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|Wrestling group in Georgia seeks to start a college program in their state|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
College wrestling has a long and rich tradition in the United States, going back over a century. However, for young athletes in many states across our nation, there are not even one college varsity wrestling program for wrestlers in that state to attend, in spite of the sports popularity in high schools and club programs.
One such state is Georgia, which has a thriving grassroots and high school wrestling community. Every wrestler who grows up in Georgia who wants to wrestle in college must leave the state in order to pursue their athletic dreams.
There is a group within the state that is seeking to do something about that. The Georgia Intercollegiate Wrestling Coalition is a collection of wrestling organizations and individuals who have banded together to do whatever it takes to provide college wrestling in Georgia for the citizens in their state.
Team Georgia, the USA Wrestling state association, is an active leader in this effort. They have reached out to other wrestling groups within the state, as well as individuals and families, to bring this message to anyone and everyone who can help make this change.
There is a precedent for a grassroots effort of this kind paying off with the development of a college wrestling team. For a number of years after all the colleges that had wrestling in the state of Utah had dropped the sport, wrestlers in that state had no opportunity to wrestle in college in Utah. A group was formed, funds were raised, public pressure was applied, and the result was the creation of the varsity college wrestling team at Utah Valley State University.
One of the leaders in this effort is Alan Leet, who is active with Team Georgia and other wrestling groups in the state. Leet is an attorney, and his family has been involved in wrestling. He has taken a leadership role in the efforts to reform Title IX interpretation, and has decided to work on the effort to bring back college wrestling in his state.
"Our focus now is to educate the wrestling community and our state's educational and political leadership of the facts, and of the total lack of opportunity in the state (and region) for thousands of kids that may aspire to continue the sport beyond high school," said Leet. "We view this as a long term campaign, and hope to create a broad network of friends of the sport all over the state that will make the case for us with local colleges and state political leaders. The facts are compelling; we just need to get them out there."
The organization has developed an in-depth brochure explaining why there needs to be college wrestling in Georgia. It is being distributed throughout Georgia, as a tool to explain the reasons that wrestling needs to be added. (see below for text of the brochure).
"It's going to be a big show this weekend at the first ever combined state championship tournament at the Gwinnett Arena, " said Leet. "I hope we can get some of the policy makers to take note of the broad interest in the sport in the state."
Editor's Note: There are nine NCWA non-varsity wrestling programs within Georgia that provide college wrestling opportunities. For info on the NCWA, visit www.ncwa.net
CAMPAIGN TO REINSTATE INTERCOLLEGIATE WRESTLING IN GEORGIA
Georgia Intercollegiate Wrestling Coalition
* Amateur wrestling is a very popular and growing sport in Georgia at the youth and high school levels.
* Georgia's colleges and universities budget millions of dollars to sponsor intercollegiate athletic teams in numerous sports.
* Unfortunately, and surprisingly to many, there are now no collegiate wrestling programs in Georgia!
* A grass-roots coalition of concerned parents, grandparents and friends of the sport of wrestling is appealing to Georgia's colleges and universities (and our State's political leaders) to sponsor an intercollegiate wrestling program.
* Please join us in this effort! Our kids and grandkids deserve a chance to realize their dreams in Georgia!
No Collegiate Wrestling in Georgia
Due to budget limitations, federal gender equity regulations and other factors, the opportunity for many of our more accomplished and committed student athletes to continue to participate in their sport at the collegiate level has significantly diminished in recent years, especially in the case of the traditional Olympic sports. In no case has this trend been more pronounced than in the sport of amateur wrestling. Since 1972, more than 400 collegiate wrestling programs have been eliminated. Among the notable Georgia examples are Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia, and Georgia State, all of whom discontinued their wrestling programs in the 1980s or 1990s. As a result, at the present time, there are no collegiate wrestling programs in Georgia - - be it at the NCAA Division I, II, or III levels, at NAIA schools or at the junior college level.
