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World Sport Chicago hoping successful Chicago Cup becomes an annual event

The roads were a mess and traffic in the city of Chicago was slowed to a crawl as a mid-winter snowstorm pounded the Windy City.

But more than 7,000 fans were still able to make their way to the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Ill., for the inaugural Chicago Cup.

Northwestern University's Welsh-Ryan Arena was filled almost to capacity on Tuesday, Feb. 6 for the Chicago Cup dual meet between freestyle wrestling teams from the United States and Russia. Two athletes from the U.S. also faced wrestlers from China in Greco-Roman while two American women battled wrestlers from Canada.

Bill Scherr, chairman of the board for World Sport Chicago, was a driving force behind making the event a success.

"I thought it was a fantastic event," Scherr said. "There were a lot of points of success. First and foremost, we held a world-class competition. The quality of wrestling was fantastic. We had a great crowd and a great turnout, which was really encouraging when you consider the weather.

"We treated the athletes to a first-class experience. We provided first-class accommodations and gifts, and we were able to provide $44,000 in stipends for the athletes who took part. And last, we were able to provide an educational component for the event with a demonstration and autograph session for over 1,000 kids."

Scherr hopes the Chicago Cup is more than just a one-time event.

"Our intention and desire is to make it annual event," he said. "Our crowd was very close to capacity and we would have filled the arena if not for the weather. So obviously there's a great deal of interest in having this event again."

Scherr is a past World champion and Olympic medalist in freestyle wrestling. He is still heavily involved in the sport. He helped coach the U.S. women's team at the 2005 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, and the 2006 World Championships in Guangzhou, China, and now is serving as an assistant wrestling coach at Northwestern University.

World Sport Chicago is the group that is assisting the city of Chicago in its bid to land the 2016 Olympics. World Sport Chicago and USA Wrestling joined forces to put on the Chicago Cup.

Hometown boy Lindsey Durlacher, who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Buffalo Grove, Ill., enjoyed his experience at the Chicago Cup. Durlacher defeated Li Shujin of China in the Chicago Cup. Durlacher was one of seven athletes who met and had their photo taken with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley at City Hall in Downtown Chicago on the morning of the Chicago Cup.

"World Sport Chicago did a tremendous job putting the event together," said Durlacher, a 2006 World bronze medalist. "It was one of the best events I have ever competed in and been a part of. I haven't wrestled in front of a crowd that enthusiastic since the NCAA finals (in 1997). A lot of people came out in the bad weather and turned it into a remarkable event. I had a blast.

"Everything was first-class all the way. It was just outstanding, the way we were treated. If they hold this every year, I think it would be great. Chicagoland has great wrestling and great fans. It was great to be a part of such a great event."

Jessica Judge, manager of World Sport Chicago, said she received an abundance of positive feedback on the event.

"The feedback from people who attended was 'bring it on next year,'" Judge said. "They can't wait until we have this event again. The Chicago Cup highlighted wrestling as an integral part not only of Chicago, but also of our country and our world, especially from an Olympic standpoint. These are our future Olympians.

"The Chicago Cup put us on the platform of being able to put on world-class events. And it was a really fun event. I think everybody really enjoyed it."

Scherr said World Sport Chicago plans to look at hosting other events in Olympic sports, including volleyball and boxing.

"There are a number of events we are potentially going to consider," Scherr said. "If our plans go right for World Sport Chicago, we will be hosting many world-class events over time."

Scherr said Chicago, a city with five major-league sports teams, would be a perfect fit for the Olympics.

"Chicago would provide a tremendous atmosphere and environment for the Olympic Games," Scherr said. "It's a great sports town and I can't think of a better place to have a celebration than on the lakefront of Chicago. The Olympics could have a lot of impact in Chicago because it's never been held here before."
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