Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Forget Hoops, Give Me Some Wraslin!

As I write this there are about 15 hours or so to complete your "March Madness" bracket.

Offices are sure to empty over the next couple of afternoons as a testosterone charged migration begins to local watering holes. Suddenly we are interested in schools such as Oakland (Michigan, not California), Wofford (South Carolina) and "directional schools" - Eastern, Western, Southestern (insert state name) that serve as preseason sparing partners for teams in the Big Ten, ACC, Big East etc.

A recent article cited the next two days as the most popular time to get a vasectomy, with many practices offering discounts for those who book ahead. Anything for a couple days on the couch, I guess.

64 teams to start, 16 teams by Sunday. Best of one, with upsets galore. Madness.

But I would rather be in Omaha this weekend catching some wrestling. Not the WWF nonsense, but the amateur, freestyle variety.

Omaha is the site of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.

I wrestled in high school and through the years have become a big fan of college wrestling, particularly Northwestern. I watch and go to dozens of meets. Northwestern is a program on the rise, with three recent individual champions and a 4th place team finish in 2008. NU alum Jake Herbert is likely to make the Olympic team in 2012.

I love wrestling because it features constant movement by some of the best conditioned athletes in the world. If you have ever tried boxing, kick or otherwise, you understand the endurance needed to last seven minutes on the mat. It's grueling.

On the mat you're alone, working through a series of moves and counter moves. Coaches wave their arms, contort their bodies and yell during a match, but it really doesn't matter. Take your arm, leg or head out of position and it's over. Fin. Nyet. Wrestling is a sport for thinkers. Fast thinkers.

So who will win this year? No mystery here. Unlike basketball, where dozens of teams have a shot, wrestling is dominated by the Iowa Hawkeyes, who are competing for their 23rd national championship. A couple of teams will challenge (Oklahoma State, Iowa State) but rooting for Iowa is like rooting for the Yankees, or Microsoft. The only Iowa intrigue is last year they won the team title without an individual champion. At a minimum Jay Borshel and Brett Metcalfe should take first this year.

And for the record, I have Ohio State, Kentucky, Duke and Kansas State as my Final Four picks.

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