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LES SIGMAN BLOG: Help save UNO Wrestling!!!

Editor’s note: Les Sigman, a four-time Div. II national champion for the Univ. of Nebraska-Omaha and a member of the 2010 U.S. Freestyle World Team, commented in his blog about the decision announced last night that UNO planned to drop its football and wrestling teams. He makes a call to action from the wrestling community. posts this with Sigman’s permission

The University of Nebraska at Omaha won their third team title in a row last night. You would think that a National Championship team loading the bus to head back home to Omaha would be nothing but smiles, but not much of that today. Instead many are concerned with the program’s future and how something like this could happen so suddenly and just take the wind out of their sails.

I watched my alma mater win its eighth National Championship in wrestling last night via webcast where they crowned three individual National Champions and had seven All-Americans. It was another great year for the Mavericks and Coach Mike Denney. Just after UNO was wrapping up their National Championship celebration, Coach Denney received a phone call from Athletic Director Trev Alberts notifying him that UNO will be dropping the sport of wrestling and shocking the wrestling community.

What kind of man would do this over the phone, let alone a couple hours after they had won the National Tournament??? A gutless one that is not man enough to do it face to face and one that doesn't care about the most successful sport at UNO.

On the other side of the spectrum is Coach Denney, a man who stands up and will fight for what he believes in and is a man of his word. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to wrestle for and remain close friends with Coach Denney. The UNO wrestling program instilled values in me that I will have with me forever. I can't imagine going anywhere else and it would be a shame for future student-athletes not to have the same opportunity that I was blessed with. I was on three National Championship teams in my four varsity years at UNO from 2003-06. UNO is the team that everyone is gunning to be like.

Coach Denney has been the head coach at UNO for 32 years and has won 314 duals, 7 National Team Titles, and placed in the top three 22 of those 32 years. Although these stats are incredible, I feel that is second to what he has passed on to his athletes. His mission statement is "To teach and build good people, and to get them from good to great." He has great values and leads by example. He has great faith, which is his foundation. Denney grew up a farm boy in Nebraska and has a great work ethic, which shows in results year after year.

Coach Denney has always told us that "if you want to be great, surround yourself with great people." He has done that with his Assistant Coach Ron Higdon who has been on staff with him for 19 years. Higdon has a great work ethic and among many tasks with the team, has been vital in all of the tournaments and fundraising events that UNO had to put on to raise 4x their budget from the University, which is the same as it was in 1980!

I find it hard to believe UNO's Wrestling Room, aka "The Dojo," ceasing to exist. It has shaped so many lives by teaching how to fight through adversity. It is a special place in there. Coach Denney has worked hard to give his athletes the tools they need to be successful.

A big surprise to me is that the Chancellor of the University is behind this decision also. Dr. Christensen has attended many tournaments but has turned against the wrestling program and thinks that dropping the wrestling team is necessary for the school to be able to make the move to Division I and the Summit League. It is a little contradicting when they say that they are dropping football and wrestling to be able to align with the teams within the Summit League, when there are schools with wrestling programs that are a part of the conference.

AD Trev Alberts, who grew up in Cedar Falls, Iowa, has had a big ego since entering the position two years ago. After playing football for the University of Nebraska, he was drafted to the NFL where he was one of the top 20 Biggest Busts in the NFL Draft (MC3 Sports Medic.) Now, he is my #1 biggest bust in Athletic Directors. Prior to UNO, he was fired by ESPN Game-day for not showing up because "he felt he was playing second fiddle." ( Sounds like the same ego to me.

The UNO wrestling team is one of the most successful teams in the Division and is way too valuable to just be "dropped." Teaching and building good people here needs to continue as well as bringing National Titles back to Omaha, Nebraska as the team did this year and in years to come if given the opportunity.

With the UNO Wrestling team’s future at stake, I ask for your help.

You can send emails to:

Trev Alberts

John Christensen

Further questions can be directed to 877-866-6246 or 402-554-3164

Please pass this along

Les Sigman
PO Box 611
State College, PA 16804

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