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Focused Askren has no time for Olympics

October 16th, 2011 by Tom

Ben Askren With the 2012 Olympics on the horizon, a number of the biggest names in amateur wrestling, including gold medalists Rulon Gardner (2000) and Cael Sanderson (2004), are considering making one final run at glory.

Bellator featherweight title holder Joe Warren, a world wrestling champion in 2006, is in training to make the U.S. team. And even though few take him seriously, 1996 gold medalist Kurt Angle also talks about it.

But Bellator's welterweight champion, Ben Askren, one of the best collegiate wrestlers of this generation, is not interested in throwing his hat back into that ring. Unlike the others, who will range in age from 33 for Sanderson, 35 for Warren, and 41 and 43 for Gardner and Angle when the Olympics roll around, Askren is still in his prime.

He's 27 and has never taken a break from competition, walking right from the 2008 Olympics, where he didn't place, into mixed martial arts, where he's gone 8-0.

"I still have an attachment to wrestling, but I have no interest in coming back," he said. "I want to be a mixed martial artist and that's what I'm going to do. Mixed martial arts is how I make my living now. It's too hard to compete at a high level in both things. You can be mediocre at both things, and I want to be the best at one thing."

Although Warren is talking about walking back in and winning a gold medal, Askren doesn't see it as a possibility.

"I don't think Joe's being 100 percent realistic," he said. "It's way different. They are two totally different worlds. Wrestling is a big part of mixed martial arts, but they are worlds away. There aren't enough hours in the day to train for both. If you're a wrestler and want to be on the Olympic team, you have to spend three or four hours a day just wrestling. You wouldn't have any time to train jiu-jitsu or striking. If I did that, I'd be a mediocre fighter and I'd never get better."

Askren has relied primarily on his wrestling for offense and jiu-jitsu for submission awareness to become Bellator's champion. He takes a step up in competition Oct. 29 at Kansas City's Memorial Hall when he makes his first title defense against Jay Hieron (22-4), himself a former Division I wrestler at Hofstra.

Askren has said this fight will be unique in that Hieron will be the first person he's fought that he really doesn't like. Hieron drew first blood in the verbal wars after earning a title shot by winning a three-month long tournament that ended May 7, and immediately, in reference to Askren, said, "If I wanted someone to lay on me, I'd call up my girlfriend."

Said Askren: "I'd say it's a step up [in competition], but not a huge one. I don't like Jay Hieron. It's the first person I've fought that I don't like and that gives me extra incentive. It's his attitude. The last few fights that he won by decision he showed a strong sense of entitlement and I didn't really like that.

"Wrestling is one of his strengths, but it'll be null and void against me. He has no chance against my wrestling. He actually thinks he does, which is good for me for him to have those delusions in his head. He's got decent boxing, but I don't see him proving a lot of difficulties for me."

Hieron has won four of his last five fights via decision, winning a split decision over former U.S. Olympic judo team member Rick Hawn on May 7 to earn the title shot. Askren himself has won four of his five Bellator fights via decision, and the one stoppage was when the ref stopped the match on a guillotine that wasn't fully sunk in.

Askren, who trains at Dick Roufus' Roufussport camp in Milwaukee, is a throwback to the early days of the sport where someone would be world class in their specific aspect of the sport, but also have beginner-level ability in other key aspects. In his case, he came in a beginner at the striking game. There is no secret to what Askren is going to do in a match, but his wrestling style is unorthodox, so even opponents who have trained extensively in wrestling don't have experience in what Askren calls his "funky" style.

"The jiu-jitsu came a lot easier," he said. "It was a natural transition from my wrestling style. Striking has been a little more difficult."

But he's getting a kick out of it. He regularly spars with Anthony Pettis, the former World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight champion, and he finds his noticeable improvement fun.

"It's kind of fun doing new things," he said. "When I spar with Anthony Pettis and try and be a smooth boxer, I can't do it and I have to fall back on my wrestling and get physical. Every now and then, you land some punches and kicks, or you block some punches and kicks. That's a great feeling, and it's a feeling that I didn't get in my last few years in wrestling once I reached a high level."

