Former US Greco Roman lightweight star Joe Betterman has once again made headlines but this time, it isn’t because of his exploits on the mat but rather, off of it. On Sunday, Betterman was elected to the position of Vice Chairman for Colorado USA Wrestling, the state’s official sanctioning body. The “semi-retired” athlete, who became a fixture in Colorado when he joined the United States Army’s World Class Athletes Program, is looking forward to bringing his considerable competitive experience and passion for wrestling into his new role.
“When I first moved out here in 2008, my first question was, ‘Why isn’t Colorado one of the best wrestling states in the country?'” Betterman says. “I wondered why they weren’t using the secret weapon that is the Olympic Training Center. That is what I brought to the election, which is that we have to utilize these athletes who are here. They want to help, they can’t go to their own states right now, and we should’t just be the best state in the country, but we should also start producing the best athletes in the world.”
There is not an interim process. Betterman’s new responsibility with CUSAW went into effect immediately following the election. That is a good thing for the married father of two — he has the chance right away to put some of his own ideas in motion to help grow the sport. “I guess my first order of business is to bring up the fact that Colorado doesn’t have a Fargo camp and I’d like to pitch different ideas to get back to that,” confirms Betterman. However, as a well-traveled athlete and the owner of an emerging wrestling school, he knows that the costs associated with events and logistics are often the largest roadblock.
“It can be so expensive. You go to the Junior or Cadet Duals and it’s $1,000. Then you go to Fargo and it’s another $1,000. So my biggest thing is that I was talking to another wrestling club and they are doing grants and raising nearly $40,000 per year in grant money for their athletes to go on trips. I’d love to see that happen in Colorado, we’re a non-profit and we are starting to do fundraising so that we can subsidize and bring that cost down for our wrestlers. It will help us get the best athletes because the best athletes don’t always have money.”
As noteworthy as the announcement of Betterman’s new role is, he wasn’t even the only person in his house to be called upon by the state federation, as his wife Deanna Rix-Betterman was named the Women’s Director. Together, husband and wife brought with them a who’s who of prominent names from the world of wrestling to show support at Sunday’s meeting. People like Randi Miller, Spenser Mango, Andy Bisek, Ellis Coleman, Alli Ragan, and Ryan Mango were all in attendance to watch the proceedings. It was a gesture not lost on Joe. “These athletes want to help and I’ve already gotten calls from people asking if they can help coach Fargo next summer, so I’ll definitely put their names out there,” he says.
Naturally, since Betterman is synonymous with American Greco Roman wrestling, he is going to try and do his best to promote the style from within the system. He will have a likely ally in Kids Director Jay Eide, who is planning on holding regular Greco competitions on a monthly basis in Colorado. ‘Maybe I’ll help facilitate one of the Greco tournaments,” adds Betterman. This would be part of the unyielding devotion to Greco development that the fresh Vice Chairman cannot help but demonstrate. “Just giving these kids the option of, Hey, why not go wrestle Greco throughout the season and doing folkstyle at the same time? That way, by the time we hit Greco and freestyle season, we’re ready to go.”
Life has certainly changed for Betterman since his days of terrorizing opponents while at Northern Michigan and WCAP. He is married, has kids of his own, and operates the surging Betterman Elite Wrestling club. You might think that since he is so busy, his latest adventure was planned. Oddly enough, it wasn’t. “The reason I didn’t plan on it was because I wanted to see how things unfolded and eventually, I couldn’t sit idle any longer and not do my part to help the state.” That figures: This isn’t the type of person who is usually content to sit on the sidelines.
Now there is another way he can be a part of expanding youth interest not just in Greco Roman, but all facets of wrestling. It might not be the same thing as marching out to battle as a competitive athlete, but for someone like Betterman, who enjoys having objectives in front of him to tangle with, this is an opportunity where he can present a positive influence that changes lives. It isn’t something he takes lightly. The way he sees it, there is a lot of work to do and he can’t wait to get started.
“My whole goal is to put the kids first and provide them with the best opportunities so they can reach their potential. So they can take a shot at the big game one day and at least have that experience from their coaches and state leaders so they can compete at a higher level. A lot of these kids at youth tournaments see Olympians and Olympic medalists and they are in awe. But one day, it should be them. I want to help the athletes in the state of Colorado get to that point in their careers.”