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The Future of Syracuse Sports: A Return for Wrestling?

Our discussion about the future of Syracuse University sports continues with a look at one of the sports people think deserves a second run-wrestling.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

This week's look at the future of Syracuse Orange Olympic sports led to discussion about potential new sports. Those comments seemed to fall into three different categories:  the baseball/hockey group, the restore wrestling/swimming/gymnastics group. and let's start up some new sports (fencing, golf). Since there was interest in the topic, we've decided to take a little longer look at some of these options.

However, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let me make it clear that Syracuse University doesn't need to run out and add sports right now. There are current issues which should be addressed first in terms of facilities and support of the current teams. Now that we've got that out of the way, since we just finished Wrestlemania weekend, let's look at our first sport- wrestling.

The wrestling program at Syracuse began in 1921 and when the team was cut in 2001, it had produced 7 National Champions, 34 All-Americans, and 5 Olympians. Former Syracuse football star Jim Nance was NCAA Champion in 1963 and 1965.  Wrestling also produced the first Four-Time All-American in Syracuse history, Gene Mills, who should be considered among the greatest athletes SU has ever seen. Mills won two NCAA titles and set a NCAA record with 107 career pins and a career record in Orange of 144-5-1. Yes, you read that correctly, that's 107 pins in 150 career collegiate matches for Mean Gene the Pinning Machine. Mills was deprived of a chance to compete in the 1980 Olympics due to the US boycott, and an injury kept him off the 1984 squad, but he's a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, and the man Syracuse should call if they revise the program.

How or why would SU want to bring back wrestling? Well, beyond the history of the program at the school, and the possibility of bringing back a legendary alum to restart the program, there is already an ACC Championship in wrestling with six schools competing. Syracuse could also re-establish regional rivalries with Cornell and Lehigh in the EIWA Championships.

Looking at the expenses posted by Pitt, a wrestling program in the ACC would run in the neighborhood of 200k for the program with an estimated additional 250,000 for coaching and support salaries.Costs for the sport in terms of operations and scholarships would be a lot lower than the costs associated with baseball.

Current facilities would be a challenge, but I've got a long-term idea to address a number of sports. We'll address this plan after working through the sports, as it's a long-shot idea that would require quite an influx in money, but it's also the kind of long-term plan which could elevate the Syracuse Athletics brand.