"The thing that differentiates him from other wrestlers is that he doesn't have good wrestling, he has the best wrestling of anyone [in MMA] in his division," noted Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney. "Jay wrestled at Hofstra but Ben's at a level that doesn't exist in the sport at 170. There are other aspects he will work on and get refined, but one aspect is better than anyone in the world. The question is, does Jay have enough wrestling to keep Ben away to where he can use what you'd assume his advantage is standing?"

Outside the cage, Askren in recent months has been pushing Bellator to do something for tornado victims in Joplin, Mo. Askren did a wrestling clinic just outside Joplin right after the tornado hit and was moved by the devastation.

"I was there in June, the week after the tornado hit and it was crazy," he said. "I texted Bjorn that day and said, 'Is there something we can do for these people?' I saw people have their lives and homes taken away. My first initial idea was to do a camp or clinic for kids, to give their parents a break for a few days, but we couldn't put it together. Bjorn thought it would be good to give a lot of tickets away so people who have fun at a Bellator event."

"Literally right when the tornado hit, Ben called me and said he was going out there and the first thing out of his mouth was, 'What can I do to help?' He didn't ask what we could do. Our season had ended that week so I didn't have a TV vehicle that week to ask people for help."

Last weekend, Bellator had an event scheduled at the Buffalo Run Casino in Miami, Okla., 17 miles from Joplin. Rebney noted that he talked to the mayor and the casino helped by contacting the media.

Even though the event was almost sold out, the casino gave 200 tickets to the CBS affiliate to give away at the local high school homecoming football game. The day before the event, Rebney and announcer Sean Wheelock met with Red Cross workers in the area and gave out 100 tickets to workers and National Guard volunteers, and went on television asking people if they could donate to, RebuildJoplin.org.

"Ben had told me this, that it looks as bad today as it did when it first happened," said Rebney. "There are areas in Joplin that look like the tornado hit a week ago. If you live in Chicago, Los Angeles or New York, it's one of those things you heard about months ago, but you forget about it because it's not on CNN. But you go there and see it and it's just awful."

"It was really beyond description," said Askren. "You see it on television, or see pictures on the Internet, but until you're standing there and you see a neighborhood destroyed, you can't fully get it. It's nothing like you've ever seen."

Kim Spiegel – One of Northern Michigan Universities most accomplished athletes

August 24th, 2011 by Tom

By Harold Raker

PORT TREVORTON " Kim Spiegel will soon begin her freshman year at Northern Michigan University as one of the school's most accomplished athletes. Yet, the 18-year-old will not compete in any sport for the Wildcats.

Spiegel, who completed her senior year of high school in Marquette, Mich., wrestling in the U.S. Olympic Education Center while living at Northern Michigan, also located in Marquette. Since leaving Selinsgrove after her junior year at Selinsgrove High School, the daughter of Paul and Judy Spiegel, Port Trevorton, and already accomplished wrestler, won her second national championship in the Asics Junior Freestyle Nationals in Fargo, N.D., and finished second in the Junior Pan American Games in Sao Paulo, Brazil, last month.

In an interview after receiving her gold medal in Fargo, Spiegel was asked how it felt to become the first female from wrestling-rich Pennsylvania to win a pair of national junior titles.

"It's amazing, I kind of can't believe it, "Spiegel told the interviewer. "I have everybody around me to thank."

Her trip to Brazil came about after she finished second to her USOEC teammate, Anneliese DeAragon, in the Junior World Team Trials last May in Florida. She also earned first-team All-America status on the Asics High School team and her U.S. team took first place in all three styles (Greco-Roman, Freestyle and Women's Freestyle) in Brazil.

Not a bad year, considering that she was injured on her first day of practice a year ago and required surgery last October.

She only returned to full practices last March.

"I had a tough time getting back on the mat, but it made me stronger in the end. It really drove me, "she said.

"I'm very excited to go back (to Michigan), "she said. "I'm really looking forward to it."

Spiegel will continue to train at the USOEC while attending college, where she will major in entrepreneurship, and hopes all her hard work will land her a berth on the U.S. Olympic team. The sport will be a part of the 2012 Summer Games in London.

Spiegel recently visited her family in Snyder County, but will leave for college next week.

While at Selinsgrove, she was a member of the high school wrestling team for three years. She was invited to train at the USOEC after coaches saw here compete in the Body Bar Nationals in Kissimmee, Fla., where she won the cadet division (high school class) at 70 kilos (154.25 pounds. That earned Spiegel her first trip to the Junior Nationals in Managua, Nicaragua, where she won the title. Her latest national title and silver medal finish in the international event came at 172 pounds.

