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Jeff Kolpack, Published July 18 2010

Fargo, USA Wrestling together for now

Today marks the 18th year of the USA Wrestling Junior tournament and this city has almost become synonymous with the event. Call it “Fargo nationals.”

That’s 18 years of thousands of kids descending on the Fargodome in search of Greco-Roman and freestyle national titles. Olympians wrestled here. NCAA champions grew up here.

How long can it continue?

USA Wrestling signed a one-year contract extension with North Dakota State to host it again next year. Beyond that, there is no reason to believe it will go anywhere else.

It may boil down to this: USA Wrestling could possibly find more revenue somewhere else, but it may also be an organizational gamble. Fargo has run this tourney so many years that it does some facets of it in its sleep.

“We know exactly what needs to be done,” said NDSU head wrestling coach Bucky Maughan. “There are all kinds of little things you have to do.”

It’s a win-win revenue producer for both USA Wrestling and NDSU, which benefits from dining services and dormitories in addition to the athletic department. The athletic budget netted $145,000 last year.

But there are also cities that have sports commissions with money to entice the “world’s largest wrestling tournament.”

USA Wrestling Director of National Events Pete Isais said commissions from Louisville, Indianapolis, St. Louis and the “Central Florida Sports Commission” have contacted USA Wrestling. But that’s all it’s been: interest.

The event has not been put up for bid.

“We’ve never felt like we’ve been in a situation where we needed to bid it,” Isais said. “USA Wrestling is extremely happy with the whole Fargo and North Dakota State thing.”

The Cadet age group joined the Fargo event in the 1996 Olympic year and the two have existed in harmony since.

“Personally, I don’t think they can find a better place,” Maughan said.

The exception, Maughan said, is if USA splits the Junior and Cadet tourneys again to different sites. But doing that taxes other facets of the tournament, such as coaches who work at both levels and mat officials, some of whom would have to use more vacation time to work both events.

Plus, finding a domed stadium next to college dormitories in what generally is considered a safe environment is tough to find.

“From the athletic department to across campus to the dome, all three major players have been to the rodeo more than once,” Isais said. “That helps the overall coordination of the event.”

Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the WDAY Golf Show, 10 11 a.m. 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