This absence of opportunity is not explained by interest in the sport, which continues to grow at both the youth and high school level in our state and nationally. With over 6,200 high school participants, wrestling is the sixth most popular (out of 14) Georgia High School Association (GHSA) boys sport and the tenth most popular (out of 32) boys and girls sport. According to GHSA statistics, wrestling has about the same number of high school participants as soccer and softball, and more participants than cross country (boys or girls), volleyball, golf (boys or girls), and swimming and diving (boys and girls combined).
Georgia universities and colleges generally offer athletic opportunities for both boys and girls sports that mirror interest at the GHSA level. In fact, each of the major sports played at the Georgia high school level are offered at numerous Georgia colleges and universities, with the exception of wrestling . While Georgia has close to one hundred public and private colleges and universities, none of them have an intercollegiate wrestling program.
As a result, accomplished Georgia high school wrestlers - - who tend to be among our most dedicated and disciplined student athletes due to the demands of the sport - - are forced to make a very painful choice. For most, going to college means giving up a sport in which they have a great investment of human capital (many wrestlers start to train and compete in elementary school) and an activity that adds structure and discipline to their lives. Only a minority of Georgia's wrestlers have the financial resources to attend an out-of-state school offering a wrestling program. With the Hope Scholarship only an option at in-state schools, the unfortunate reality is that most elite Georgia high school wrestlers are forced to quit the sport after high school.
Grass-Roots Campaign Seeking to Address the Lack of Opportunity
A grass-roots coalition comprised of interested citizens and Georgia-based and National organizations has been formed to seek to create opportunities to address this total lack of opportunity for our state's student athletes. We believe that the addition of college wrestling in Georgia will be a win-win for the kids of our state and the sponsoring academic institutions.
Georgia colleges electing to start or reinstate a wrestling program will have an opportunity to pick from a large pool of under-recruited or not-recruited high achievers - - both athletically and scholastically. For example, in the last several years, Georgia wrestlers have left the state to attend and wrestle at such elite academic institutions as Stanford, Princeton, Duke, Navy, UNC, Davidson, Virginia, Air Force, Army and Case Western or to attend great state universities such as Missouri, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, Indiana, West Virginia, and Ohio State. With no college wrestling available in the neighboring states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, the supply/demand dynamics clearly favor Georgia colleges and universities looking to hand-pick talented and motivated student athletes.
Compared to most other intercollegiate sports, this numbers advantage for the school seeking to build a competitive wrestling program is also compelling. The following table shows the national participation statistics for the ten most popular male high school sports vs. the number of positions available in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA Division I, II, and III) member colleges:
Sport/High School Participants/College Participants/Percent HS to NCAA
1. Football, 1,002,734, 57,646, 5.8%
2. Basketball, 541,130, 15,870, 2.9%
3. Track and Field (outdoor), 480,791, 21,044, 4.4%
4. Baseball, 451,701, 26,122, 5.8%
5. Soccer, 330,044, 18,571, 5.6%
6. Wrestling, 239,105, 6,138, 2.6%
7. Cross Country, 183,139, 11,131, 6.1%
8. Golf, 165,857, 7,772, 4.7%
9. Tennis, 139,507, 7,728, 5.5%
10. Swimming/Diving, 86,640, 7,559, 8.7%
This data demonstrates that a new collegiate wrestling program should have a greater ability to recruit excellent student athletes and to quickly build a nationally competitive program than would be the case with any other mainstream sport.
Cost/Benefit Analysis Favors Adding a Wrestling Program
The cost/benefit analysis for the sponsoring Georgia college or university suggests that it is possible to build a competitive wrestling program that is a credit to the institution for a very modest investment.
* Modest Cost and Facilities Needs of a Collegiate Wrestling Program - - The cost of a collegiate wrestling program is modest compared to most other athletic programs. Coaches' salaries are the principal cost, and highly qualified candidates are available at very reasonable salary levels. The equipment and facilities needs of wrestling are also very modest - a couple of mats and a room to serve as a practice facility. Finally, with the Hope Scholarship and given the limited number of collegiate programs in the Southeast and nationally, scholarship support is not a prerequisite to success in NCAA and NAIA wrestling.