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Fausey Named to Amateur Wrestling News’ All-Rookie Team

July 17th, 2011 by Tom

Jon Fausey

Courtesy: VirginiaSports.com

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Virginia redshirt freshman Jon Fausey (Dalmatia, Pa.) was named to Amateur Wrestling News' All-Rookie Team, as announced recently by the publication. Fausey was named to the fourth team at 184 pounds.

Fausey went 29-10 at 184 during the 2010-11 season. He went 19-5 in dual matches and racked up four falls, two technical falls and eight major decisions. In contrast, all 10 of his losses came by decision (seven points or fewer).

An automatic qualifier to the NCAA Championships, Fausey took third place at the ACC Championships. He went 2-2 at NCAAs, picking up wins over Chattanooga's Jason McCroskey and Arizona State's Jake Meredith. His two NCAA losses each came to national seeds.

Fausey also was named to the VaSID All-State First Team this year and earned a spot on the 2011 All-ACC Academic Wrestling Team. He picked up the Virginia wrestling team's Freshman of the Year Award as well.

Weatherman suspended from Cyclones wrestling team

July 13th, 2011 by Tom

by KJ Pilcher

Trent Weatherman

Iowa State University Sports Information Director Tom Kroeschell confirmed that wrestler Trent Weatherman has been suspended indefinitely from the Cyclones team after violating team rules. Weatherman was arrested for the second time in three months early Saturday morning.

According to the online arrest report for the City of Ames Police Department, Weatherman, 21, from Huxley, was arrested for simple assault at 2 a.m. July 2. The arrest is his second since being arrested in April for public intoxication with a 0.23 blood-alcohol level.

Kroeschell told SourceMedia Group News that Cyclones Coach Kevin Jackson was out of town and unavailable for comment.

Mark Palmer of College Wrestling Examiner reported the suspension earlier Wednesday, citing other media sources.

Weatherman went 15-15 at 157 pounds as a red-shirt freshman for the Cyclones last season. He placed fourth at the Big 12 Conference tournament. Weatherman was a four-time state finalist for Ballard High School, winning the Class 2A 152-pound title as a junior and senior in 2008 and 2009. He compiled a 180-8 record as a prep, earning high school All-America honors from Amateur Wrestling News.

Iowa’s 2012 wrestling class could be one of all-time best

July 10th, 2011 by Tom

Iowa Wrestling

Eric DeVos can only guess how many miles he's put on his Jeep Cherokee in recent years just crisscrossing Iowa to tangle with the other top wrestlers his age.

The Waverly-Shell Rock state champion has made countless trips to Cedar Falls, where he occasionally gets on the mat with Denver-Tripoli's Dylan Peters. He's made dozens of stops in Iowa City to workout with West High's Phillip Laux and spent several weekends in Des Moines training with Southeast Polk's Cory Clark.

The odometer on DeVos' Jeep, like many of the opponents who have stepped on the mat with the top wrestlers in Iowa's high school class of 2012, has taken a beating during the group's pursuit of greatness.

"In the past three years, I'd say (I've driven) at least 10,000 miles just for workouts," DeVos said. "I put a lot of miles on it, that's for sure."

Yes, there's competition for the attention of college coaches, for scholarship money and for state titles. But there's also camaraderie with the 2012 class.

"We want each other to succeed," DeVos said. "We want to make each other better. I look at it like you want to win the state championship and that's your goal, but it's really about getting better, making improvements and developing yourself as a wrestler."

Said Laux: "It motivates me to get better every day. I have a great opportunity to practice with them. I can test myself to see where I'm at and see what I need to work on. They help me out and we're all friends, no matter what."

This is a bountiful crop for the state. Iowans occupied nine of the top 82 spots in InterMat's list of the nation's top 100 college prospects in the 2012 class.

"Everywhere you look (in Iowa) there's some top-level kids," Urbandale coach Mike Moreno said. "Every year you're going to have some top kids in Iowa, but it seems like the level some of these kids are at in this senior class is pretty crazy."

The 2012 class is positioned to write its own chapter in the Iowa high school record books.

