The 2023 NCAA Wrestling Championships managed to piss everyone off

I don’t envy the group of people in charge of marketing the NCAA Wrestling Championships. You’re already responsible for trying to get people to care about a sport that, on a good day, ranks in popularity somewhere between badminton and lacrosse. And to make matters worse, they schedule the biggest weekend of your season the same weekend the NCAA Basketball Tournament tips off! How can anyone be expected to grab the nation’s attention under these circumstances? The answer, it turns out, is by making it a complete fever dream and overdosing on controversy.

Let’s start with the fun stuff first! On Friday night Iowa’s Spencer Lee took to the mat one win away from advancing to the finals, where he would very likely claim his fourth championship. Iowa’s wrestling program is the pinnacle of the sport, and Spencer Lee is arguably the greatest athlete the program has ever seen. But he was stunned by Purdue sophomore Matt Ramos in one of the biggest upsets ever in college wrestling. Our Iowa site called it “one of the biggest gut punches in program history.” A clip of Lee’s mother reacting to his defeat went viral for her completely valid uncontainable rage.

Passion! Pain! An underdog story! This is March!

Hold on, I’m getting word we’ve got a surprise guest arriving to Tulsa.

Sure, why not. Let me go on record that I despise political figures of any party attending a sporting event where they have no connection to the teams competing. I can let Kamala Harris’ cringy locker room speech slide since she actually went to Howard.

Former president Trump arrived in Tulsa to totter around and give a pained thumbs-up to the corn-fed masses, mere hours after he posted a haywire all-caps message on his Truth Social platform that he would be arrested on Tuesday. All in a weekend’s work.

Again, you do what you have to do to promote your event. I would personally simply post some highlights of the incredible amateur athletes at the peak of their careers, but almost at the same time the above tweet was sent Arkansas’ head basketball coach was tearing his shirt off and leading the crowd in a “woo pig sooie” chant. Hard to compete with that.

Surprisingly our big boy’s cameo wasn’t the worst or most offensive part of the weekend. Here’s Penn State’s Aaron Brooks, immediately after claiming a third national title:

I’m not always a cynical crank. I’m being completely honest when I say really find it powerful the different ways we find inspiration and strength to achieve incredible feats. Whether it’s playing for your parents, your kids, your favorite Twitch streamer, or God. It’s all valid.

What I don’t get down with is disparaging other groups of people, and Brooks’ bizarre statement here of “no false prophets, no Muhammad or anyone else” was so out of pocket and unnecessary. It was a jarring and nasty thing to say in what should have been a happy moment for him and his team.

So for the official NCAA Wrestling account to share and effectively endorse that message on Twitter shows either a real lack of awareness, or a real desperation for views. I’m not sure what’s worse for the sport.

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