St. Louis has long been one of Wrestling Nation’s capital cities. Ric Flair, Dick the Bruiser, and Lou Thesz were local celebrities on the order of Nelly, Ted Drewes, and Charlie Brennan. Wrestling at the Chase, a weekly TV show aired on KPLR-TV, underpinned some of the legendary Koplar fortune.
I thought of that this morning as downtown begins to fill up with college wrestlers, their families, and their friends in town for the 79th annual NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. Between today and Saturday, some of the country’s best grapplers will be facing off at Scottrade Center.
Hawkeye wrestlers and their fans are the ones doing the most sidewalk swaggering along Market and Clark this week. (With good reason, Iowa has the top-rated team in the country and a history of winning championships.) Still, I would not count out the Tigers of Missouri, who have a Top Ten program and a bit of home mat advantage.
Whichever school wins, St. Louis has already scored a takedown. Wrestlers and their crowds are among the City’s best behaved and most enthusiastic visitors. Nearly a hundred thousand people will leave behind $10 million in the region’s hotels, restaurants, and stores.
(By the way, did you know that both Lewis Reed and Steve Conway were once wrestlers?)