Wrestling is the world’s oldest and greatest sport. Let's keep it that way.
But due to deep and sweeping budget cuts at virtually every College and University across the land, "wrestling" due to no fault of its own could soon find itself in a cross-face cradle of trouble and on the very top of the national sports "endangered list" (see UC Davis).
Some feel unless we do something totally dramatic to make our sport more attractive to the outside world, it's quite possible the oft invisible winds of change have begun a slow erosion process that could lead wrestling to the almost unimaginable state known as "extinction".
Allowing the erosion of wrestling in America is totally unnecessary, and due to wrestling's irrefutable and extraordinarily positive and far-reaching impact on America's collective youth, an unwanted and unwarranted and some say already in motion disregard from educational administrators needs to be firmly stamped on their minds as: not an option.
Not only would America lose one of its greatest sports, droves of people - young and old would be without their life-long passion; and hundreds of thousands of kids would be without their favorite, and perhaps the most beneficial, productive and impactful activity in their lives.
Moreover, legions of good men and women including thousands of outstanding coaches at every level including college, high school, junior high, youth and let’s not forget all the private clubs in the country, the vast network of wrestling reporters in all forms of media including writers, administrators and managing editors producing the countless magazines, websites and publications, and all the fine people who supply our equipment, merchandise and training needs would all be out of a job.
We would all lose.
Although this might paint a less than pretty picture and perhaps one we don't care to look at, we might need to collectively stand-up and exercise our legendary toughness, look the situation square in the eye and discern:
1. If indeed the threat is real
2. Its likelihood to attack us
3. Its inherent strengths and weaknesses
4. Our exact level of vulnerability
Then, and only then, will we be amply equipped with all the pertinent information allowing us the ability to properly create an thoughtful, intelligent and strategic "game plan" specifically designed to adapt, adjust and overcome the impending threat so we can do whatever it takes to win.
J Robinson the legendary Head Wrestling Coach at the University of Minnesota has found success in coaching that most can only dream. He's served the sport his entire adult life and is a leader and innovator of both the sport and men.
J's gotten to where he is today by often being ahead of his time, thinking unconventionally and is regarded by many to be the nation’s leading voice when it comes to wrestling promotion.
Regarding the future of wrestling, J had these potent and somewhat alarming words to say on the topic:
"Wrestling will not die because the coaches at all levels do not know how to do double legs, high crotches and single legs; it will die because the coaches do not market and promote it correctly".
And two-time NCAA finalist for the University of Northern Iowa, youth Coach and college wrestling aficionado Gary Steffensmmeier also weighed-in on the matter and offered this enlightening thought:
"People just assume sports are popular because people are interested - but people are interested because they are well marketed".
Interesting notion indeed and reminds one of Mr. Cart and Mrs. Horse...or was it Mrs. Horse and Mr. Cart?
At any rate, not only are these two men's thoughts quite similar, exceedingly insightful and a bit "outside the box", but both thought-patterns are also filled with something we can all welcome and subsequently sink our teeth into...hope.
If these two sharp wrestling minds are correct, what's popular in American sports has less to do with the actual merits of each sport, and more to do with how it's managed and marketed.
If indeed this be the case, we can all stand up and cheer because the solution to our collective problem is singular ergo surprisingly simple.
The Branding of Wrestling
Tom Brands, the truly amazing Head Wrestling Coach at the University of Iowa and the reigning NCAA Champions three years straight is without question the most colorful attraction the sport of wrestling has to offer the outside world.
He is has this uncanny ability to inspire, the intensity of a thousand suns and to the American people find his work-ethic completely insane. This insanity has become a good thing and serves the sport as a nice drawing card.
However, although his mode of operation indeed fascinating and draws a fair degree of national attention, we must collectively concede this mode of operation has been done before. His name was “Gable”.
And before that that there was Gotch. And before that, Hackenshmidt, and before that etc, etc., etc.
As a matter of fact, since the beginning of its time, wrestling has always been branded with the reputation of being a remarkably tough sport filled with exceptionally tough individuals who are willing to do things that as NCAA Champion Troy Steiner put it, "would make a Billy goat puke".
Perhaps...just perhaps it's time to rethink a few things. Perhaps the world has indeed taken notice of our insane work ethic, unparalleled intensity and unmatched discipline but, (gulp) just doesn’t find it all that interesting.
Indeed hard to swallow but perhaps we have it wrong. Perhaps the proverbial foot we are putting forward is not our best one?
Einstein said "doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity".
Am I suggesting the sport of wrestling should stop working so hard, or that Coach Tom Brands should change his method of coaching for the good of the sport? Absolutely not. He is the reigning champion. That would ludicrous.
What I’m suggesting is something far simpler and very doable; and ground in good old common-sense. All I’m simply saying is perhaps it's time we think about the image we put out to the rest of the world; perhaps give it an upgrade.
Wrestling is a dynamic sport with many facets, strategies, and philosophies.
Being willing to do things that would "make a Billy Goat puke" is just one of them and we must consider that although we think it pretty cool and a source of great pride, perhaps it’s not all that endearing to Mr. Jones and Mrs. Smith. Perhaps there’s a better way.
Truth be told there are numerous aspects of our awesome sport, many of which that might be exceedingly more favorable to the collective consciousness of the American people.
We might be well served to consider some could be infinitely more effective in breaking into the minds of John Q. Public so wrestling can finally get the attention, recognition and appreciation we all think it rightly deserves.
“In order to get something you've never had, you need to do something you've never done”