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A Thanksgiving wish for wrestlers

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Diary of a Mad Sportswriter: A Thanksgiving wish for wrestlers

Diary of a Mad Sportswriter

Stan Hudy is a sportswriter for The Saratogian and Community News. He covers high school and youth sports in the Saratoga County area as well as writing a weekly book review on sports books. He's not just a "stick and ball" sportswriter, he's willing to take on any sport as well as any subject.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Thanksgiving wish for wrestlers

Collegiates grapple at HVCC today

Frank Popolizio may not be involved in politics, but he has a platform and a campaign that he wants to share with you and its all about the sport of wrestling.

Popolizio is the catalyst behind the fifth annual Journeyman/Brute Northeast Duals Division I collegiate wrestling event at Hudson Valley Community College beginning at 10 a.m.

“This is the fifth-time we have hosted it and by far it’s the biggest,” Popolizio said. “It’s forced us to change venues to Hudson Valley. We’ve grown from eight teams to 14, four mats to six and seating from 1,500 to 2,700.”

The event has brought together Oklahoma State, Central Michigan, Michigan, Hofstra, American, Bloomsburg, Clarion, Maryland, Virginia, Appalachian State, American International, Bucknell, Lehigh and Binghamton Universities to compete in dual meets in front of a Capital Region crowd.

“I’m passionate about it and relentless about it,” Popolizio said. “I’ve spent months recruiting teams and spectators.”

His persistence has paid off.

“John Smith, the head coach of Oklahoma State said no 50 times,” Popolizio said. “He said yes the 51st time.”

The universities will compete up to four times in front of the Hudson Valley crowd beginning at 10 a.m. with subsequent rounds scheduled for noon, 2 and 4 p.m. All-day admission is $20 with team discounts available at $15 if the team enters together.

“Last year we had 1,500 people and that was successful,” Popolizio said. “To get 1,500 people to see wrestling in the Northeast, that’s a victory, but we’re using it as a stepping stone.”

The magic number for Popolizio is 2,500 fans.

“The Business Review listed their top 10 sporting events and the tenth one was 2,500 spectators,” Popolizio said. “I want wrestling in the top 10.”

For the past year, Popolizio hasn’t left a stone unturned, a phone call not made or a reminder to any wrestler or fan he has been come in contact with.

“I sent out 35,000 post cards, been on television and radio talk shows,” Popolizio said. “We have a billboard, e-mailed thousands and have banners in every high school.”

Popolizio isn’t expecting someone to bypass the mall and holiday shopping to come to HVCC today, his current target market all have something in common, wrestling.

“General fans will go out and watch football, baseball and basketball, but they won’t watch wrestling,” Popolizio said. “The coaches and wrestlers from Section II have shown overwhelming support. The next battle is to bring back the former wrestlers. On the postcards it’s printed, ‘Once a wrestler, always a wrestler, this postcard is for you.’”

While Section II is a hot-bed for wrestling talent, Popolizio has a more far reaching reason for promoting the event as part of his own Journeymen Wrestling program.

“Since 1972, 450 wrestling programs have been dropped. There are currently only 84 programs left,” Popolizio said. “We don’t need letters to save programs after they have been cut; we need to save right now. We need to get everyone together, show the NCAA and colleges that there is something there. Wrestling is a reflection of life, its ups and downs, its challenges and how the support of friends, families and teammates is so important to succeed.”

Northeast Duals schedule
Hudson Valley Community College
10 a.m. Round One

Oklahoma State vs. Binghamton
American vs. Bloomsburg
Michigan vs. Bucknell
Clarion vs. American International
Appalachian State vs. Central Michigan
Virginia vs. Lehigh

Noon Round Two
Oklahoma State vs. Clarion
Michigan vs. Maryland
Binghamton vs. America International
Hofstra vs. Bloomsburg
Appalachian State vs. Bucknell
Central Michigan vs. Lehigh

2 p.m. Round Three
Oklahoma State vs. Hofstra
American vs. Central Michigan
Michigan vs. Bloomsburg
Binghamton vs. Lehigh
Maryland vs. Appalachian State
Clarion vs. Virginia

4 p.m. Round Four
Oklahoma State vs. American
American vs. Oklahoma
Michigan vs. Virginia
Binghamton vs. Appalachian State
Maryland vs. Central Michigan
Hofstra vs. Bucknell
Clarion vs. Lehigh



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