PA Hears from Gable, Hastert, NWCA RE Olympic Sports
NWCA, Gable, Hastert lobby Pa. General Assembly to protect Olympic sports
By Jason Bryant
The clouds hanging over the State Capital building in Harrisburg, Pa., on Wednesday morning shrouded the city skyline and blanketed it with a damp chill.
There?s also been a damp chill shrouding college wrestling, not specifically in Pennsylvania, but nationwide. But the 34 college wrestling programs in Pennsylvania have not been devoid of being cut, as witnessed by Slippery Rock cutting its historic program two years ago.
Initially, Slippery Rock was to drop eight sports as a cost-cutting move, five men?s sports and three women?s sports, but after a Title IX complaint was filed, the school was forced to keep the three women?s sports while the men?s sports were left with nothing ? including wrestling.
Joined by former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R) and former Iowa wrestling Coach Dan Gable, the National Wrestling Coaches Association met with the Pennsylvania General Assembly to discuss options for legislation to solidify the athletic opportunities that currently exist in the state.
Hastert, Gable, NWCA Executive Director Mike Moyer and a host of representatives met in the Majority Caucus Room in a meeting headed up by Rep. Todd Eachus (D), Chairman of the House Policy Committee.
Eachus? son Nate won the Pennsylvania AAA state championship last season at 189 pounds as a junior at Hazleton High School.
Wednesday?s methodology was simple.
?The purpose of the meeting is just to raise awareness of the important role that intercollegiate sports teams play in developing the next generation of high school, middle school and elementary school teachers and coaches,? said Moyer. ?We have a national shortage of wrestling coaches throughout the country and the best way to increase that depleted pool is by having more college programs.?
Hastert, who was honored after the meeting in the main house with a standing ovation, also pointed out the importance of intercollegiate sports as a building block for future mentors.
?Our primary purpose here today is to explain the important role that intercollegiate wrestling teams play in our state-funded schools,? said Hastert, a wrestling coach in Illinois for 16 years prior to joining Congress.
The target on Pennsylvania, specifically the 14 state universities that fall under the umbrella of the Department of Higher/Adult Education, was two-fold.
?We?re located in Pennsylvania and it?s a good place to start,? said Moyer. ?Quite frankly, we?re trying to test the waters to find out what strategies would be the most effective that could be implicated in other states.?
The National Wrestling Coaches Association is headquartered in Manheim, roughly a half-hour away from Harrisburg.
?There?s 9,000 kids that wrestle in Pennsylvania and we?ve lost six (State System of Higher Education University) programs,? said Gable. ?Six programs -- various generations of mentors ? gone.?
?People have a lot of issues in life and making sure that they are aware of one that?s a pretty big issue to a lot of people,? said Gable. ?Wrestling didn?t just start yesterday, there?s a lot of people involved in this. The educational process that took place in that meeting today will make people more aware there?s some things that are going on because there?s an agenda or there?s an easy way to get there or simply somebody has a preference.?
?Is it the right thing to do or have they done good homework and research to make sure it?s the right thing to do?? asked Gable. ?Any time you already have something established, base-built, you want to continue to keep the structure and not have people leaving and going to other states that are a long ways away. It?s just the right thing to do. When you have something going, make sure it?s able to continue throughout its entirety.?
Eight of the 14 state-funded schools ? known primarily as the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference ? field wrestling programs. Of those, Edinboro, Bloomsburg, East Stroudsburg, Millersville, Clarion and Lock Haven field Division I wrestling programs.
Slippery Rock, noted earlier as officially eliminating five sports, is a member of the PSAC. A big point of contention for Hastert was there was little warning to the lawmakers and legislature that makes educational policy and appropriations.
Re: PA Hears from Gable, Hastert, NWCA RE Olympic Sports
This is incredibly important for 2 reasons. First, wrestling needs to more accurately and aggressively identify "opportunity proportionality" - i.e. how do intercollegiate competition opportunities among state-funded colleges and universities compare with the number of constituent high school participants. Go to www.saveoregonwrestling.com to see how out of whack this can be. Basically, this means that, if wrestling participation at the high school level is growing it should be impossible for tax-funded colleges to drop the sport.
Second, now that Dennis Hastert is retiring from congress - wrestling needs to grab him! Get him on the board of directors of every wrestling-related non -profit organization there is. Get him out front - not just in saving programs, but creating new ones. We need to get to the point where we're not working so hard to save programs - we're working to add new ones.