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The Future of the National Duals

The Future of the National Duals
NWCA may ask NCAA wrestling to make annual event part of the sport's restructuring program

By Mike Finn, W.I.N. Editor

On the weekend of Jan. 12-13, 2008, many of the top teams in college wrestling will descend on Cedar Falls, Iowa, for the newest edition of the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals.

Well, not everyone.

Missing for just the fourth time in the 20 years of the annual event is Oklahoma State, which has captured the championship eight times since the first Duals were held in Hampton, Va., in 1989.

“We’ve never hung a banner up in (OSU’s) Gallagher-Iba Arena on winning the National Duals,? said Oklahoma State coach John Smith, whose Cowboys will participate in the Virginia Duals, which is taking place the same weekend in Hampton, Va. “I like the event, but it’s not the national championship. It’s another tournament.?

“Clearly, until we can get the perception that it is a true national championship, we are always going to have that issue to deal with,? admitted Mike Moyer, the executive director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association.

That is one reason Moyer and the NWCA hopes to make the Duals so important that the NCAA may wish to sponsor the event in the future.

In fact, the National Duals is just one part of a renewal project the NWCA is undertaking to improve the sport. In February, the NCAA will go over a strategic plan created by the NWCA and the NCAA Div. I Wrestling Committee to improve the college sport.

Among the items on the agenda is determining how qualifiers will be determined for the Div. I tournament, changing the sport’s season to one semester and putting more importance on dual meets and a true championship.

“There are some people out there who believe putting the NCAA name on the tournament could legitimize the event,? Moyer said. “Obviously the NCAA has significant resources to take the Nationals Duals from what it is to being something even that much bigger.

“I would say one of the primary focuses of the National Wrestling Coaches Association in our collaborative effort with the NCAA is to develop strategies that place more emphasis on the dual meets,? added Moyer. “That can include a wide array of possibilities.

“One of the things being discussed is the notion of having some type of dual meet season that culminates with a national dual meet championship. Then you would have some type of individual tournament season, culminating with the NCAA Championships as we know them today.?

One of the NWCA’s ideas is to create a separate dual meet season that would conclude with a National Dual championship in February, followed by an individual tournament in early April.

“One of the guiding principles is to look how we can can maneuver our season so that we don’t compete head to head with (NCAA basketball’s) March Madness,? Moyer said. “One of the things that we are considering is having the National Duals before the March Madness and the individual championships after the basketball tournament.

“We are also looking into making wrestling more of a one-semester sport.?

All of these ideas are in the preliminary stage and will take time to go through the NCAA governing process.

“There are a number of factors,? said Brad Traviolia, deputy commissioner of the Big Ten Conference and Chairman of the NCAA Div. I Wrestling Committee. “The NCAA has a bi-annual budgeting process. Even if it is approved there, it may not become effective for a few years.

“There are some things that are short-term implementation like the selection procedures for the NCAA individual championships. There is a directive (from the NCAA) that the procedure be implemented for the 2009 season.?

And since the NWCA and the NCAA Wrestling Committee had to come up with another plan for selecting NCAA qualifiers — other than choosing wrestlers based on historical data — these united groups will use this opportunity before the NCAA to share a bigger plan for wrestling.

“The cabinet, which asked us to come up with a new (qualifying) system, has asked for an update so that’s what we are providing them,? Traviolia said. “Instead of just providing them an update in fixing this short-term issue, we wanted to let them know the scope of what we are trying to do.

“We will mention this strategic plan, the need for it and the support the wrestling community has for it. We want to give them a preview of some of the things that we are thinking about like having an NCAA dual championship.?

Getting the message across could take time, especially if the NCAA decision makers are not that familiar with wrestling.

“The biggest challenge that wrestling faces is that during all the different approval processes to go through the system, there is such a low percentage of people in the room whose schools sponsor wrestling on their own campus,? Traviolia said.

“These are all good quality administrators who want to do the right thing, but when you don’t have the sport on campus, there is always the fear that they might not fully understand or it may not hit home with them.

“One of the challenging things is to educate folks, who may not be familiar with the sport.?

They also must get the national wrestling community on the same page, which has been hard in the past.

“Whether it’s voting at the convention or talking about the selection criteria for the NCAAs, there really have been strong difference of opinions and some infighting within the wrestling community,? Traviolia said.

“We think we have a system and a structure that everyone will be able to support from schools that sponsor wrestling.?

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