UNIVERISTY PARK — By this time next season, the Penn State wrestling team could be gearing up for a dual-meet tournament it hasnt competed at in nearly five seasons.
Cael Sanderson said Tuesday that Penn State has agreed to enter the 2014 NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals, although the full tournament field has not been finalized and a location for next seasons event has not yet been determined.
Weve committed to the NWCA. As long as the terms are decent, then well go, Sanderson said.
For now, Penn State is reserving the right to pull out of the National Duals should the format and list of competing schools not measure up to Sandersons liking. Sanderson was previously adamant about not attending the National Duals for a multitude of reasons.
Sanderson, along with a handful of other major college coaches, were up in arms late last summer when the NCAA floated the idea to change how the sports overall team championship is decided. Currently, the national championship is awarded to the team that generates the most points based on individual bouts during Marchs NCAA tournament.
The new proposal suggested by a number of coaches in August called for the National Duals to decide the NCAA team champion while the NCAA tournament would remain in place for individual title quests. Sandersons teams have won the last two NCAA titles by racking up a multitude of bonus points in each of the last two tournaments.
When voting on the new proposal ended in September, 39 of 77 Division I coaches had voted in favor of the change while two others did not vote. When opposition from coaches like Sanderson and Iowas Tom Brands surfaced, the NCAA decided to table the idea and could possibly vote on it again at a later date.
For now, the traditional NCAA tournament will still decide the team champion. If that changes, however, and the National Duals are used to decide the NCAA team championship, Sanderson said the Nittany Lions will not compete in next years National Duals.
Part of those meetings that we had before was (to) take it off the table and quit fighting to change the national championship to the National Duals and well participate just to keep our national championship the same, Sanderson said.
This years National Duals are in full swing. Regional competition wrapped up last weekend and Oklahoma State, Illinois, Ohio State, Missouri, Minnesota, Virginia Tech, Iowa and Cornell will all vie for the NWCA National Duals championship this weekend at Williams Arena on Minnesotas campus.
Penn State will spend its weekend facing Rutgers in a dual meet in New Jersey. With one two weeks left until Penn State begins its postseason in the Big Ten tournament. The timing of the National Duals has always been an issue for Sanderson and he lamented as much on Tuesday.
Noting that his wrestlers would miss additional days of school should they attend next seasons National Duals, it is also too close to the conference and NCAA tournaments, Sanderson said, calling the National Duals anti-climactic for this reason.
Im certainly not too excited about it, Sanderson said. Were three weeks out from the Big Ten (tournament). It just doesnt make sense to me. But reluctantly, I agreed to it. If the duals do take place, Its not 100 percent, I dont think. Were trying to set our schedule. Things usually get done in January, February the year before. The duals keep getting set late, so its very difficult to schedule anything.
Sanderson has also raised the issue that competing in the National Duals could likely force Penn State to give up a regular season home matchup or one on the road at a school desperate for a marquee opponent like the Nittany Lions. Last season, Penn State wrestled at Utah Valley during the National Duals.
I think if you really look at our strengths as a sport I think its those big dual meets. Say we wrestle Iowa in the National Duals finals, were not going to have nearly as many people in that dual as we would if it were here or at Iowa, or the same thing with Oklahoma State or Minnesota. Maybe Minnesota if it was at Minnesota, I dont know, Sanderson said. Im not trying to shoot the thing down, we want to grow and continue to build our sport.
Support to save Olympic wrestling still strong
When the International Olympic Committee shocked the wrestling world by voting last week to eliminate the sport from the Olympic Games starting in 2020, international wrestling communities united.
Since last Tuesdays vote, Sanderson and his college coaching colleagues have fielded numerous interview requests and have tried to mobilize their fan bases to encourage the IOC to reconsider. Wrestling can get back into the program with a re-vote later this summer, but those looking to keep wrestling in the Games will have to take their cases to the IOC for reconsideration.
Now, USA Wrestling has formed a group with a mission to hammer home its case as to why wrestling should be retained in the 2020 games.
The Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling is made up of 18 individuals with the primary goal of Working with FILA and the international wrestling community to insure that wrestling will remain a core Olympic sport, the CPOW said in a release.
We have engaged many of the most connected and brightest minds in our sport, an all-star leadership group, USA Wrestling executive director Rich Bender said in the release. We have a great opportunity to show the world why wrestling belongs on the Olympic program.
While Sanderson is not a member of the committee, he has and will willingly lend his input if called on in the future.
I think USA Wrestling and the leaders in the sport have things underway and theyre doing what they need to do. Theyve got the committees together and theyre doing the research behind the scenes and all those different things, Sanderson said. I think when you just look at the pure numbers and the criteria that the IOC says that they took into account when deciding which sports to put (back) in the games, wrestling is a no-brainer.