After 30 years on the year-round wrestling grind, I’ve got to say that I’m extremely excited for my first season as a casual wrestling fan. I’ve always been curious to know what it’s like being the drunk guy in the stands, and 2018-2019 will be my first chance to find out. With that, I did what any good fan would do and bought a set of season tickets to make this a reality.
Now, I still have more than enough connections at the University of Northern Colorado to get into all home events for free, and, given that I spent the majority of my life’s savings on the publication of my novel, it would definitely be in my best interest to call on these connections. However, calling on these connections does not allow me to demonstrate the value I place on the sport, and it’s this value that wrestling desperately needs to be put on display.
Wrestling people love to laud the work ethic, discipline, and mental toughness the sport teaches, and they’re quick to bemoan the fact that opportunities to continue with these lessons are extremely limited at the college level, as the number of programs and amount of scholarship dollars for wrestling pales in comparison to other sports. Yet, when it comes time to do something as simple as buy a ticket to a dual meet, all of these so-called wrestling people suddenly disappear. They’ll throw down $50 to enter a fantasy football league, they’ll drop $50 on bar tabs multiple times a month, and they’ll gladly fork over $50 just to PARK at a Denver Broncos game, but when it comes time to pay $50 for a season’s worth of Division I wrestling action, the same sport in which they’ve participated since the age of five? Nah, we’re good. When considered from this perspective, how can parents act surprised when the third-string long snapper on the football team is on a full ride, but their state-champion son or daughter is lucky to find a place to walk on?
People look at all of the national champions at Ohio State, Penn State, and Iowa and say they are successful programs; I look at the sold-out home duals at Ohio State, Penn State, and Iowa and say they are successful programs. By consistently selling tickets to “meaningless” regular-season dual meets, these programs are demonstrating to their administrations, communities, and states that wrestling is valuable and that the sport matters, irrespective of wins or national accolades.
Colorado wrestling community: we have the ability to make the same kind of statement, right here in our home state. We are passionate about the sport, as demonstrated by our wildly successful CHSAA state tournament, and we have some of the country’s finest developmental clubs, as proven by the numerous Colorado wrestlers at the top of the national high school rankings. The only thing keeping Colorado from being mentioned among the elite wrestling states is a Division I fanbase on par with the aforementioned.
I know many reading this aren’t UNCO alumni. I understand that the majority of people in this state support CU or CSU. I realize there is skepticism surrounding the idea that a school like UNCO can ever get over the hump. I agree that it’s safer to be associated with a winner and spend money on the traditional powerhouses. I get that there are a lot of outstanding Division II programs in the state and that Division I isn’t the end-all, be-all. And I unequivocally assert that the kind of raucous Colorado wrestling crowd I envision at UNCO will not manifest itself this season.
But we will get there.
Flowrestling has revolutionized coverage of college wrestling and, for better or for worse, this coverage is focused almost exclusively on Division I. Unlike so many of our western-states brethren, UNCO gives us a chance to claim our slice of the coverage pie, right here on our home turf. Regardless of our loyalties or persuasions, as Colorado wrestling people, we MUST demonstrate the value we place on the sport we hold so dear.
I skipped out on my weekly bar tab and used that money for UNCO wrestling tickets. This will become a yearly tradition for me: a week of sobriety for a season of wrestling. I’m looking for 10—only 10!—among the thousands of Colorado wrestling folk who will join me in making the 2018-2019 season their first as season ticket holders. If you’re on board, please send me a DM so I can track the progress of my goal. And—who knows?—maybe we can get together at one of the duals and share a couple of drinks to make up for those we’re missing out on during our beer-less week. ????????????
Here’s to wrestling!