West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker

... on Promoting Wrestling at Your School

How does one begin to promote the sport of wrestling?

Well, I think I've found the person who can help us answer this question. Dave DeFelice, head wrestling coach of the Toronto (Ohio) Red Knights, has developed some successful methods of promotion for his mat program.

DeFelice, a veteran coach of eight years, believes that the wrestling mentor must also be a P.R. man, both "on and off" the mats. With a four-year coaching record of 33-11-1 at the school, I feel we should give serious consideration to his promotional ideas.

First of all, Coach DeFelice starts by indoctrinating the kids. Dave has incorporated a unit on wrestling in all his physical education classes. The students are taught basic maneuvers, the important rules, and how to keep score.

Second, DeFelice hosts a "Parents' night" in Toronto's gym, where he introduces the adults to the mat sport. "This creates an intelligent wrestling following who will, in turn, teach others the fundamentals of the game," says the Red Knights' tutor.

And finally, Coach DeFelice and his squad put on a pre-home meet spectacle that must be seen to be appreciated. Their display of showmanship includes the use of cameras with split-screen switching, fiery lighting, and pop music. The wrestlers (and often their coach) perform stunts and exercises synchronized to the rhythm of the tunes being played.

DeFelice says, "The opening routine gives the fans something to yell about. Furthermore, this state of enthusiasm tends to carry over to the boys' performances during the meets. They're psychologically pumped up from the cheering of the partisan fans."

Has it worked? There's no doubt about it! The Toronto wrestling team realizes some of the largest dual match crowds in the valley, ranging from 500 to 750 spectators per dual meet. With a total student body of 500, I'd say this is quite an accomplishment. Many of the area's bigger consolidations can't even begin to duplicate this attendance record.

So, Coach Dave DeFelice has demonstrated (through hard work and ingenuity) that the mat sport can also be a popular spectator sport!

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Updated July 16, 1997