* Ability to Build a Competitive Program - - The very under-recruited talent pool is unique to the sport of wrestling, and especially in the South. Furthermore, the opportunity of a new wrestling program to achieve regional and national notoriety and recognition is greater due to the fact that there are fewer collegiate programs than most sports of similar popularity. For example, there are only 90 Division I wrestling programs (compared to 302 cross country teams, 289 golf teams, 265 tennis teams and 198 soccer teams at the NCAA men's Division I level).
* Benefit to Tuition-Driven Institutions. Many colleges are looking to grow their undergraduate student bodies. The addition of a wrestling program can attract 30 to 40 dedicated and talented, tuition paying students based on recent experiences at other colleges around the U.S. (without the need for scholarship support)! Why? Because there is a total lack of opportunity for these student-athletes who love the sport of wrestling.
* Title IX "Gender Equity" Considerations. Proportionality - - one method for complying with Title IX that requires that athletic participation by male and female students on a percentage basis mirror the percentage of male and female students enrolled at the school - - is often cited as a reason why colleges do not consider establishing a wrestling program (which traditionally has been primarily a male sport). This is not a limitation for some schools (such as Georgia Tech), which offers greater proportionate opportunity to its female students. More importantly, schools are not required to be "proportional" to satisfy Title IX, and recent interpretative guidance issued by the Department of Education has provided more clarity that universities are in fact permitted to provide equal opportunity to both genders under Title IX based on student interest, not simply based on the quota approach of proportionality.
* Diversity - - Wrestling attracts participants from all socio-economic and ethnic groups and is one of the few sports that allows physically smaller participants to compete at the highest level (due to the weight class system for competition). Wrestling is also one of the few sports that provides mainstream opportunity for the blind, deaf and physically handicapped student-athlete.
* Serving the Georgia Taxpayers - - Georgia's state supported institutions could further serve Georgia taxpayers by offering a collegiate wrestling program in the state. Thousands of Georgia families (and taxpayers) support their children's participation in the sport, and a collegiate program would support them in that effort. A collegiate program in Georgia would not only benefit prospective student athletes, it would provide the state with future coaching talent, summer camp and skills clinic opportunities and student-athlete role models in one of the oldest Olympic amateur sports.
Call to Action to Support Reinstating Collegiate Wrestling in Georgia
The factors supporting the need for and advantages of a collegiate wrestling program in Georgia are compelling. This brochure is intended to educate interested policy makers at our state's academic institutions and within our state government. It is also intended to serve as a call to action to parents and grandparents of children that have benefited from participation in the sport of wrestling. If you believe that our kids should have an intercollegiate wrestling opportunity in Georgia, please do the following three things:
1. Spread the Word. Share a copy of this brochure with other friends of the sport, and ask them to join in this grass-roots campaign for our kids;
2. Stay in Touch. E-mail the Georgia Intercollegiate Wrestling Coalition c/o Alan Leet at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we may add you to our e-mail lists and keep you informed of developments; and
3. Contact Policy Makers. Most importantly, please contact your local elected state representatives and local colleges and universities and ask them to support efforts to reinstate intercollegiate wrestling at Georgia colleges and universities. Go to www.Congress.org to identify your state representatives (senate and house) in the Georgia General Assembly, and to obtain their contact information (click on "State Officials," and type in your zip code). Key talking points for your call, e-mail or letter to your state representatives could include:
(i) Advising them of the total absence of a college wrestling program in Georgia.
(ii) Inform them of the sport's popularity in the state, and the sport's appeal to kids of all sizes and backgrounds.
(iii) Point out that you are among thousands of Georgia families that believe that the sport of wrestling teaches discipline, commitment, sacrifice, personal responsibility and hard work, and that our state government should support a sport that instills these values.
(iv) Ask them to let you know if they would be willing to help us in this effort. If you receive a favorable response, please let us know so we may begin to identify our friends in the General Assembly.
GEORGIA INTERCOLLEGIATE WRESTLING COALITION
Team Georgia/USA Wrestling
Georgia Wrestling Coaches Association
National High School Coaches Association - Georgia Chapter
Friends of Georgia Tech Wrestling
College Sports Council
National Wrestling Coaches Association