OREGON TRAIL, WRESTLING BRANCH

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June 14, 2010 by David Gillaspie

If the Pac 10 cherry picks the Big 12 they’d better plan on bringing wrestling back to USC, UO, WSU, UW, Berkeley and the rest, because the new guys are coming to kick the door down.

Former Oregon Athletic Director Pat Kilkenny sent his private jet with the Pac 10 commissioner, a man he championed to promote the conference, flying all over the western half of the country to invite schools to join in the proposed Pac 16.

Let’s hope he stops at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State while he’s out.  Drop in and take a look around the facilities. 

Ask where the wrestling room is.  Take a moment to look at the hardware in the trophy cases. 

Tour the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Then talk about generating a midwest vs west coast wrestling revival.  Use all the powers available, borrow some if you don’t have enough, and push the notion that the name brand west coast schools are ready for the Sooners and the Cowboys. 

Tell the wrestling powers that the west coast has their mats strapped into the covered wagons, the oxen are yoked, and they’re waiting to clear a path for the new Oregon Trail.  Once that fuse is lit wrestling will blow up, just like the Big 12.   

Conventional wisdom, always a good barometer of sketch opinion, says go to the state of Iowa for the best wrestling.  Cael Sanderson went to Iowa, specifically Iowa State where Dan Gable wrestled, and in one of the miracles of learning from experience, Iowa State hired him as head coach after he finished wrestling.

The Iowa State hiring a young Cael felt like a make-up call for not hiring the young Dan Gable to coach the Cyclones when they could have had him.  Instead he went to in-state rival Iowa and ran off the greatest Division-1 winning streak of all time. 

Dan Gable delivered nine national titles in a row; an unbroken string of in-your-face.

Iowa State made up for their earlier blunder by hiring their golden boy, Cael ‘Nobody Beats Me’ Sanderson, who hung around for a few season before bolting to Penn State without bringing home the bacon to Ames. 

No titles, no in-your-face.  Maybe a little egg on their face.

His move bent the big time college wrestling trail eastward from Iowa.  Any trail headed east has been hacked out by someone with a broken compass.  Some say wrestling and lacrosse are reserved for the midwest and east.  They are on the wrong trail.  

In the history of America there is one trail that stands above all others: The OREGON Trail.  Which isn’t to say every farmer packed up and left for Oregon the moment they heard the words ‘free land’, but enough did. 

The Oregon Trail was made from hopes and dreams.  Determined pioneers saw the Promise Land in their hearts and minds.  I don’t think Manifest Destiny pulled one wagon to Oregon, but it rode along.

With the potential PAC 16, it’s time to open up the Oregon WRESTLING Trail. 

Start in Oklahoma. 

How can that happen?  Think of the in-conference challenge; think of the television contract and the increased funding; think of the smack down the east coast would feel.

We all know the Ivy League is big for wrestling, especially Cornell.  We all know wrestling is a mandatory sport for inclusion in the Big Ten.  What we don’t know is how the midwest would respond to a resurgent west coast uprising on the mats when all the California kids stay home; when the west coast reputation grows strong enough to attract kids who would ordinarily travel out of state.

The UCLA Bruins should have a team of maulers.  The UW Huskies deserve a dog in this fight.  A Sooner or a Cowboy wrestling team will never need explanations, but they don’t have the same feel as a Cal Bear.  Bears are dangerous.

This is the right time to push for wrestling’s return in grand triumph with fully funded programs.  T. Boone Pickens agrees, so does television money.

Once the ball gets rolling and the west grows stronger, there’s only one thing left to check before giving the midwest vs westcoast wrestling rivalry a seal of official approval:  a Cael Sanderson sighting driving a U-Haul on the Oregon Wrestling Trail headed for Eugene, Oregon and Duck Wrestling.

Will he stop in Colorado Springs and bring Les Gutches home?

Stay tuned.

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