How can college wrestling boost the significance of regular-season dual meets?
Earlier this month, the NCAA Wrestling Committee proposed a new way of determining the team titlewinner in Division I which would include points earned from a post-season, dual-meet tournament along the lines of the National Duals. In explaining the proposal, an NCAA official said, “We want to make dual meets matter.”
There are additional ways to boost dual meet attendance, get greater media coverage, and greater income for schools… using proven techniques from mixed martial arts.
The Main Event
In the March 6, 2013 issue of WIN (Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine) — published ten weeks before the NCAA proposal was unveiled — Kyle Klingman.wrote a column titled “Want to improve duals, create a ‘Main Event.’”
Klingman was upfront in addressing what he sees as the problem. In his opening paragraph, he wrote: “Tradition has its place in college wrestling, but not when it comes to the order of contested weight classes during dual meets. Our thinking on such matters needs to change… fast.”
Until about a decade ago, all college dual meets started with the match at the lightest weight class, and concluded with the heavyweights. Now there’s the option of starting the dual at a randomly-selected weight, then progressing to the next weight class, and so on, in ascending order.
Klingman’s idea is so simple, it’s simply brilliant. Why not save the best for last?
He uses the “fight card” idea that’s long been a staple of boxing and MMA (mixed martial arts) events. Start with the “undercard” matches – the ones that, at least on paper, would be the least potentially exciting, abandoning any notion of traditional weight-class order, building up to a “Main Event” – the top-of-the-card match-up. This could be a battle between two top wrestlers in that weight class… or a much-anticipated rematch… or spotlighting an intense, ongoing career rivalry.
The match order would be determined in advance, so that the Main Event could be publicized everywhere, from posters, to the respective team websites, to local newspapers and TV stations.
To provide readers with a specific example of how his Main Event idea might work, Klingman used what was arguably the biggest Division I dual meet of last season: the Feb. 1 battle between Iowa and defending team champs Penn State, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (The dual hardly needed any extra juice, as just over 15,000 fans attended.)
The dual opened at 125 pounds – a rematch of the 2012 NCAA championship finals between Iowa’s Matt McDonough and Penn State’s Nico Megaludis.
“Are you kidding?” Klingman wrote. “Any boxing or mixed martial arts promoter worth his salt would make that the last match of the night, not the first.”
In his column, Klingman then proceeded to share the match order he would have recommended for the Iowa-Penn State dual. Rather than retaining any semblance of weight order, Klingman’s lineup hops around the various weight classes, starting with what he considered to be the least exciting match of the evening, building in excitement from match-to-match, concluding with the McDonough-Megaludis rematch as his Main Event.
Got two match-ups that might be Main Event-worthy? Have a co-Main Event.
The goal, according to Klingman, is to have the dual end with the most exciting, most entertaining outcome.
Klingman concludes with a list of seven reasons why this approach would pump more excitement into every college dual meet… put more fans in the stands… garner more media attention… and add to the host program’s bottom line. Among the “I hadn’t thought of that” ideas: It builds competition among teammates striving to be featured in the Main Event… it provides lesser programs with one good wrestler a chance to build excitement around him… and it provides a compelling story line for everyone to grasp, from the host school’s marketing department, to the local media, to casual and would-be fans.
Best of all, these ideas wouldn’t cost a fortune to implement… they wouldn’t require a radical makeover of the way team titles are determined… and they would go a long way in making each dual meet more significant. After all, isn’t that the stated goal?
Want more ways to promote dual meets? Check out former University of Minnesota matman and wrestling novelist Joe Reasbeck’s ideas to promote wrestling.
Want to know more about NCAA proposed changes? Read College Wrestling Examiner’s articles on the NCAA proposal… and pros and cons of the possible changes.
Kyle Klingman’s proposed MMA-style lineup for last season’s Iowa-Penn State dual:
- Hwt: Jon Gingrich (PSU) vs. Bobby Telford (Iowa)
- 141: Bryan Pearsall (PSU) vs. Mark Ballweg (Iowa)
- 149: Andrew Alton (PSU) vs. Brody Grothus (Iowa)
- 197: Quentin Wright (PSU) vs. Nathan Burak (Iowa)
- 133: Jordan Conaway (PSU) vs. Tony Ramos (Iowa)
- 184: Ed Ruth (PSU) vs. Grant Gambrall (Iowa)
- 165: David Taylor (PSU) vs. Nick Moore (Iowa)
- 174: Matt Brown (PSU) vs. Mike Evans (Iowa)
- 157: Dylan Alton (PSU) vs. Derek St. John (Iowa)
- 125: Nico Megaludis (PSU) vs. Matt McDonough
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