Coleman Scott (left) and Scotti Sentes (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki (Sentes)/Tony Rotundo (Scott)
We've all seen this quote on shirts and posters peppered across the country at wrestling tournaments. For a long time, the gym floor was the only place where teams would hold dual meets, but as the sport has grown, teams have become more innovative with settings for their matches. This innovative thinking will be put on full display in the state of North Carolina on Veterans Day weekend.
On Friday, November 11, Veterans Day, Campbell will host UNC and Michigan in the inaugural Battle at Bragg. The duals will be held in a hangar at the Pope Airfield on the grounds of Ft. Bragg. Campbell will open the day with Michigan at 5pm, then hits the mat against UNC at 7:30pm. The event will be streamed on UFC Fight Pass; a first for the platform and a potential host for events to come.
The dual will be set up in a hangar, utilizing a raised platform for the mat. The crowd will be made up of fans and families of each of the three teams as well as a contingent of soldiers from Ft. Bragg and prospective Army recruits from across the state of North Carolina. Based on the event renderings, the Army is designing the setup to incorporate multiple military vehicles and aircrafts, including the walk-out tunnel being the back of a cargo plane. Weather permitting, they will also have a large setup on the tarmac to display Army vehicles and tech.
I spoke with Coach Coleman Scott of UNC and Coach Scotti Sentes of Campbell about this unique event and the potential impact it could have moving forward. This event is a great culmination of ideas from both staffs that ended up working perfectly together.
"We are always looking for ways to elevate the product and get more people interested in our duals", said Coach Sentes. "I met the UFC guys at the NCAA tournament through Zach Bogel (shoutout to Stalemates) and they were all in on streaming a dual, so we had to make it a big deal. We wanted to do something special for Veterans Day and started talking to other teams about it. Michigan was on board right away, and when I talked to Coleman, he said that Tony (Associate Head Coach Ramos) had been talking with the recruiting director and they were trying to plan an event at Ft. Bragg". Coach Scott added on "Scotti talked to us and said he was looking to do a Veterans Day dual and stream it on UFC FightPass, I thought we could work together and make it happen a little more easily". Coach Ramos had been working on a dual at Ft. Bragg, so they had some basic structure already approved, they began working together with the Campbell staff to mesh the two ideas and develop the Battle at Bragg. It took a lot of work and jumping through logistical hurdles, but the final product looks excellent.
Lt. Col. Mark Newdigate has played a pivotal role in the development and implementation of this plan, and both coaching staffs spoke very highly of him and his assistance in getting this off the ground. Both coaches also highlighted the coverage from UFC FightPass as being a potential game-changer in adding a large streaming platform to the wrestling world. Coach Sentes said, "they want to support wrestling, they want to get more exposure for wrestling as another combat sport and they have the infrastructure to really extend the reach of the sport". Coach Scott said, "I'm excited for another opportunity for people to see our guys wrestle, they have a huge following so it could be great". Both coaches said their guys seem to be excited for the event and ready to put on a show for everyone to see.
Since this event brings in both wrestling and the US Army, I thought it was appropriate to reach out to InterMat's own Seth Duckworth.
Seth is our Big12 Correspondent, and along with multiple coverage roles in wrestling, is a Chief Warrant Officer in the US Army. "It's interesting to see the merging of two things I've been pretty involved with most of my life(wrestling and the Army) in an event like this. There are a lot of things that sorta go hand in hand with both. I've always personally felt my military career was helped a lot by my experience with wrestling. Going through a lot of the difficult things I did in wrestling growing up made the Army seem a lot easier. And to dig in even further, you can look at things like the Modern Army Combatives System that was developed in part by former Minnesota coach and Army Ranger J Robinson.
The event itself is certainly a win-win for both groups. You get a lot of people talking about wrestling because it's happening in a unique venue and an Army base. For the Army, they get some exposure and branding with the wrestling community, who traditionally has a strong history of military service".
I think that not only will this be a great event to watch from the promotion side, but there will be some damn fine wrestling happening too. All three teams are ranked, #8 Michigan, #18 North Carolina, #29 Campbell, in the Intermat Dual Rankings. There will be multiple ranked-versus-ranked matchups in each dual and it will be a fun night of wrestling to watch.
The Tar Heels will also close out the weekend with a special setting for their dual against #8 Michigan. Doubles on the Diamond will be held at Boshamer Stadium, the home of the Tar Heels baseball team. This will be the first outdoor dual hosted in Chapel Hill and will have a great backdrop, just a short walk from their practice facility and usual competition venue at Carmichael Arena. As of now, it looks like the weather will cooperate, though will be a little chillier than usual for November in North Carolina.
"We wanted to think outside of the box and do something different to draw in some new fans," said Coach Scott on the thought behind the Doubles on the Diamond. "Everyone can do a dual in the gym; we have a great campus and a beautiful baseball stadium that you can see from our wrestling building, why not change it up a little". We discussed the setup for the match; the mat will be up close to the backstop to optimize fan viewing. "Coach Forbes (UNC Baseball Coach) has been awesome with the whole event. He was immediately in when we pitched the idea and he has been helpful in getting it organized and set up."
"It's going to be a great weekend for Carolina Wrestling. We have two duals against good teams and our guys are ready to go, they seem really pumped up for all of it."
For InterMat coverage of the weekend: look to Rachel Gallardo-our SOCON Correspondent-for coverage of the Battle at Bragg. I will be at Doubles on the Diamond for the Sunday dual.
A side note to the venues, UNC has worked closely with Nike/APS Wrestling to create custom singlets for each event. If you follow my writing or my Twitter, you know that I am a bit of a sucker for team gear. Pardon the pun, but they really knocked it out of the park with these singlets. UNC will wear the camo singlet for the Veterans Day dual and the pinstripe singlet for Doubles on the Diamond.