Though wrestling is among the world's oldest sports, that doesn’t mean it keep up with the latest technology.
In fact, the growth of technology has revolutionized wrestling. Today, coaches, parents, athletes, and fans of wrestling from all around the world can connect to the sport through the online sharing of training and highlight videos, on-demand podcasts, and live event coverage. At a higher level, breakthroughs in software have made tournament management and seeding much better; while video replay has been introduced in competition to ensure scoring and decisions are correct.
Instant information improves the tournament experience
A leader in new technology within the sport is Trackwrestling.com. This site has become the central digital repository for wrestling in the United States and provides everything from tournament results and video solutions to event management. Its software also allows event directors to seed and rank athletes based on those results, which makes it easier than ever to host wrestling meets and match up competitors fairly.
"The biggest impact technology has had on wrestling is putting results and information at the fingertips of those who want it," says Justin Tritz, Trackwrestling’s president and CEO. "It has allowed events to run more efficiently, which means better experiences for athletes, coaches, parents, fans and media."
Chris Bono, head coach of the South Dakota State University wrestling team, is one coach who fully embraces technology. When he attends USA Wrestling Cadet/Junior Nationals in Fargo, he says he often consults his phone or computer following key matches to plan out the next matches he wants to watch.
"Trackwrestling does an amazing job," Bono says. "I can easily find the matches I am looking for and in a big arena and a big event like that, it just simplifies the whole process."
Online engagement grows the sport
Video is going to be an integral part of the wrestling landscape moving forward, and event directors and organizations are starting to recognize this. While August may be the offseason for the wrestling world, wrestling fans were able to go on the popular wrestling streaming and video site, FloWrestling.org, to watch near real-time coverage of the 2015 Junior World Championships in Brazil. On FloWrestling, viewers can also get access to behind-the-scenes footage of wrestlers traveling from the airport, an arena tour, wrestlers warming up, and, of course, match coverage. Wrestling fans can also go to Themat.com and watch technique-improvement videos, which feature top stars such as Jordan Burroughs and Brent Metcalf, or listen to podcasts with Greco-Roman standout Harry Lester or interviews with USA Wrestling World Team member Zach Rey.
Technology has had a drastic impact on broadening the exposure of wrestling, says Richard Immel, Coordinator of Broadcasting, Social Media and Grassroots Marketing for USA Wrestling. "People can watch more wrestling now than they ever could before." This greater engagement is also more interactive and encourages fan participation. Anyone can upload video to social media and interact with anyone else, bringing together wrestling fans from around the world.
"Discussions are taking place in the public eye that wrestling has never seen before," says Immel. "These conversations not only bolster interest, but can also impact change within the sport itself.”
Tyler Hemmesch, a volunteer assistant coach at Rogers High School (Minnesota) and a former North Dakota State University wrestler is also co-founder of the MatBoss App. Created by coaches for coaches, the app integrates wrestling stats directly into recorded video for each match, completely replacing the need for labor-intensive pencil and paper scoring systems.
"New technology has allowed athletes, coaches, parents and fans more access to video and stats,” Hemmesch explains. “This allows the general wrestling fan base to stay more in tuned with athletes and teams around the country.”
MatBoss for example, integrates stats with video, allowing coaches to capture video and take stats at the same time live. "This makes the video interactive with the scoring, and saves hours every week for coaches during the season," says Hemmesch.
How technology advances recruiting and promotion
The growth of technology has also helped connect high school wrestlers to college coaches. The college coach no longer has to spend hours tracking down a phone number of a prospective recruit—they can simply contact them via Twitter or Facebook (per NCAA guidelines, that is). Parents, wrestlers, and coaches can also easily email highlight videos to these coaches, opening lines of communication previously not available in the recruiting process.
Bono's Jackrabbits are pioneers in using social media and videos. His program was recently awarded its second straight Best of Brand Gold Standard Award by the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) and Elite Level Sport Marketing (ELSM). The prestigious Gold Standard award goes to the college program that has done the best overall job of marketing their program with creative and informative social media content. SDSU provides weekly videos and behinds-the-scenes access totheir staff and wrestlers, as well as actively engaging fans with creative ideas such as putting Twitter handles (#getjacked) on their wrestling mat.
Technology can play a key role in any wrestling club
Coaches should embrace technology, says Bono. While integrating the newest technology does incur costs, raising money for technology needs should be a priority for a booster club, he says. "Technology is revolutionizing the sport. If you want to be a great coach and give your kids the best chance to win, stay up-to-date with technology and you will help your program."
As a fan of the sport, Bono, a former USA Wrestling World Team member, is excited about what technology has done for the sport. "Any fan anywhere can be hanging out on the weekend and get on the computer and watch a collegiate dual meet, or a high school tournament, or video from that same day or weekend," says Bono. "It's a great time to be a wrestling fan."
Immel agrees, saying: “It’s an exciting time to be a part of the wrestling community as we continue to strive for excellence in marketing and growing the greatest sport on the planet."