Only five wrestlers in Iowa history have finished their high school careers without a loss and two in the same class have never done it.

There could be three in 2012. Clark and Des Moines Roosevelt's John Meeks are undefeated three-time state champions. Davenport Assumption's Topher Carton is 121-0 in his prep career with a pair of Illinois titles and one Iowa championship on his resume.

There have only been 42 wrestlers who have reached the state finals four times. Peters, who owns a 148-1 career record and a 108-match winning streak, and Southeast Polk's Willie Miklus could join that group.

DeVos, who won state high school titles in Minnesota in seventh and eighth grade and another as a sophomore at Waverly-Shell Rock, has 227 career wins and needs 37 to crack the top 10 all-time on the national victory list.

What's more, there are others in the group who have won big on the national circuit. Laux and Iowa City West teammates Jack Hathaway and Justin Koethe won national titles at the Cadet level.

"It's shaping up to be one of the better classes coming out of here, I think," said Wyatt Schultz, owner of The Predicament, a publication that produces Iowa high school rankings. "You've got so many kids. This is a deep class."

The gold standard for Iowa high school classes is 1987. The group produced nearly a dozen Division-I All-Americans, including Olympic champion Tom Brands and two-time World champ Terry Brands.

Four-time state champions Jay Borschel and Dan LeClere headlined a talented 2005 group. Classmates Ryan Morningstar and Mitch Mueller won Junior National titles.

Borschel went on to win an NCAA title at Iowa and teammate Joe Slaton was an NCAA runner-up.

National champ Matt McDonough and NCAA runner-up Andrew Long have been the college stars of a talented 2008 class.

"It would be an honor to be mentioned (as one of the best classes)," Laux said. "But right now, I wouldn't even put us in the same class as (the others). We haven't done anything yet."

Gable surprised by being immortalized with statue

June 26th, 2011 by Tom

Dan Gable Statue CORALVILLE "Dan Gable thought it was just an elaborate retirement party.

He was unaware that by the end of the festivities he would learn that he would be immortalized in front of the very arena that he turned into a Mecca for amateur wrestling.

Gable mouthed the word "Wow" and his fingers slightly rubbed his chin as University of Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta announced to a crowd of nearly 1,000 people at the Marriott Hotel and Convention Center on Saturday that a seven-foot statue would be erected in front of Carver-Hawkeye Arena in time for the 2012 United States Olympic Team Wrestling Trials on April 21-22.

He wasn't expecting that to be part of his retirement bash.

"I wasn't prepared for that," Gable said. "I wasn't prepared for the statue, because my wife (Kathy) broke down someone had to stay strong."

Gable said he had endured an emotional few days, leading up to the event. He might have been tapped out by Saturday night's presentation. It came at the end of a ceremony that contained a number of speakers share stories of his career and what they experienced as the cornerstones of his legacy. Gable said it was unique and interesting to observe.

"There's a lot of stories and things like that," Gable said. "I really enjoyed being here tonight. Usually, I wouldn't want to hear that kind of stuff, but I think everybody had an interesting perspective that could help people."

The night included a highlight video and a taped message from some grandchildren, who said their grandfather likes to drink Mountain Dew and even eat chocolate doughnuts.

Humorous anecdotes were balanced with heart-felt admiration. Tom and Terry Brands, who are the current head wrestling coach and associate head coach for the Hawkeyes, talked about his influence and his unyielding standard for excellence. Ben Peterson, a former Iowa State and Olympic teammate, and others talked about how he balanced being focused on wrestling with an even stronger devotion to his family. Minnesota head coach J Robinson, one of six current Big Ten coaches who for or by Gable, described him as being a flexible coach, a relentless competitor and a focused opponent.

They owned different relationships with Gable over the years and had their unique views, but there were consistent themes with every person who spoke. He was focused, dedicated and driven to be the best on and off the wrestling mat.

"This night was well addressed with a lot of people that really gave interesting perspectives that I thought was helpful to everybody," Gable said. "I'm pretty proud to be associated with it."

He said he was interested in the gracious comments from Robinson, who was an assistant to Gable from 1976-84. Gable said he had never experienced that side of Robinson, who spoke for more than 23 minutes. He zinged the rest of the group for not sharing these things previously.

"I just didn't think they were all as smart as they were," Gable said. "That's what really hit me most.

