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College wrestling coaches weigh in on D1CW.net’s National Duals Debate

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Even though the 2014 Division I National Duals is now history, the debate over its current format – and possible changes – continues on.

On Wednesday, d1CollegeWrestling.net (D1CW) posted responses from college wrestling coaches to a series of questions posed by the amateur wrestling website, intended to gauge interest and support in the National Duals as they are now, and how they might be if proposed format changes occur.

It appears the response was overwhelming.

“In the lifespan of the D1CW website (since 2007-08 season) there has never been so much feedback from coaches on one particular topic, as was received when discussing the National Duals,” according to the website’s explanation in front of the question-and-answer section. “There were a wide range of emotions, some were angry, others dumbfounded, while others were excited. Most conversations then turned into a ‘State of College Wrestling’ discussion. With so much input from the coaches, I decided to do a 180 and just present the comments, suggestions and feedback from the coaches as they were provided to me.”

While some coaches gave their names, most of the responses were anonymous.

For example, when D1CW asked, “Are the National Duals (in any shape or form) needed to better promote our sport?” one unidentified coach responded replied in the affirmative, saying, “It adds another facet to wrestling that we have never had before. Our current product is not very good. We only have one major televised event per year and need more exposure.”

Sean Gray, an assistant coach at Princeton University, said, "Absolutely! Any chance for extra promotion in our sport is critical. I like the approach that Princeton Alum Mike Novagratz continues to speak about when comparing wrestling to the UFC. If they can promote rivalries and use back stories to create buzz for events, we should be doing the same and the National Duals would be a great start."

Other coaches had very different feelings about the National Duals. "I think so, but not the way they are being proposed. We have to remember that wrestling is an individual sport. No kid dreams of being on the Olympic Championship Team or the National Dual Meet Championship Team. They dream of being a champion themselves and nothing is wrong with that."

Another coach was even more blunt: "I have no confidence in a National Duals event that is led by the NWCA (National Wrestling Coaches Association, which conducts the event). I believe that the NWCA has good intentions, but overall they aren't competent enough to handle this endeavor properly."

Still other coaches saw the need to take a completely different approach… for example, emphasizing local dual meets rather than a National Duals event.

"I feel the most important thing to build and promote our great sport is at the local level,” according to Oregon State assistant coach Kevin Roberts. “Schools -- that means many times coaches, and hopefully with the help of their departmental resources -- need to work hard at promoting and building a loyal fan base. We need to continue to attract new fans, the casual fans, families, younger people, kids and students. I do not feel that the National Duals are really more important that having a bigger marquee event right on campus."

Other questions posed by D1CW included, “If you believe the National Duals are needed, what is the best format?” “Would you be in favor of a system that carries points scored at the National Dual Tournament to the Individual Tournament?” and “Which format, the duals or the current individual tournament, gives non-traditional powerhouse programs the potential for the best exposure?” In addition, the website invited coaches to post general comments that didn’t necessarily address a specific question, but were on-topic for the overall discussion.

The debate continues

The National Duals’ format has been a topic of discussion – and arguing – among wrestling fans, coaches, journalists and the powers-that-be for years.

For six years prior to 2012, the National Duals was a mega-event, which included teams from Divisions I, II, III, NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics), NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) and women’s programs, held at the UNI-Dome indoor football stadium at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, attracting up to 16,000 fans over a January weekend. In 2012, the NWCA announced a major format change, splitting the National Duals into two separate events – a Multi-Divisional version held this year in Des Moines in January, and a Division I National Duals hosted by Ohio State just last weekend – both under the Mat Mayhem banner.

In addition, an ongoing point of discussion is a proposed format change that would have the winner of the National Duals be declared the national team champion outright, rather than the present system of using team scores garnered at the NCAA championships that has been in place since 1928. (Others have suggested some sort of combination of the two methods.)

It’s a topic that will continue to incite passions among those who are passionate about college wrestling.

A tip of the headgear to D1CW for seeking out the opinions of coaches on these issues that are critically important to the future of college wrestling… and to the coaches who weighed in with their comments.

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