Hall of Fame
Hall of Fame
Harvard Athletic Achievements
Hall of Fame
Remembering Harvard Athletics
Wrestling at Harvard was an integral and wonderful part of my college education. It facilitated my first University contacts, it introduced me to many great people, some of whom I am fortunate to call lifelong friends, and it enabled me to travel to interesting places I otherwise would not have seen. My teammates and coach represented a familiar local neighborhood within the larger city of the University. I owe a lot to Johnny Lee for making my participation on the team such a personal growth experience. As a coach, he treated me as an adult (a novel experience for someone just out of high school) and was very supportive of my efforts to achieve my wrestling goals.
Getting to know and competing along side my teammates was the most valuable educational “course” I took at Harvard. My experience with the team showed me the best of what sports and Harvard have to offer, in a microcosm. Wrestling, like many of the sports represented here tonight, taught me much about overcoming adversity, self-reliance, and the values of discipline and dedication. Many of my teammates went on to become directors, professors, doctors, CEOs and philosophers, pursuing their careers with the same passion that wrestling required for success on the mat. Wrestling competitions, like final exams, were intense one-on-one tests of physical and cerebral skill. But, for all its confidence building, wrestling has a way of keeping one humble. While no one wrestles seeking to be famous or wealthy, I am richer for my experience in the sport.
Despite the fact that wrestling is the epitome of individual competition, it is an equal opportunity sport (and yes, today women are competing internationally). The sport provided me a chance to compete in high school even though I only weighed 88 pounds as a ninth grader. In addition to a wide range of body sizes that can fairly compete, from the 88-pound ninth grader to the 275-pound college football convert, wrestling also allows for many different body types and strategic styles to be successful. Often it is the tall lanky wrestler who dominates, or as Johnny would say, “Triple E’d”, his stereotypically favored short and stocky opponent. (This meant he had engulfed, entangled, and enmeshed his hapless competitor.) I believe it is the variety found in wrestling and its wrestlers that give the sport its currently untapped potential for wider appeal.
While wrestling is such a basic physical activity that you’ll often see young kids and even animals instinctively doing, the sport, as I experienced it at Harvard, is in trouble. Stemming at least partly from the effects of the negative publicity of the WWF, the misapplication of Title IX (colleges are dropping wrestling despite its relative low expense, rather than adding women's teams, to balance participation numbers) and the constant mismanagement of the sport by FILA (wrestling’s international governing body), wrestling is in danger of becoming extinct from college campuses across the country. Only about one third of the college wrestling teams that existed when I graduated college, survive today. Fan attendance outside the NCAA and state high school championship tournaments has dwindled. When one goes to the U.S Open championships, or Olympic trials, you are likely to see more wrestlers than spectators. Despite the fact that it was one of the original Olympic sports, at least one of the wrestling styles is in danger of being dropped from the Games, having already been recently reduced from 10 weight classes to just seven.
Many in the wrestling community point to Title IX as the principal cause of the declining program numbers, but I believe the problems confronting the sport are more global and intrinsic; the symptom of which, is a lack of spectator interest. As evidenced by the growth of high school wrestling in areas with a knowledgeable fan following, such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York, I believe that if wrestling had more public awareness and subsequently, more public support, schools would find ways to add women’s teams rather than drop wrestling to meet their Title IX requirements. The wrestling community has started to change its previously introverted approach of administering and marketing the sport and has begun to promote it more to the general public as the great sport that it is. I sincerely hope its effort isn’t too little, too late.
I thank Harvard for its continued support of wrestling and its 40 other varsity sports, the most of any college in the country. Harvard rightly realizes that the role of these teams is to provide excellent educational opportunities, and not necessarily to be money-makers. Wrestling has been one of the finest examples of this opportunity and
one that I am fortunate to have been a part of while.