By K.J. Pilcher, Reporter
IOWA CITY, Iowa - The hotbed of amateur wrestling finally gets the chance to host one of the sport's premiere events.
The United States Olympic Committee and USA Wrestling announced Tuesday that Iowa City was selected to host the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials at the University of Iowa's Carver-Hawkeye Arena April 21-22, 2012. It is the first time Iowa City will host the event that will feature men's and women's freestyle and men's Greco-Roman competition with wrestlers vying for a chance to qualify for the 2012 Ol;ympic games in London, England.
"It's pretty dang exciting," former University of Iowa wrestling coach and Olympic champion Dan Gable said. "The Olympics is the highest thing in our sport."
Iowa City was one of three finalists, including Council Bluffs and Columbus, Ohio. Greensboro, N.C., Hampton, Va., Oklahoma City and Pontiac, Mich., also bid as host. The last three hosts were Las Vegas, Nev., in 2008, Indianapolis, Ind., in 2004 and Dallas, Texas, in 2000.
"The Iowa City local organizing committee was selected based upon their proven track record of hosting large and successful wrestling events, as well as a history of drawing strong fan support," said USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender. 'We are committed to working tirelessly with the organizing committee and the entire community to host the most successful U.S. Olympic Team Trials in our history."
Iowa City is the perfect place to host it , according to past support of the sport. According to the UI wrestling media guide, Iowa has participated in front of 48 of the top 49 largest college dual crowds, including 32 against Iowa State University. Iowa City has hosted four dual meets that have drawn a crowd of more than 15,000, dating back to 1983"²s Iowa vs. Iowa State dual. In 2008, Iowa State's visit to Carver-Hawkeye Arena attracted a record 15,955 fans.
The Iowa City area and many other communities in Eastern Iowa are expected to benefit from the national t0urnament to be held in Iowa City. Fans are expected to attend the meet, spending millions on food, lodging and entertainment. Previous hosts have generated as much as $10 million to their community.
"Every hotel in the corridor will probably be full for those three days," Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau President Joshua Schamberger told KCRG-TV. "Not just Coralville and Iowa City, but Cedar Rapids as well."
Cornell College wrestling coach and former Hawkeye Wrestling Club Coach Mike Duroe, who was a member of the local organizing committee that gave a final presentation Jan. 12 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., said 14.7 million people live within a 200-mile radius of Iowa City.
"This community is fired up to welcome our nation's best to Carver Hawkeye Arena and will come together as they have so many times to produce a Trials that is remembered for years to come," said Schamberger. "Our entire community couldn't be more excited by this news. We look forward to creating an athlete and fan experience that will carry on through London."
The accomplishment was praised by U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa. He offered his congratulations to the UI Athletics Department , the ICCCACVB and the leaders from Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty.
"It is exciting that Iowa City has the opportunity to host an event that will showcase our nation's brightest wrestling stars as well as Iowa's rich wrestling tradition," said Loebsack. "I would like to congratulate the Iowa City local organizing committee, and I know they will host successful Trials that will help increase the visibility of the sport and highlight the best the University of Iowa and Iowa City have to offer."
Iowa Coach Tom Brands credited the efforts of UI assistant athletics director Les Steenlage, who is well-known for running NCAA championship events, including four at Iowa since 1986, Schamberger and Duroe.
"That team is top-notch," Brands said of the organizing committe. "It was a slam dunk if we communicated. We communicated."
Brands, who along with Gable, Brands' twin brother, Terry, and Lincoln McIlravy, represent the city and university's rich tradition in international competition. Tom Brands and Gable won Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 1972, respectively. Terry Brands and McIlravy won bronze medals. Seventeen former Hawkeyes have earned spots on U.S. Olympic teams dating back to Leslie Beers in 1928. Many have coached at that level. Duroe has coached with USA Wrestling for 26 years, Gable has devoted more than 30 years, and the Brands brothers have contributed more than 10 years apiece.
"Wrestling is obviously, to a certain degree, religion in Iowa," Schamberger said.
The event promises to have a number of wrestlers from Iowa or the state universities competing for spots on the Olympic squad. In 2008, former Iowa wrestlers Doug Schwab and Mike Zadick qualified for the Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
"Hopefully, we'll have several of those guys in contention so we can bring some local flavor," Gable said. "it's also nice to have local flavor when you're hosting an event.'
The Hawkeye Wrestling Club and clubs at Iowa State and the University of Northern Iowa could provide some of that talent. Anamosa native and former two-time UNI All-American Moza Fay could be vying for one of the coveted spots, and having the event near home is thrilling.
"It's pretty exciting," former Hawkeye NCAA finalist Dan Dennis said. "I'm looking forward to it."
Dennis also said it's a perfect home for the tournament in a part of the country that appreciates the sport.
"I would think this is the best environment to have an event like this with our support of wrestling," Dennis said. "It really does. I can't imagine in a more ideal place."
Zadick has wrestled all over the world, including in Moscow as a member of the 2010 U.S. World Team. Zadick, an assistant coach for the Hawkeyes, said it is a big boost for the state, Iowa City and for wrestling. He is excited for a chance to compete in Carver-Hawkeye Arena again. The atmosphere is unmatched, and that includes the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Trials he experienced as a competitor.
"I've been so many places around the world," Zadick said. "There's nothing like Carver-Hawkeye Arena. There's nothing like it. Nothing even remotely close."