Wrestling Trials coming back to Iowa City
The road to the Olympics for the nation's top wrestlers will travel through Iowa City once again next year.
USA Wrestling on Wednesday announced that the Olympic Team Trials will return to Carver-Hawkeye Arena on April 8-10, 2016, ahead of next year's Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
"Clearly the success of the Olympic Trials in 2012 in Iowa City, with the sellout and also a very engaged and excited crowd for wrestling, certainly contributed to the decision to partner again," USA Wrestling spokesman Gary Abbott said.
In 2012, the two-day event drew a combined attendance of 54,766, or an average of nearly 13,700 fans for each of the four sessions, shattering the previous record for the trials. The previous high was the more than 50,000 fans who watched the trials in Dallas in 2000, but attendance dipped to 33,500 in 2004 in Indianapolis and 22,650 in Las Vegas in 2008.
"We are thrilled for Iowa wrestling, the University of Iowa and the Iowa City and Coralville communities," Steve Roe, UI's director of athletic communications, said via email. "Our previous experience in hosting the trials was a great success, and we anticipate this being another great event for Hawkeye athletics in 2016."
While Iowa City beat out two other announced finalists in 2012 to host the event — Council Bluffs and Columbus, Ohio — there was no formal bidding process for 2016, Abbott said.
"This time we made the decision without formal presentations from cities," Abbott said. "I guess the best way to look at it is, this is the continuation of a very good relationship between USA Wrestling and the Iowa City community."
Wednesday's selection announcement came via social media. Organizers said more details will be provided at a more formal news conference, which is being planned for next week.
"By all accounts, 2012 was the best Olympic Trials they've ever had and the highest attendance ever, so we're really just wanting to provide an encore here," said Josh Schamberger, the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau president, who helped spearhead the efforts to bring back the trials. "The local organizing team we had in 2012 is still in place here, with the University of Iowa, our organizing team and the local municipalities."
The return of the trials will be welcome news to local hotels and businesses. A study by the Convention & Visitors Bureau after the 2012 trials found the event generated more than $5.6 million for Johnson County and drew 11,655 fans from out of the area.
Schamberger said it was important to finalize the 2016 deal a year in advance in order to give fans and Iowa City and Coralville businesses time to prepare.
"It'll fill every hotel room in the Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty area, and quite a bit of of Cedar Rapids," Schamberger said. "It's the largest amateur sports event we've hosted and probably will continue to host, and we couldn't be more pleased to get the news that USA Wrestling and our community were able to finalize a date."
The Olympic Trials will cap what will no doubt be an exciting month for wrestling in Iowa City. Carver-Hawkeye will also play host to the Big Ten Wrestling Tournament for the first time since 2005. That event is slated for March 5-6, 2016.
Schamberger said UI wrestling coach Tom Brands, himself a former Olympic champion, played a major role in helping secure the Olympic Trials again.
"It's good we've got a couple of gold medalists here in our community to help with this," Schamberger said.
Reach Josh O'Leary at firstname.lastname@example.org or 887-5415, and follow him on Twitter at @JD_OLeary.