Over the years, there’s been a steady stream of former college wrestlers entering the world of mixed martial arts. To ensure that talent pipeline doesn’t run dry, MMA is now stepping in to help preserve endangered college wrestling programs.
Josh Gross, Inside MMA writer for Sports Illustrated, addressed this issue in his August 18 column “As college wrestling programs face cuts everywhere, MMA steps up,” citing the “Fight for Wrestling” MMA fundraising event for Cal Poly‘s wrestling program in May that drew 2,000 fans to the school’s gym.
Here’s how Gross explained the need for MMA fight events like “Fight for Wrestling”:
This is what preventive maintenance in the name of saving Division I collegiate wrestling could look like, according to a growing contingent of wrestling supporters…
Based on participation and sponsorship rates over the past three decades, no one, least of all coaches, should be blind to the tenuous status of men’s wrestling on the D-I level. In 20 seasons beginning with the 1988-89 school year, men’s wrestling has suffered a net loss of 106 teams, ceding programs in all but five years during that stretch, according to an NCAA study. That puts wrestling atop a list of sports suffering the worst of college administrators’ scalpels.
The article, which quotes Cornell University head wrestling coach Rob Koll… Stephen Neal, two-time NCAA heavyweight champ for now-endangered wrestling program Cal State Bakersfield… and Mike Moyer of the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA), presents a powerful case for the need to protect, preserve and expand college wrestling programs… and not just because college wrestling is THE major supplier of US-born talent for MMA. (Current UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar is a prime example. As a University of Minnesota wrestler, Lesnar lost to Neal in the 1999 NCAA finals… but won the heavyweight title the following year.)
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Sports Illustrated: As college wrestling programs face cuts everywhere, MMA steps up
NCAA Heavyweight Champs Yahoo group: Photos and info for the best of the big men of college wrestling 1928-2000, including Stephen Neal and Brock Lesnar
College Wrestling 101: Links to articles answering basic questions about wrestling, including rules, scoring, uniforms, more
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