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Q & A with NCWA Director Jim Giunta About the First Ever Collegiate Greco Nationals

ncwa go greco national championships
Photo: Holly Veenis

We are now just a week away from the inaugural NCWA “Go Greco” National Championships” at Richland University in Dallas, Texas. The tournament on June 3rd is taking place at a good time. Just recently, US Greco-Roman wrestling has been forced to the sidelines in two notable events — last week’s second annual University Duals in Fairfax Virginia and of course, the star-studded Beat the Streets showcase in New York City. At the very least, the NCWA Greco Nationals provide an exciting new platform for the sport in this country, especially as we move further into the spring. And at best, it could prove to be an important catalyst in attracting collegiate-aged participants to the style. On paper, it’s a win-win situation.

It is also the first time that the Greco-Roman style will be contested between schools for a national title as well as individual honors, though practically everything about the formatting should appear familiar. Athletes who are competing (obviously) must be attending college and taking credits towards a degree, and carry a minimum 2.0 GPA. Outside of the fact that perhaps a decent percentage of the participants in Dallas might be somewhat new to Greco, nothing else about the way the tournament is being organized is foreign by any means. It should be a comfortable atmosphere.

For those wondering why this tournament is taking place the same time as the 2017 University Nationals next week in Akron, Ohio, it is perhaps best to see the two events as mutually exclusive, in a way. The NCWA Go Greco National Championships are to be viewed as a developmental enterprise compared to the Universities, particularly since the lion’s share of notable combatants in Akron are full-time Greco athletes. No, the goal of the NCWA is to build up competitors who eventually will succeed in Ohio, but need to get acclimated to that level beforehand.

As of now, this is a very good thing. It could wind up being a great thing. Root for this event, support it, and applaud those who are behind the endeavor for making it happen. In that spirit, we got a chance to speak with NCWA Executive Director Joe Giunta, the man responsible for getting the Go Greco National Championships off the ground, regarding the event’s inspiration as well as its long-term objectives.

NCWA Executive Director Jim Giunta

5PM: Why now for a tournament like this? How did this come about?

Jim Giunta: Our real objective is to help the US Olympic Team in the future. We have great athletes, but not where we want to be when it comes to Greco-Roman. Matt (Lindland) and some of the other guys are about what are we going to be doing for this next Olympics, whereas we are more concerned with what are we going to be doing the next decade? I want to provide raw materials at the collegiate level of  Greco-Roman where we lose most of our athletes. We’ve got a good program for the youth, and even some high school, but once they reach college-age, we lose a lot of them. When they choose to wrestle in college they lose the Greco style. If the NCWA can improve numbers at that age, that’s a step in the right direction. There are probably only 300 or 400 kids competing at that level. If we can triple that number of college kids wrestling Greco, that’s more athletes hopefully transitioning to the Senior level that Coach Lindland and those guys can hopefully pick from.

5PM:Why in your opinion do why do college wrestlers and coaches typically present resistance towards Greco-Roman?

JG: I think the truth is that they’re just unfamiliar with the style.  I never wrestled Greco. Plus, some of the really good college guys aren’t used to losing. It’s not a style they know, so they stick to what they do best. They are not willing to put in the time it would take to master the style, and that comes with a little bit of fear. They think, Why would I want to get beat at that level when I’m already a national contender? We thought if we can put Greco at a way they can enjoy and learn at a tournament like this, and I don’t want to use this word but I’m going to, ‘novices’ of the style can come and compete.  If we never get them started, you’re just are not going to plug them in at 21 or 22 years old. If it’s their first time wrestling Greco-Roman, even if they’re a good college wrestler, they’re going to get their butts kicked. This isn’t an event like the one we hold in Ohio. This is more for the second-tier Greco-Roman athletes to have fun and learn while competing before they go to Ohio, where they can really show off and maybe get invited to the training center.

5PM: What do you see college wrestling’s role as pertaining to senior level athletes?

JG: I think the college level is key to increasing participants in Greco-Roman. Through quantity we will be able to find quality. We need to have a lot of people doing it because we are missing great athletes who won’t even try it. By nature wrestlers are competitive. They want to go butt heads and have fun really brawling. If we bring them in, I think three or four years before they graduate college, those guys will become national champs in folkstyle who will maybe want to move to the Senior level, and hopefully in that Greco Roman style they now know and enjoy.

5PM: What are you looking forward to seeing at the event as far as the level of competition?

Jim Giunta: This is the first year. We will probably have only 8-10, maybe 12 in a weight class, though there is room for 16. There will be eight weights, not just the Olympic six. I know this will be the first time historically where only college level athletes are invited. This is the first time we are allowed to present them with the opportunity to be All-Americans. The main fact is that they are underwritten by schools, not clubs, and they would be recognized as such.

As far as coaches that people would know, the Richland College coach (Bill Neal) will be there. He took a team to Iran at one point. Andre Metzger at University of North Texas, he was a  multi-time national champion and was a freestyle guy. JD Robins from University of Central Florida will be here as well. We have athletes from UCLA, USC, and Grace Harbor in Washington. Some are coming from one of the technical schools in Massachusetts. Obviously Texas A&M is coming. Houston, Texas State, and University of Texas are all set to come. Remember — this is purposefully novice so there are really no well-known athletes. Good wrestlers, but novices to Greco-Roman, that is. We want to see if  we can break them in and make them eventually want to go to Ohio. We just want to keep adding to that pool. Pretty much, I’m just excited.

Registration is still open and applications are available here.

Listen to “5PM04: Two-time Greco-Roman world teamer Cheney Haight” on Spreaker.

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