Now that wrestling has returned to its rightful place at the Olympics, it seems the next big challenge for the sport is getting more fans in the stands for college dual meets, judging by a number of stories appearing in wrestling media this week, including an opinion piece at InterMat posted Monday, and various features in the latest issue of WIN (Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine).
Why the sudden interest in dual meets? The 2014 NWCA Multi-Divisional National Duals concluded Sunday in Des Moines (with the Division I National Duals following in February)… not to mention a number of reports of record-breaking attendance at some college duals this season, including nearly 16,000 fans at the Penn State-Pitt meet in December. What’s more, organizations such as the National Wrestling Coaches Association and NCAA have discussed ways to put more emphasis on college dual meets, including proposals to have National Duals results factored into determining NCAA team titles.
Here's what a trio of wrestling writers have come up with to boost college dual meets:
InterMat: Reimagining NCAA wrestling. Britt Malinsky (known on wrestling forums as SetonHallPirate) penned a column for the amateur wrestling website Monday, opening with this statement: “The backbone of the college wrestling season is not the dual meet, but it's the home-and-away dual meet. There's a reason why Minnesota drew 1,000 more fans for their home dual meet against Oklahoma State in December than they did for the NCAA Division I National Duals Finals in February, when the championship dual was the identical Minnesota against Oklahoma State…” Malinsky goes on to propose reformatting the last few weeks of the college wrestling season that he believes will boost attendance and fan interest throughout the season.
WIN’s Craig Sesker. Sesker, communications manager for USA Wrestling – the governing body for wrestling in the U.S. – wrote a column for the Jan. 10 issue titled, “If college programs promote duals, fans will come.” He cites a number of recent dual meets that brought out the fans in droves, with some setting new attendance records for that particular school (such as Boston University hosting Penn State in December). Sesker also mentions the Penn State-Pitt dual and the special touches to boost excitement levels, such as putting the mat on a raised platform, under a spotlight.
WIN’s Sandy Stevens. The famed wrestling announcer and WIN columnist posed the question “How does wrestling become female fan friendly?” in her latest piece for the wrestling magazine. As Stevens points out, a good number of women in the stands at a college event have a personal connection to the wrestlers in action – moms, sisters, girlfriends. What can schools do to make their dual meets more attractive to women? Stevens talked to a number of women who shared some neat proposals to boost attendance. One standout idea: Put on a preseason “Wrestling 101” clinic that would not only introduce fans to the rules, but also to the coaches and wrestlers… an idea used by some NFL teams to widen pro football’s appeal.
More idea-starters: There are tons of great ways to promote wrestling and get more fans in the stands.(No, you don't need Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis (who attended the recent Iowa-Penn State dual... but it couldn't hurt.) Perhaps the ideas of these writers will spark some fresh thinking on the part of college mat programs. In addition, here are some more ideas from past College Wrestling Examiner articles:
- Use promotional ideas from MMA to make every dual meet matter
- Novelist, ex-Minnesota matman Joe Reasbeck: Ideas to promote wrestling better
Take a look back... Check out College Wrestling Examiner's list Top Ten Stories of 2013.
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