USA Wrestling response to quotes by Donna Lopiano Women s Sports Found

By Gary Abbott | March 15, 2000, 12 a.m. (ET)
USA Wrestling responds to quotes about wrestling by Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Women's Sports Foundation

USA Wrestling, the national governing body for amateur wrestling in the United States, refutes statements by Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Women's Sports Foundation, in an article entitled "College wrestling continues to feel effect of Title IX," which was published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on Tuesday, March 14. The story was written by Matt Jacob, and appeared on page C3.

Two paragraphs in the article quote Lopiano about the sport of wrestling, and are misleading or inaccurate, according to facts and trends concerning the sport of wrestling.

The paragraphs, as presented in the Jacob article, are:

*Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Women's Sports Foundation, said a "lack of interest" from college presidents and athletics directors is to blame for the elimination of wrestling programs.

"Few sports are eating up more money and not giving back," said Lopiano.

USA Wrestling does not believe either statement can be supported by facts. In fact, the sport of wrestling is currently growing in size and influence, and has experienced growing "interest" in recent years. Consider these facts:

*High School wrestling has grown steadily over the last five years, growing from 230,763 participants in 1991 to 235,973 in 1999. The number of teams grew from 8,404 to 9,022 during the same period. Many states are reporting record attendance at state wrestling tournaments, with new records set in Colorado and Pennsylvania in 2000.

*USA Wrestling, the national governing body for the sport, has grown throughout the decade. In 1990, USA Wrestling had a total of 111,480 members. In 1999, USA Wrestling total membership had grown to 142,065.

*Women's high school wrestling has grown dramatically during the decade, jumping from 132 athletes in 1991 to 2,361 in 1999.

*The NCAA Div. I Wrestling Championships have sold out four of the last five years, and will set a new attendance record this weekend in St. Louis with more than 90,000 tickets sold.

The statement that athletic directors and college presidents have dropped wrestling programs due to "a lack of interest" is not accurate in most cases. More often, college administrators directly cite Title IX as the reason that wrestling programs are eliminated. Reviews of the press releases published by universities that have announced wrestling elimination in recent years indicate that "gender equity" is a major cause for the decision. Examples include Brigham Young, Syracuse, Boston College, Miami of Ohio and many others. It is not a question of interest; it boils down to financial challenges and federal mandates.

To say that wrestling is "eating up more money and not giving back" is not only mean-spirited, but, again, not supported by the facts. There are many ways to look at how sports "give back," including financial impact and by contributing to society and the campus.It is accurate that wrestling is a non-revenue sport. In most cases, only big-time football, basketball and, at some schools, ice hockey, create profits for athletic departments. In fact, wrestling is considered a low-cost sport in comparison to others. And among the so-called "Olympic sports," wrestling is often a leader in creating revenue from donations and attendance on campus. Consider these facts:

*Wrestling is the No. 3 revenue-producing sport among all NCAA Div. I Championships, behind only men's basketball and men's ice-hockey. In 1997-98, the NCAA Div. I Championships turned a profit of $111,463. No women's sports turned a profit in the 1997-98 study.

*Many colleges draw sizable (and paid) attendance for their major dual meets. The 2000 Iowa vs. Minnesota dual meet in Minneapolis drew over 13,000 fans. The 2000 Iowa vs. Iowa State dual meet drew over 12,000 fans. The 2000 Iowa vs. Penn State dual meet in Iowa City had over 10,000 fans.

*When Princeton University announced that it would drop its wrestling team, alumni and supporters raised millions of dollars in endowment funds to save the program.

*Lehigh University raised over $1 million in endowment to fund its coaching positions for eternity. Many of Lehigh's wrestling scholarships are also endowed.

*Donations specifically for wrestling at the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, Columbia University, Harvard University, and others endow significant portions of their wrestling budgets. Stanford University's wrestling budget is completed supported through fundraising and donations, and at many other colleges, including Portland State University, fundraising provides a significant percentage of the annual budget.

In regards to giving back, wrestling also creates leaders in the general public, who most certainly "give back" to their institutions and society in general. Among former wrestlers currently giving back to the nation include Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, presidential candidate and Senator John McCain of Arizona and Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota. In public service, former college wrestlers include military hero General H. Norman Schwarzkopf and presidential aide George Stephanopolis. Wrestlers, such as author John Irving, actor Billy Baldwin and Kirk Douglas, astronauts Joe Allen and Michael Collins, and so many others have impacted all sectors of public life.

"It is unfortunate that Ms. Lopiano feels it is necessary to misrepresent the sport of wrestling when discussing Title IX issues," said USA Wrestling Executive Director Jim Scherr. "Perhaps Ms. Lopiano feels threatened because many within the wrestling community disagree with her position concerning proportionality quotas. We respect her right to have opinions on public issues, but will not allow inaccurate information on wrestling to be distributed as if it were fact."

"I would gladly debate Ms. Lopiano at any time and any place concerning the sport of wrestling, and whether it 'has a lack of interest' or whether it is 'not giving back,'" said Scherr.


The sport of wrestling is growing and thriving in the United States. Statistics clearly indicate that increasing number of athletes are competing in wrestling, as well as an increase in fan support and interest in the sport across the nation. Consider these facts:

* High School wrestling has grown for five consecutive years, both in number of participants and number of teams. according to National Federation statistics. In the 1994-1995 season, there were 8,559 wrestling teams with 216,453 male athletes. The growth continued through the 1998-99 season, which featured 9,022 teams with 235,973 male athletes.

* Wrestling is one of the most popular sports for high school boys. Wrestling ranks No. 6 in terms of participants and No. 9 in terms of school programs, according to the 1998-99 National Federation survey.

* Girls wrestling is one of the fastest growing youth sports programs. In 1990, there were just 112 girls competing on the high school level, according to National Federation statistics. Participation grew each year, reaching a record of 2,361 high school girl wrestlers in 1999.

* USA Wrestling, the national governing body for amateur wrestling in the United States, grew steadily throughout the 1990's. In 1990, USA Wrestling had a total of 111,480 members. In 1999, USA Wrestling total membership had grown to 142,065.

* Four of the last five NCAA Div. I Wrestling Championships have been complete sell-outs. They include Iowa City, Iowa (1995), Cedar Falls, Iowa (1997), Cleveland, Ohio (1998), State College, Pa. (1999).

* The 2000 NCAA Div. I Wrestling Championships, to be held in St. Louis, Mo. in March, set a new attendance record over a month before the event will be held. On Feb. 14, 2000, the NCAA announced that the 2000 NCAA Tournament has sold a record 15,015 all-session tickets, and three-day sales had reached a record 90,090 tickets. These records will be broken, as the remaining ticke