Commentary: Wrestle-offs prove superiority

BY J.T. BUGOS | NOVEMBER 09, 2009 7:20 AM

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I was raised on sports as a kid. I played basketball, baseball, football, and volleyball.

But wrestling never entered my sports realm.

My high school didn’t have a wrestling team, so I was clueless about how popular it is in my home state of Illinois. In a conversation with legendary former coach Dan Gable, he informed me that wrestling is huge in the Land of Lincoln — after I foolishly said wrestling wasn’t that big in my hometown.

So when I got to Iowa my freshman year, just over two years ago, I had no idea we had a championship-caliber team. After that first championship, I took interest and followed the Hawkeyes throughout their second-consecutive title run.

I learned a little bit, but the sport was still mostly foreign to me.

This summer I watched a few practices, and my admiration for wrestling exploded.

Just four days ago, I witnessed something that doesn’t compare with any other sports I’ve played: wrestle-offs.

Wrestle-offs, put simply, are used to determine the starter for each weight class. Grapplers go head-to-head with teammates to determine who will take the No. 1 spot.

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Teammates are thrown onto the mat, forced to attack each other if they want to suit up. Imagine if this happened in other sports.

Basketball could obviously have one-on-one games, but what could be better than a no-holds barred game of knockout?

You better be quick to the rebound, because if you aren’t, I’m punting your ball across the gym.

Who will start the first game of the College World Series? Let’s bring out the dunk tank. Starting pitchers have to use one of their secondary pitches and dunk fellow hurlers. First person to dunk three different guys, who must throw while drenched, gets the nod.

If there is a need to determine your starting quarterback, no better way than the quarterback challenge. Signal callers have to hit moving targets, each one farther downfield than the previous, while Chris Berman stands next to them yelling “Backbackbackback. Hits the target.”

Track can easily be done head-to-head, but then, why not spice it up a little bit. Try jumping over the hurdle as a discus thrower tosses Frisbees at you.

Wrestling allows an athlete to prove he deserves to start. When Brent Metcalf pinned Stew Gillmor in 2:17, nobody could conjure an argument against the former NCAA champion being the better wrestler. The result was obvious.

In other sports, coaches’ opinions come into play, and sometimes the better player doesn’t start.

While players are always competing with each other and proving they have the talent to play, ultimately, a human makes the final decisions.

And humans make mistakes.

Wrestling cuts out opinion and human error, allowing the wrestlers to each take hold and grapple for the chance to start.

The wrestle-offs are cutthroat, and it’s apparent in the intensity with which teammates attack each other. No other sport compares to wrestling in its selection process, and that’s what makes the wrestle-offs so electric to see.

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