"They really said some things that made sense to me. I think a lot of them have been holding back on me."

Gable was an undefeated three-time state champion at Waterloo West for legendary coach Bob Siddens, who attended the banquet. He was a two-time NCAA champion and three-time finalist for the Cyclones, posting a 182-1 record in high school and college. Gable, a six-time Midlands champion, went on to become a World and Olympic champion, capturing the gold medal in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich without surrendering a single point.

Gable is Iowa's all-time winningest coach, posting a 355-21-5 dual record from 1976-97, including a 95-1 mark in CHA. He coached 10 Olympic wrestlers "four gold medalists "and 45 NCAA champions, including 152 All-Americans while winning 15 NCAA team titles highlight by a streak of nine straight. He guided 106 Big Ten Champions as the Hawkeyes won 21 Big Ten team titles.

It was hard for him to identify a signature era during his tenure. Gable said it was hard to differentiate between the decades, but said the late 1980"²s when the string of national titles was snapped was a key time for him as coach.

"I really think I made some major changes in my life that affected my life in an unbelievable positive manner from a coaching and a family point of view," Gable said.

The statue will be sculpted by Larry Nowlan, who created the Nile Kinnick statue in the Krause Family Plaza. It will stand near the West Entrance of the arena and will cost about $75,000, which will be paid for with private donations, according to a news release,

Gable has a couple statues honoring him already, and commented that he didn't have any input on those and that he doesn't really recognize himself in those tributes. This one came as a complete surprise. He thought it would happen some day but not until he was done building his legacy.

"I thought I had still another 20-25 years of accomplishments," Gable said, "and maybe they'd do something like that."

Gable still ‘coaching’ behind the scenes

June 20th, 2011 by Tom

Amateur wrestling took a step in the right direction and legendary University of Iowa Coach Dan Gable helped escort it.

The longtime ambassador of the sport in which he excelled as a competitor and coach played a key role in unifying the efforts of the sport's top governing bodies and last week it became official.

USA Wrestling, National Wrestling Coaches Association and National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum announced June 8 in Stillwater, Okla., they have agreed to form an alliance to protect, promote and strengthen wrestling at all levels across the country.

The effort is in its infancy and will likely expand in the future.

"It's a good start," said Gable, repeating it for emphasis. "Whatever is next will involve more of the wrestling world. Whatever is next will involved little crucial segments that are so beneficial or something needed for the benefit of the sport."

NWCA Executive Director Mike Moyer praised Gable for playing a vital role in the move. He also said that as much as Gable as already contributed to the sport his best might still be ahead of him.

"He's just incredibly focused," said Moyer, who joined USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender and National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum Executive Director Lee Roy Smith for the official announcement. "He has a magical way of pulling wrestling together. He deserves a lot of credit in the formation of this alliance."

Gable was just as complimentary of the executive directors from each agency. He said they have become very compatible.

"They are on the same page," Gable said. "They may not have always been there, but they have evolved into that and everybody feels comfortable with everybody else."

Gable's involvement became more prevalent after he was no longer under contract with the UI, beginning his retirement Jan. 1. Members of the organizations wanted a little more separation from his work with the school and became a little more welcoming.

"I think once I stepped away from the University of Iowa, being under contract, then they were actually more comfortable with me from the sport's point of view," Gable said. "Not that they didn't believe I had full intentions of being a catalyst for them, helping put this together."

Gable continued to say, "It's like I'm coaching in a different realm. Instead of coaching athletes, I'm helping coach the sport (and) the organizations. That doesn't mean they're going to follow everything I say, but they feel more comfortable with a leader that really has passion and that has done some extraordinary things for the sport and doesn't plan on wanting to stop, knowing that I'd like to see us go to greater heights."

This move was desperately needed. NCAA Division I programs are dwindling at an alarming rate, despite some signs of growth with 19 new programs being added the last year at lower levels, including in NAIA, and high school participation numbers increasing by 40,000 the last decade, according to Moyer.

UNC Greensboro, Liberty, Cal State-Fullerton and Brown University cut wrestling programs after the 2010-11 season and the University of Nebraska-Omaha, which was expected to make the move from Division II to I for the upcoming season was cut after winning its third straight national team title and sixth in the last eight years in March.

