Wrestling program holds innovative fundraiser

The dual meet raised $7,100 to be used for future scholarships.

by Michael Rietmulder

While many universities have been cutting athletics programs, the University of Minnesota has had to look for innovative ways to keep its 25-sport athletics program thriving. The UniversityâÄôs wrestling team held an âÄúendowment meetâÄù on Jan. 31 against Purdue University. The first-time event raised $7,100, which will be used to fund future wrestling scholarships. Every dollar from single-match tickets purchased for the match went directly into the teamâÄôs endowment fund. Assistant coach Joe Russell, who was the mastermind behind the fundraiser, said it was an important event to help secure the future of the program and expressed his gratitude to the University. âÄúWith the way finances are right now, I really appreciate the administration thinking long-term for us,âÄù Russell said after the victory over Purdue. âÄúTheir bottom line took a hit today.âÄù Revenue from ticket sales usually goes into the athletics departmentâÄôs general fund, so in order to get the green light on the event, Russell needed the approval from Athletics Director Joel Maturi. âÄúI thought it was a great idea,âÄù Maturi said. âÄúI think itâÄôs something we should consider doing more often in more sports.âÄù Maturi said no other program at the University has approached him about holding a similar event, but that itâÄôs something the administration may actively push. Though this is the first time the UniversityâÄôs wrestling team has held an endowment meet, they are not the first program to do so. Russell said he got the idea from the University of Missouri, which held its first endowment meet during the 2008-09 season. Oregon State University, which also got the idea from Missouri, held an endowment meet earlier this season. Russell spoke with Oregon State assistant coach Kevin Roberts about his experience with the event prior to planning MinnesotaâÄôs. Oregon StateâÄôs endowment meet raised about $30,000 for their scholarship fund, substantially more than the UniversityâÄôs did. The main difference was that Oregon StateâÄôs fundraiser included the amount season ticket holders paid for the match, while the UniversityâÄôs only included single-match tickets. Roberts, who coached at the University before landing at Oregon State four years ago, said it was the enthusiasm of wrestling fans that made the event a success. âÄúOne thing about wrestling people is that theyâÄôre usually pretty loyal,âÄù Roberts said. âÄúWrestling people want to support wrestling.âÄù One such wrestling fan in attendance at the UniversityâÄôs meet was Bill Huth of Wabasha, Minn. Huth and a group of friends take a bus from Wabasha to Minneapolis to attend most home meets. While Huth doesnâÄôt need extra incentive to attend meets, he said he believes the event encouraged fans to venture to the Sports Pavilion who otherwise wouldnâÄôt have. Roberts said it is imperative to remind fans that their support is essential to ensuring the vitality of a program. âÄúWeâÄôve got to take care of our programs if we want them here for the kids 20 years from now,âÄù Roberts said.