It’s not due to his talent, achievement or personality. It’s that the sport is in the dark ages in relation to all the others and for those who wish to see, that should be pretty obvious.

        But the good news is that could change if our leadership got some guts, gumption and the wisdom to get out of their own way.


        1. Rick S.

          I don’t believe you listed the causes.

          I believe you listed the symptoms.

          ========== List of symptoms (the results)

          What you describe are the symptoms (the results) of the problems when you say you have no national sponsors, never receive remuneration for having someone broadcast your events, more empty seats at matches than filled, the amount of forfeits (meaning fewer athletes), loss of collegiate programs.

          You have identified the symptoms (results) , not the causes.

          ========== List of causes (incomplete list)

          Why is this happening?

          The purpose of gathering data is to determine the causes.

          Some will argue the cause is a product that doesn’t sell.

          Some will argue the cause is a failure of the management.

          Some will argue the cause is Title IX.

          Some will argue the cause is changing attitudes about men and women, of which Title IX is itself a symptom.

          Some will argue the cause is the students have other things, other sports, after school work.

          Some will argue the cause is something else not yet mentioned.

          Some will argue the cause is a combination of some of or all of the above.

          I don’t know how you determine the causes, but you must do so.

          Trying to fix the symptoms without identifying and addressing the causes is a temporary fix, at best.

          If the cause of the problem is the product, do research and prove it. How you prove it, I don’t know, but prove it.

          If the cause of the problem is a failure of management, do the research and prove it.

          If the cause of the problem is changing attitudes about men and women, including Title IX, do the research and prove it. I don’t know how you fix anything if the cause of the problem is changing attitudes, but at least you will know what to address.

          Once you identify the cause of the problem or problems, fixing the causes is another matter. Fixing the causes may be very, very difficult.

          Please understand. I am not attacking you or your views.

          I want you to succeed.

          You have identified symptoms. Now you must find the causes of those symptoms.

        2. Rick S.


          I think you answered these questions, in other places.

          Could you create one post that’s a summary of all that’s needed, perhaps answering the following questions as a start.

          What do you want management to do different from what it is doing today? From your comments, you see a management problem.

          I know you see a problem with the sport of wresting itself and are trying to address that problem by suggesting a point scored is a point earned. Are there other rule and scoring changes?

          Could you post a summary of the changes you would make if you were king for a day.

          I apologize if you already posted such a summary.

  2. Kelsey Miller

    Greetings Coach,

    Participation isn’t a prerequisite for management. Business is a disciple, 10% annual growth is the business world’s norm. No broad or shareholders would allow such a marginal rate of return with an operating budget of $17M….

    Let me know when you’re going to be back in the DMV so that I can buy you a beer or two…


  3. Mike TWI

    Just love your writing Wade. What I really like is how truthful it is and how inclusive your points of contact are: no matter who it is. Can tell your interest lies in making wrestling better.
    I was never good enough to make it to the OTC but for our athletes benefit, me and my wife are thinking of taking our Spring Break vacation to Colorado Springs and visit with some of our athletes and take a look around. If I couldn’t make it there by skill when I was younger, I can now with my $$. Lol

    Being a strong supporter of women’s wrestling, those numbers you cite are herendous. Also, having two young daughters I would hope all organizations would be embracing the talent pool of women. USAW should no longer be the boys club or as The Rascals hangout was named “The HeMan Women Haters Club”. I’m showing my age now.

    Keep up the great writings. I know most of my 13,000+ wrestling enthusiasts in my Facebook group love reading and debating your blogs. We typically get over 100 comments on our posts and sometimes over 200, we’d love for you to stop in sometime. My team members would enjoy that.
    The Wrestling Insider- thanks again Wade. Our main mission is to support, promote and help build wrestling. We also have sponsored 67 wrestlers to National Events from Jan 2014 to present. (Mainly Spring/Summer events)


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