May 19, 2011 by David Gillaspie
Any wrestling conversation touches the same vein of questions.
– how to get more interest in the sport?
– where is wrestling going at the college level?
– who is leading the sport in the right direction?
If you talk about wrestling, you’ve heard those questions and more.
If you talk to wrestling parents, you’ve heard those and many, many more.
How do you explain ways to get more people interested in wrestling? Start with history. Go to the Greeks and the first Olympics. If that doesn’t do it, shift to the Romans.
If that fails, do not wrap up the person you’re talking to and demonstrate air-time Greco-Roman throws.
Point to the roots of sport, the roots of competition. Mention Nolan Ryan’s headlock on the pitcher’s mound. Don’t mention the pounding he delivered on the batter who charged him.
Instead, talk about schools that get it right. Talk about Iowa and Penn State and Cornell. Talk about SEC sports domination and their lack of wrestling programs. Talk about Iowa guys going to Oregon State to spread the goodness of wrestling.
Role model wrestlers and role model programs are easy to find. Mention Stanford and Harvard for starters.
When the talk turns to leadership, look at the local high school program, then the district or region. If everything in your neck of the woods makes enough sense, go to the big leadership picture.
Has anyone in recent history taken more chances than Cael Sanderson? Undefeated in college, but he didn’t get his MBA and go into the business world. Gold medal Olympian, but he didn’t take to the motivational lecture circuit for life.
Instead, he went back to his college and became the head coach. Iowa State did with him what they didn’t do for Dan Gable. But instead of unpacking his bags and feathering his nest and for a career- long stay, he saw what wrestling needed.
He recruited from Pennsylvania so much that he packed up and went to Penn State. Cael was a huge difference maker on the mat; what he did by leaving Iowa State made him a huge difference maker all over again.
Then, after promising his team he’d go out on the mat and wrestle if they won the national championship, he went to a regional tournament and wrestled.
This is a guy tuned to wrestlers and the sport.
Now, you don’t have to be a four time national champ and Olympic champ to tune in to wrestling. You need to find some middle school wrestlers with their eye on the future you’ve already wrestled through. Ask them where they’re headed.
Q: Will you wrestle in high school?
Q: Will you be a good wrestler in high school?
A: I want to be.
Q: Do you know what it will take to be a good high school wrestler?
Q: That’s part of it. It works like this: when you pick up a book with four hundred pages you think it’s a big book. Well, it is a big book. If you’ve ever read a big book, then you know it takes time. Have you ever thought how much time it took to write it?
A: Not really.
Q: Most people don’t, just like most people don’t get wrestling. A book starts with a sentence, then a paragraph, a page, and a chapter. Many chapters later, the book if finished. If it’s a good book you won’t be able to put it down. Have you read a book like that?
A: I don’t know.
Q: You will. That’s the same with wrestling. You start with small things, like showing up to practice, doing some drills, working with a partner, putting a combination of moves together, add conditioning and strength, and you are getting there. Do you understand that?
A: I think so.
Q: The guys that stand on the podium don’t get there by luck or accident. They might get a good call on the way, but no one depends on it. Do you know what it takes to wrestle in high school?
A: Being tough?
Q: Being tough in the classroom. If you don’t get the grades, you don’t wrestle. Being tough at home. If you don’t treat your family right, they won’t care if you wrestle or not. If you are the problem at home, they’ll have enough to do trying to help you. Be tough with your choice of friends. If you get caught doing the wrong things with the wrong people, you can’t wrestle or go to school, and your family will have to work harder to help you do things right.
Does this sound like you?
A: It does now.
Q: Wrestling asks you to get good grades, find good friends, and treat your family right. What do you ask of wrestling?
A: I want wrestling to get me in better shape, make me a better person, and give my parents something to cheer for.
Q: Done! Hold up your end and you’ll be wrestling on the big mats.
By David Gillaspie