"It was a very difficult spring with the elimination of four NCAA Division I programs," Moyer said. "It had been an extraordinarily challenging spring. Not that we haven't had other springs like that, but the bottom line is we're down to 78 Division I programs."

The organizations will remain separate entities, carrying out their regular roles in wrestling. They will collaborate efforts in promoting and developing wrestling and will team for a goal to better the sport. The focus will begin at the high school and college levels.

"USA Wrestling stands proud and committed to join forces with these outstanding organizations to strengthen our planet's greatest sport," Bender said in a news release. "We all have a significant responsibility to work together for the greater good of wrestling. We are confident that this alliance will serve our sport well and we work hard to eliminate the duplication of efforts and create efficiencies to move wrestling forward."

Gable said that will be achieved step-by-step, likely reaching out to include other groups who share their aspirations for wrestling. He said more meetings will come, finalizing the next step, but a move won't be made that could jeopardize the stability of the alliance's foundation.

"If you build it strong, it holds up," Gable said. "If you jump to one thing for an immediate impact that's good, but at the same time it could crumble fast. We don't want anything crumbling. Whatever we're going to do we're going to do to the best of our ability."

Expansion could take some time due to the many groups and who contribute to the sport. Gable said they are too numerous to write down on paper and get a flowing structure. He said they want everyone in the sport to feel good about their position in building it up. Unification leads to strength, which includes a stronger voice that might lead to more ears listening.

"This alliance will make good decisions and not push anybody around," Gable said. "Just become a more effective voice and that will help our sport.

"This alliance is about helping the sport, but not at the expense of other organizations or anything else. Everything needs to get done the right way and in a fair way."

Gable, who was an undefeated three-time state champion at Waterloo West before going on to be a two-time NCAA champion for Iowa State and a gold medalist at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, has long been a champion on and off the mat for the sport. He has heralded for his work in wrestling, especially in promotion. His retirement really isn't one. he just has more control over what, when and how he can do things.

"It's about a little more freedom in your life," said Gable, who is being honored by the UI with a seven-foot statue outside of Carver-Hawkeye Arena after guiding the Hawkeyes to a 355-21-5 in 21 seasons winning 15 NCAA titles, including a stretch of nine straight and 21 Big Ten championships. "If you don't want to get away from the sport, which I don't, I'll continue to try to help do what I can do, as much as I can. This is one avenue that people, I believe, think a lot of me in."

Success in his professional, athletic and family lives have led to speaking engagements to various corporations for Gable. It becomes a chance for him to promote the effects and intangibles of the sport, strengthening the information about wrestling. The talks also places a wrestling personality front and center.

"Even though you retire from one place, you have more time to maybe go to organizations, and that can help make a difference, too," Gable said. "Just spread the word. Spread the good word and what you believe in from a professional point of view."

No one really expects Gable to slow down, especially at a time the sport he loves needs him the most. Wrestling, and its new leading alliance, will benefit.

"I don't see him missing a step," Moyer said. "In fact, I see him ramping things up. he doesn't look like he's ready to really retire any time soon, and selfishly I'm happy because he's got more time he can dedicate to the sport.


College wrestling poised for a comeback

June 19th, 2011 by Tom

By JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist

STILLWATER - Former Iowa coach Dan Gable believes wrestling, encouraged by better than expected television ratings in recent years, has a chance to regain its position as one of the most popular collegiate sports.

Gable was among the top wrestling officials at the recent National Wrestling Hall of Fame induction ceremony and believes the sport is poised for a comeback in both participation and fans.

"I think what we've done with the Big Ten Network has opened a lot of eyes, "said Gable, who led the Hawkeyes to 15 national championships. "The exposure and positives for our sport have been great.

"There were a lot of people that were surprised when we found out that wrestling was the third most-watched sport on the Big Ten Network. It is certainly something to build on."

The three leading organizations for amateur wrestling in the country announced a "Wrestling Alliance "agreement to work together to promote the sport during the recent Honors Week at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Rich Bender, executive director of USA Wrestling, Mike Moyer, executive director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association, and Lee Roy Smith, executive director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, announced the agreement.

Wrestling suffered a decline in popularity, participation and in fan interest during the 1990s and early 2000s. That dip has been blamed on a wide variety of factors from Title IX regulations, lack of television exposure and new rules that some believe made the sport more boring.

