By WIN Magazine Publisher Bryan Van Kley
Wrestling organizers are working to put together the largest wrestling pep rally the sport has ever seen in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend. The event is called for Rally4Wrestling and will take place in the suburb of Alpharetta Aug. 30-Sept. 2, with the overall theme of “Keep Olympic Wrestling”.
Everyone in the wrestling community is invited, with festivities for wrestlers, coach and fans. Highlighting the weekend activities is the chance to watch Team USA’s final training camp in freestyle before they leave on Sept. 3 for Europe and the mid-September FILA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
Titan Mercury Club out of San Marino, Calif., and its founder Andy Barth have created the Rally4Wrestling event concept. The Atlanta event will be the second of its kind, the inaugural event held earlier in the summer in Virginia. The event is being co-sponsored by USA Wrestling, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, the National Wrestling Coaches Association, and the Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling and Takedown Sportswear.
Barth said it’s his desire to continue to have send-off, rallying events like this in the years to come as well. His director of operations, NCAA champ Wayne Boyd, is now helping to make the events a reality around the country.
“I’m hoping we can continue to do this each of the next few years letting them know there’s people behind them rooting for them and taking pride in what they do,” Barth said. “This allows us to send our team off with an appropriate amount of recognition and support.”
Barth added the timing of the Atlanta event perfect for the upcoming September vote by the International Olympic Committee on wrestling’s bid to get back into future Olympic Games past 2016.
“We’re really accomplishing several really positive things for wrestling all at the same time. We’re highlighting wrestling shortly in advance of the IOC’s vote. We’re hoping every time we do that it sends a clear message as to the support the wrestling community has for its sport,” Barth said.
Past Olympic, World and NCAA champions will be on hand and available at various times throughout the weekend to meet fans and sign autographs. Wrestlers and coaches are also invited to register for the 3-day wrestling camp, which will be held during the weekend with past NCAA champions as clinicians.
One of two local event organizers, Frank Lipoli, said the weekend’s festivities will be a celebration of everything that’s good about the sport.
“Rally4Wrestling is a pep rally, a simple old-school pep rally for our sport,” he said. “Let’s share with society what wrestling has done for mankind — integrity, sportsmanship, work ethic. And we want to showcase wrestling’s heroes to the world.”
The other local event organizer, former Penn State two-time All-American John Hanrahan, lives in the Atlanta area and said the event is a unique opportunity to bring together the grass-roots level of the sport and wrestling’s icons.
“This is the fusion of the culture of grass-roots wrestling in the community with the fusion of the national and international heroes. That’s the really exciting part, bringing those stars together with the state of Georgia and the Southeast as a whole. Wrestling is growing like wildfire down here. They line up to shake the hands of the superstars of the sport,” Hanrahan said.
Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau President Janet Rodgers said their organization is excited to bring the event to their city. She also said there will be a number of additional things for people on top of the wrestling-related activities like an Allman Brothers concert where the U.S. team will be introduced, a “Movies in the Park” event and a farmer’s market.
In addition to the USA Wrestling freestyle coaching staff, Olympic champions Cael Sanderson and Tom Brands will also be at the event, as will long-time Iowa coach and 1972 Olympic champion Dan Gable on Labor Day.
Barth said wrestling needs to learn from the IOC’s decision to initially drop wrestling from the Olympics.
“The biggest message that has came from the International Olympic Committee is that you can’t take anything for granted. You need to do everything you can to make it exciting, make it interesting and to make it an incredible sport to watch. Lesson learned, you can’t take anything for granted,” he said.
A full schedule of the weekend’s events is listed in the event ad on page 20. To buy tickets for the weekend events or to inquire how to purchase tickets for other people to attend simply as a donation, go to Rally4WrestlingUSA.com.