Why Not Exhibition Wrestling Matches?

Oklahoma State basketball plays Ouachita Baptist this Thursday, a Division-II program out of Arkansas with an enrollment of about 1,500 students, according to their website. OSU hosts events like this most years, including last season when they did something similar with UCO. That game had 8,638 people in attendance, and Oklahoma State won 76-68.

These events are used as a bit of a showcase for the program and its fans but also add a small amount of ticket revenue to the athletic department budget.

Why not do this exact same thing in wrestling?

College athletics is one big arms race. You have to bring in money and you have to showcase or “brand” your programs in every way possible, something I discussed with athletic director Chad Weiberg recently. One seemingly simple and easy way to do that? Host exhibition events in wrestling.

UCO is a powerhouse in Division-II wrestling. The Bronchos finished as national runners-up last season, crowning two NCAA champions in the process. They’re not likely to beat OSU in a given year, OSU has a 29-0-1 record vs. the Bronchos historically. But they’re a proud program that will come in and put up a fight.

Why not do something with this every year?

In a given year where UCO is strong, like 197 (defending NCAA champion) and heavyweight (former D1 wrestler), the Cowboys could roll out starters for what would be some really high-profile matches. At weights like 133, where Daton Fix would outmatch anyone at UCO, roll out Reece Witcraft and give him some mat time. Do this up and down the lineup to make things competitive and give some kids an opportunity they might not otherwise have.

This feels like it would be a mutually beneficial event for both of these programs. It’s a good promotion/branding opportunity for both schools, and there’s little to no cost for either in doing this. It’s a short drive for UCO and OSU would actually make money on the ticket and concession sales. Both these rosters are heavily laden with Oklahoma kids, and their families, friends, coaches, etc. from around the state who would almost certainly support an event like this. Further, it’s before the regular youth and high school wrestling season, so there would be a lot more families and kids able to attend.

The counter to this would likely be that the grind of the regular season is a lot for these wrestlers, and one more weight cut, match, etc. just adds to that, which is true. But it’s also why it’s an exhibition. Wrestle young guys that the die-hard fans want to see. Send out the senior walk-ons that haven’t been able to crack the lineup but deserve a chance to wrestle a match in GIA. And again, where UCO is strong, send out the starters and give them a good early season test to build off.

I see a routine exhibition with UCO as something wrestling fans across Oklahoma could really get behind and as something that would be beneficial to both programs.