What is wrestling? Is it the circus show of "professionals" on T.V., Hulk Hogan? No, that's entertainment, of sorts. Amateur wrestling is not widely covered in the media, but is significant to the sporting world at the international, national and local levels.
Amateur wrestling is an art, as tactical as it is physical. It is a test of determination, will power, strength, speed, balance, mental and physical toughness and conditioning, experience and technique. Volumes of technique, moves which are documented in the ancient Egyptian tombs of Beni-Hassan, and still used today. Techniques that take years and years to learn, to instill in the depths of muscle memory and enacted in a split second. Here's an attempt at an explanation to those new to the sport: It's like gymnastics, except with an opponent who is constantly attempting to stop you from executing your routine.
Wrestling is a timeless sport, with its history traced back to the beginning of human civilization and supported by artifacts dating back to the ancient Babylonians, Egyptians and Greeks. It has been contested in every Olympic Games, both ancient and modern. It is contested on every continent worldwide, and ranks as the fifth most participated sport in the United States.
Presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Howard Taft wrestled. Our Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld wrestled (at Princeton), as did Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. Steven Friedman, an economic adviser to President Bush, wrestled at Cornell and will be the keynote speaker at the EIWA Centennial Celebration banquet on Saturday evening March 6, where over 550 guests will be in attendance as the wrestling community celebrates this historic centennial.
At Pennsylvania, this classic sport has its roots traced back to our founder Benjamin Franklin, who had a facility for training youth in wrestling in his original plans for Penn. The first recorded undergraduate national champ was Penn's W.D. Osgood, who won in 1893. The first intercollegiate tournament was initiated and hosted by Penn undergraduates, and this weekend we celebrate the centennial of that historic milestone.
It is a great honor for our program and our University to be hosting the EIWA Centennial, and in doing so celebrating the efforts of 100 years of Penn student-athletes and their coaches. Penn has Olympic medalists and a champ (Brandon Slay -- 2000 Sydney Games), All Americans and NCAA champs, National Wrestling Hall of Fame members and as rich a tradition and history as any program in the nation.
In addition to this event being a historic milestone, it is also a stepping stone. Top finishers will advance through these championships to compete in the 2004 NCAA Championships in St. Louis. The team race will be fierce this weekend, with nationally ranked Penn, Lehigh and Cornell in the hunt. In 2002 we hosted perennial NCAA champion Iowa, with over 5,000 spectators in attendance at the Palestra, and The Philadelphia Inquirer described the venue as "crackling with excitement." This weekend will be the same, and any sports fan in the area should attend and enjoy the competition.
Penn student-wrestlers have, in the past decade, won more EIWA titles and qualified more to the NCAAs than any other team in our conference. Penn has placed in the top 10 of the NCAA, won seven straight Ivy titles (a record) and four straight EIWA titles (a feat no team had accomplished in over 50 years). This year's team has defeated No. 3 Iowa State, No. 12 Wisconsin and will rival the best teams in our program's rich history.
This weekend's championships will be followed closely nationwide, and will be well attended by alumni, family and friends and the surrounding wrestling community. The EIWA stands as one of the most competitive conferences in the nation. The NCAA Championships in St. Louis will have 19,000 in attendance for the finals, and 80,000 attend over the course of the three days.
Amateur wrestling has an avid, loyal following.
There is great respect among those involved with our sport, who compete without great media attention or notoriety, but do so for the purity of the battle ... the timeless struggle that pits two opponents in competition, alone in the center circle with no one to pass the ball to, no substitutions, no time-outs, no place to hide.
Amateur wrestling has served our nation's youth well, in teaching the virtues of commitment, character development, self-reliance as well as teamwork, in ever-increasing numbers. The sport's participation continues to grow on national and international levels, and at the Olympic level is one of our nation's top three sports in medal production.
Join the fun, catch the action this weekend, celebrate our rich history with us and know that our Pennsylvania wrestlers will give it their all on the Palestra mats this weekend!
Roger Reina is head coach of the Penn wrestling team and a 1984 graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences.Comments powered by Disqus
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