This is why the NCAA Division I wrestling tournament enjoys such amazing fan support. Every other wrestling season has ended, and the full attention of a united American wrestling community has the freedom to turn its attention on one event.
I know that I am not the only wrestling fan who looks upon the sea of fans at the NCAA tournament and thinks, "I wish it could be like this all the time. Hell, if we had five wrestling events a year get half this attendance, the state of the entire sport would change." This sort of thinking concludes in two ways. First, I do not think any question exists that college wrestling ought to be a spring sport. If that were the case, it would not have to compete against college basketball, and it would not have to compete against the high school version of itself. Unfortunately, we know this won't happen any time soon, so we reach the second conclusion: college wrestling would substantially benefit from a marquee wrestling event held before the high school wrestling season even begins.
Enter the current incarnation of the NCWA All-Star match. The event has been around forever, but in the recent past, it had fallen on tough times, and suffered from poor attendance. Last year, for the first time, this classic wrestling event was run by the Greater Washington Wrestlers in Business Network (GWWBN), which had the bright idea to move the match to early November, before the high school wrestling season had begun. The results in the first year were promising. They packed the gym at American University in Washington D.C., and the small venue pulsed with energy.
Last year Joe Russell coached a wrestler at the NWCA All-Star Classic, and this year his program will be hosting the event (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)This year the GWWBN attempts to create the same level of success in a larger venue -- the Patriot Center at George Mason University. A capacity, or close to capacity would mark a major victory for the sport of wrestling. There is no reason why this cannot be accomplished. The venue sits in one of the nation's biggest metropolitan areas, and is only a modest drive from the major wrestling hot beds of the Mid-Atlantic. (I've made the drive from Fairfax, Va., to State College, Pa., and back in one day. It's not that bad.)
Additionally, the matchups already announced for this year's competition should excite any wrestling fan. This should be an All-Star meet in the truest sense of the word. Already seven NCAA champions have committed to wrestle, along with three more NCAA finalists. Every single wrestler in the main dual has been an NCAA All-American. A couple of wrestlers, including Ohio State's two-time NCAA champion Logan Stieber, are wrestling up a weight just for the challenge.
I suppose that may purpose in writing this week is to implore any wrestling fans who could possibly make it to the NCWA All Star Classic, to show up and support these wrestlers, and support the sport. High School coaches need to get their athletes together and bring them; this is a chance to show their athletes the best college wrestlers in the nation up close. Parents of younger wrestlers need to convince their children to come; this event showcases what a wrestler can accomplish through years of dedication.
Wrestling shows that it generate a top rate sporting event every March, this is a chance for the sport to also create something special in November. We, as the wrestling community, need to make the best out of every opportunity we are given to show the world that college wrestling can attract an audience.