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Iowa City to host 2012 Olympic Wrestling Trials

BY SAM LOUWAGIE | JANUARY 19, 2011 7:10 AM

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Iowa City will officially host the next U.S. Olympic wrestling trials, and area officials expect the event to bring an influx of thousands of visitors and millions of dollars to the area in April 2012.

USA Wrestling officials announced Tuesday they selected Iowa City — known for its historic wrestling program and large fan base — over Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Columbus, Ohio. The event will determine who will represent the United States at the 2012 Olympics in London.

Josh Schamberger, the president of the Iowa City/Coralville Arena Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said the economic effect of the trials would be “significant.” Indianapolis and Las Vegas — the last two cities to host the event — reported an economic impact of $8 million to $10 million.

While the event would draw fewer visitors than a Hawkeye home football game, Schamberger said, an advantage to hosting it was its national draw, as opposed to the regional draw of a football game. He pointed to the number of people from outside the state and region who would fly in and fill up area hotels.

But Schamberger said the event’s impact would go beyond dollar amounts.

“It will also put Iowa City in the national spotlight for the weeks leading up to the trials,” he said. “Excitement will be high. We’ll be essentially witnessing firsthand the team that’s assembled to go on and represent the U.S. in London.”

A local organizing group that included Iowa wrestling legend Dan Gable and current Hawkeye head coach Tom Brands traveled to Colorado Springs to give a presentation to a selection committee on Jan. 12. Among others joining Gable and Brands to make the presentation was Matt Getz of the UI athletics event management. Getz said the group’s pitch centered on a wrestling fan base he called “incredible, excited, and knowledgeable” and that it was received even better than he had anticipated.

“We got a lot of positive feedback,” he said. “You could see some heads turn and eyebrows go up when we presented.”

Rich Bender, the executive director of USA Wrestling, said in a statement they picked Iowa City for its track record of hosting large wrestling events — the area has hosted the NCAA wrestling championships four times and the Big Ten championships three times — and its history of drawing large fan support for the sport.

The event will take place in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, which will by then have completed a $47 million renovation, on April 21-22, 2012.

A number of former Hawkeye wrestlers will get a chance to compete once again in Carver-Hawkeye, including Hawkeye assistant coach Mike Zadick. Zadick lauded Iowa City’s wrestling fans and expressed excitement about returning to the mat in front of them.

“It’s nice to know [I] can be back in Carver-Hawkeye arena competing again, not for the Black and Gold but for the Red, White, and Blue,” Zadick said. “I’ve been so many places around the world, but there’s nothing like Carver. Not even remotely close.”

Brands said hosting the event would be “huge” for the city and the university, and he praised the organizing team.

“It was a slam-dunk if we communicated, and we communicated,” he said. “Now we’ve got to do our part, and our part is to put guys on the [Olympic] team.”


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