The Ultimate Wrestling Fan’s Bucket List
If you’re interested in watching some good wrestling, this guide is for you! Although there are many great wrestling meets happening constantly around the world, some meets are simply more competitive and more exciting than others. If you consider yourself a wrestling fanatic, the dual meets and tournaments in this guide should definitely be on your bucket list.
High school wrestling in the United States has never been more competitive. With more than 275,000 individuals hitting the mats across the country, high school wrestling is a spectacle to behold no matter where you are from. If you’re a folkstyle fanatic, the sections below will fill you in on the events you shouldn’t miss.
Known to the wrestling world as the “Rose Bowl of Wrestling,” the Dapper Dan Classic is one of the most exciting post-season dual meets. The state of Pennsylvania is a hotbed for folkstyle wrestling, and each year an extremely competitive group of wrestlers are produced. The Dapper Dan was created to test Pennsylvania’s strength against the rest of the nation. There are two main dual meets hosted each year at the Dapper Dan Classic:
- USA all-stars vs. Pennsylvania all-stars
- Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) All-Stars vs. a state team
In the main attraction, Pennsylvania pits its best wrestlers against the most elite wrestlers in the country. Collegiate coaches typically attend this meet for recruiting purposes.
In an additional bout, the all-stars from the WPIAL, which is regarded as one of the toughest wrestling leagues in Pennsylvania, go up against the all-stars from a particular state. In the last few years, the WPIAL all-stars have wrestled against all-star teams from Michigan, New York, and West Virginia, to name a few.
Hot Tip: Go to Fargo!
Each summer the US’s best youth wrestlers make their way to the Fargodome in Fargo, North Dakota to compete in the Cadet and Junior National Championships. This is an event you surely don’t want to miss, so check out iSport’s guide on The Fargo National Wrestling Championships for more information on this classic meet.
Wrestling at the collegiate level in the United States is extremely exciting for fans. From junior college to Division I, exciting matches are happening all the time during the winter wrestling season. And there are some meets that are more exciting to attend than others.
The Midlands Championships is the most popular open tournament for folkstyle. Hosted during wrestling season by Northwestern University, the motto of this tournament is “Where the Elite Meet to Compete,” and this statement is spot-on. The best folkstyle wrestlers in the United States grace the mats at this two-day invitation-only tournament every year.
This tournament is most popular to current collegiate wrestlers; varsity starters and non-starters are allowed to enter. It’s common to see standouts from the junior college level go up against wrestlers from the Division I level, as well. In addition, former wrestlers and collegiate coaches often make their comebacks at this tournament, so they can test their skills against the nation’s best.
Some notable Midlands champions from the last few years include:
- Jake Varner (2009): Two-time National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) national champion; four-time All-American
- Brent Metcalf (2008, 2009): Two-time NCAA national champion
- Chris Bono (2008): Two-time Freestyle national champion
- Jake Herbert (2008): World Silver Medalist; two-time NCAA national champion
NCAA National Championships
The NCAA Division I National Championships, commonly referred to simply as the “NCAAs,” is the most competitive folkstyle wrestling tournament, period. Kids in the United States grow up with the dream of becoming an NCAA champion, and this is the tournament where they put those dreams on the line. The atmosphere at this tournament is electric, and anyone who has been there will tell you that there is simply nothing like it.
This tournament is hosted by a different major city each year, and takes place over the course of three days. You can typically purchase tickets for this event by session, and each session is organized by rounds. The most exciting rounds to watch of the NCAAs are the quarterfinals, semifinals, and championship finals. The championship finals are the most exciting of all; each match is wrestled on a raised platform in the center of a packed arena!
Freestyle and Greco-Roman, the most popular styles of wrestling in the world, provide some of the most exciting wrestling events. The sections below will fill you in on the must-see meets for diehard wrestling fans.
The Russian Federation has been regarded as the toughest wrestling nation in the world for decades. If you can afford to make the trip, watching the toughest international tournament in the world unfold before your eyes is simply breathtaking. It’s worth noting that this tournament is so competitive that the wrestlers who place second and third are typically better than most other nation’s top wrestlers!
The Russian Nationals is typically hosted by a different major city every summer, and takes place over the course of several days. Wrestling is extremely popular in Russia, and hardcore fans travel from the furthest, rural communities to attend this meet. Furthermore, since Russia has such a diverse culture, the stands in the arena are “melting pots” of sorts, making for a very enjoyable and unique experience for the fans.
Hot Tip: The Olympic Year
Many fans ask what the differences are between the World Championships and the Olympics. Well, the World Championships happen every year, and the Olympic Games are held once every four years. Because the Olympics only come around every four years, the prize is much more coveted. Also, since the Olympics have been around for centuries, winning an Olympic title is historically and culturally significant. This is why wrestling becomes much more completive around the world during the year leading up to the Olympic Games — everyone is preparing for the Olympics! On an Olympic year, anywhere is a great place to be a wrestling fan!
The Olympic Games is the Mecca for wrestling fans. If there is one trip you take in your lifetime, it should absolutely be to the Olympics. Here the best wrestlers in the world, battle-tested in a series of national qualifying tournaments, test their skills for a chance at glory. This tournament is the toughest wrestling tournament on the planet, and it only happens once every four years.
This prestigious tournament typically takes place over the course of seven or eight days. Tickets are sold by sessions, so the quarterfinals will typically be scheduled for a different session than the semifinals. It can be more cost effective to buy “all session” tickets to ensure that you don’t miss any of the action.
One of the greatest things about the Olympic Games is that it brings together all of the world’s cultures. For this reason, make sure you schedule enough time for yourself to enjoy the environment and all that the Olympics has to offer. Remember, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so do what you can to get the most out of it!
Upcoming Olympic Games are scheduled to take place at the following locations:
- 2012: London, United Kingdom
- 2016: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Make a List
You should now have a better idea of where to go to find the most exciting competitive wrestling events in the world. However, do remember that these are only a few of the best meets around. Do some research and devise your own wrestling bucket list, just make sure not to leave out anything mentioned here!