The Wrestling Alliance is being formed to reverse the trend, something that many believe has already happened.

Gable, one of the legends in the sport, has high hopes that what is happening in the Big Ten, where the sport seems to be enjoying a rebirth and growth, will spread around the country.

"The very nature of the sport is about the competitive nature of the sport, "said Gable. "I want John Smith (OSU coach) and Cael Sanderson (Penn State coach) and Tom Brands (Iowa coach) to be very competitive on the mat. That is part of the beauty of our sport.

"That does not mean we can't all work together to build our sport. We have to do that. We can do that. This is not about Iowa vs. Oklahoma or Gable vs. Smith. This is about doing what is right for our sport."

What is right is looking for ways to bring wrestling back to the attention of fans.

The success of wrestling on the Big Ten Network has certainly given a boost to high hopes for what is possible in the Big 12's new television contract.

"I think what has happened on the Big Ten Network is something that we want to look at here in the Big 12, "said OSU coach John Smith. "I would like to see the types of things that have happened in the Big Ten be expanded into our own television contract.

"Actually, the new television opportunities in the Big 12 is a great thing for all of our sports. Hopefully, we can maintain the exposure our sport currently gets and expand on it."

The NCAA Tournament got new expanded coverage this spring but there are hopes among some in the wrestling community that it can be a starting point.

The Big Ten Network has been partially successful with wrestling because of the popularity of the sport stretching from Penn State in the east to Iowa in the west.

The Big 12 will admittedly be in a different situation.

Big 12 wrestling would likely be a popular televised event in Oklahoma, Iowa and Missouri.

However, in Texas, the largest television footprint by far in the Big 12, wrestling isn't likely to be much of a factor.

Still, Smith believes "we can do a lot with what we have in the Big 12".

The Big 12 will have four of the top schools in NCAA wrestling. It could be argued that all four wrestling schools (OSU, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Missouri) are among the perennial top 10 in the country.

Zeke Jones, coach of the U.S. Freestyle team, said gaining popularity for the sport can be as simple as Olympic success.

"Americans love winning, "said Jones. "If we can win medals and have success that is the greatest thing we could do for our sport.

"To be honest, there are a lot of things that could help our sport. But, if we win medals and have a good showing that will do as much as anything."

The Wrestling Alliance, formed to coordinate the efforts for expanded interest in wrestling, will look at everything.

"There has never been a more important time in the history of wrestling in the United States, "said Moyer. "We have to work toward common goals."

In other words, working like heck to beat Iowa or Penn State is great inspiration. But when it is over, Cowboys and Hawkeyes and Sooners and Nittany Lions better be willing to work together.

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2012 Olympic Trials coming to Iowa City

January 19th, 2011 by Tom

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."

Gable set for next stage

January 12th, 2011 by Tom

Dan Gable Wrestling Coach


IOWA CITY "Dan Gable has been the face of amateur wrestling for the better part of the last half-century.

During that span, Gable has done just about everything there is to do for the sport of wrestling, both on the mat and off. He won two NCAA Championships during his competitive days at Iowa State University, losing just one match during his collegiate career. He went on to win a gold medal at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, while not allowing a single point.

Gable then went into coaching. He was the head wrestling coach at the University of Iowa from 1976-1997, where he led the Hawkeyes to 15 NCAA national team titles and 21 straight Big Ten Conference championships. He coached 152 Al-Americans and 45 national champion during his 21 years as head coach at Iowa. He also coached the United States Olympic Freestyle team in 1980, 1984 and 2000.

Gable stepped down after the 1997 season and moved into an administrative position with the University of Iowa.

Gable has also served in numerous other capacities, including broadcaster on Iowa Public Television's College Wrestling series.

But most notably, Gable has been the greatest ambassador for amateur wrestling who ever lived. Gable is the face of wrestling. Whether it has been on the mat, in the corner, behind the microphone or at various gatherings, Gable has been at the forefront, the voice of the sport.

Gable "retired" from the University of Iowa at the end of December, freeing him up to do much more work behind the scenes. Just don't mention the word "retired" to Gable, for he knows his work has only just begun.

"Excuse me? What did you say?" Gable rebutted when asked about his "retirement." "That word is not in my vocabulary."

Gable recently took time out of his busy schedule to talk about the future of wrestling and his visions for the sport.

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