There has been a recent trend among high school and college wrestling to host their events in non-traditional environments and it’s taking hold. It used to be a mat was rolled out over center court of the basketball gym, and the grapplers would take hold. Not anymore, over the last year, we’ve seen an explosion
There has been a recent trend among high school and college wrestling to host their events in non-traditional environments and it’s taking hold. It used to be a mat was rolled out over center court of the basketball gym, and the grapplers would take hold. Not anymore, over the last year, we’ve seen an explosion of non-traditional settings for wrestling at Virginia Tech, Iowa and even in northern Virginia.
Just over a year ago, Iowa hosted Oklahoma State in front of over 42,000 fans with the moniker “Grapple on the Gridiron” as wrestling took over where football was traditionally played.
— Big Ten Conference (@bigten) November 14, 2015
In February of this year, Virginia Tech hosted North Carolina State, University of Pittsburgh, and University of Virginia in a special three-match event in the school’s Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre in the Moss Arts Center’s Street and Davis Performance Hall.
This event literally put wrestling center stage and provided a unique atmosphere for an event that may not have attracted as many fans to fill one deck of the hall, let alone all three each time the doors opened. Attendance really doesn’t matter here, because it was the media coverage from these events that helped benefit the sport.
Even below the collegiate level, there are schools and organizations who are going outdoors to host events to make the experience unique for all involved. In Fairfax, Virginia, the Melee Til Midnight was held at James Madison High School’s football stadium and had to battle the typical mid-summer issues such as heat and rain. After going outdoors for a couple of years, the event moved back inside this summer in a unique atmosphere at the Fieldhouse at George Mason University.
This event was supported by the Eric Monday Foundation which was established to raise awareness to the stigma of mental health issues in honor of a young man who took his life too young, while also starring as a collegiate wrestler.
The Monday Foundation supports numerous other events in the Mid Atlantic Region, including a new high school competition which just held its second event, See You on the Square. An outdoor wrestling exhibition its first year, put two local high schools together in a City of Fairfax park for a couple of hours, either side of which, you’d never know something amazing happened. This event, has allowed for some new ideas to surface.
Last year, music was played throughout the matches, not stopped after the match started. This was well received from the wrestlers, coaches, officials, and spectators, turning the environment into a party with a competition as a focal point. This year, wrestlers wore a different style of uniform, moving away from singlets and more into a shirt-and-short combination. Again, this was well received as it provided the competitors with a uniform they could wear during school to raise awareness for their sport and event.
This event, and the additions added to it, helped to provide a nice test in a low-pressure environment. Could we possibly see music played during matches? Could we see more personal music selections, or even live DJs coming to wrestling? What about the uniforms. Will teams have home and away sets? What kind of color combinations will they choose from? Would this allow for costs to be alleviated for some of the competitors?
It’s only a matter of time before we see some changes, because that’s what sports is all about. Nothing is the same as it was when it was first developed. And wrestling is doing a great job at trying new ideas…and thinking outside the ring.