March Madness: And don’t forget Wrestling Madness

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 20, 2009

Associated Press
ST. LOUIS ó College wrestling’s biggest weekend has no chance of making a splash beyond the confines of the sport’s niche appeal. Not against the start of the real March Madness.
Coaches of some of the top programs have recognized that truth for years. They’d just as soon avoid the NCAA basketball tournament that captivates the nation in the future, perhaps making wrestling an exclusively second-semester sport with the title decided in April.
“There’s a lot to offer from this sport that’s not in the mainstream because of the lack of exposure,” said Tom Brands of defending national champion Iowa. “So we’ve got to figure something out.”
The subject has been percolating for years. Nebraska’s Mark Manning recalls James Robinson of Minnesota advocating searching for a new date as far back as 1997.
The tournament is being held in St. Louis for the fifth time this decade, and has thrived in the central location. St. Louis holds the top three all-time attendance figures, with a record 96,944 for the three-day event in 2000.
“I just think we’re missing the boat,” Manning said. “We’re beating our heads against a wall going against March Madness.”
Organizers expect this year’s event to give the city the top four marks with sellout crowds totally ignoring the bracketology. Inside the Scottrade Center, with action taking place on eight mats on Thursday and 700 matches in all to be decided, the faithful roar for takedowns, one- or two-leg style.
Frank Viverito, president of the St. Louis Sports Commission, anticipates that any calendar change probably wouldn’t take effect until 2013. March dates have already been set for the next three years, although Viverito added, “Anytime is good for us.”