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Jeff Kolpack, Published July 19 2009

Fargo is ‘ideal’ location: Wrestling tourney has found a host it says will be tough to beat

As the principal at Ben Franklin Junior High in Fargo, John Nelson spends his days tending to the business of teenagers. This week, as a director of volunteers for the world’s largest wrestling tournament, he’ll be in the midst of masses of kids.

“Same thing, that’s’ right,” Nelson said.

That’s’ right, the USA Wrestling Junior and Cadet national tournaments are back in Fargo and there are no imminent signs that the event will ever leave the Fargodome. The Junior portion of the tourney first came to Fargo in 1993 and later combined with the Cadet after the 1996 Olympics.

It’s staying power is impressive.

“It’s been a long run,” said NDSU head coach Bucky Maughan, who oversees the university’s end of it.

It will probably get longer. The two sides are in the first year of another contract – this one two years with an option to renew in the third year – that is negotiated between NDSU and USA Wrestling.

The goal, Maughan said, is to create a “win-win for everybody.” The tournament is a revenue producer for campus housing and the athletic department. Over the years, there have been whispers of other cities looking at bidding for the tournament – like Orlando, Fla., – but so far, nobody has gotten to home plate.

A facility would have to have floor space large enough for 23 wrestling mats and at least a couple of video boards to display pairings. The location would probably need some type of dormitory housing, be in some sort of central location and be in a relatively safe environment.

Fargo nails every angle.

“The dome is just amazing,” said Pete Isais, the director of national events for USA. “To rent a facility of this magnitude would be quite a large amount of money. We really haven’t explored in detail to try and move the event.”

Isais is a former NDSU assistant coach who has been on both sides of the negotiations.

“It’s been a rather easy negotiation process,” he said. “We just continue to hope that each entity is making somewhat of a profit and one entity is not getting slighted.”

Said Maughan: “If there are any differences, we’re able to work them out.”

Maughan is certain of one thing: if another city wants to take on the event, they better send some personnel to Fargo to see how to do it right. Isais called the Fargo effort a “well oiled-machine.”

“I hate to toot our own horn but it’s well run,” Nelson said. “USA Wrestling can come in here and know they don’t have to deal with a lot of problems they do at other places.”

Finding volunteers is a major, if not the biggest, task. Nelson, who was given a name tag with “King of Volunteers” on it, said there will be about 450 to 500 by the end of the tournament.

It’s one spoke in a wheel that keeps rolling back to Fargo. For another city to take the tournament, Isais said it would have to be a sports commission that has a large data base of volunteers.

“It’s been a win-win for everybody,” Maughan said. “It’s been a win-win for the city, it’s been a win-win for the campus and it’s been a win-win for the athletic department.”

Inforum searchword: USA Wrestling

Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the WDAY Golf Show, 10 a.m. to noon on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia