They came for the sales. They stayed for the 152-pound bout.
With their sport in the midst of a decline in public interest in the area, two Oklahoma high school wrestling coaches decided to host their annual dual meet at a nearby mall. The teams set up their mat directly outside the ground floor of the Quail Springs Mall’s Macy’s store, and a crowd quickly gathered around to take in a unique atmosphere with more fans than either school would traditionally see short of the annual state meet.
As reported by the Oklahoman, the meet was contested between Edmond (Okla.) Memorial High and Putnam (Okla.) North High, and was originally the brainchild of a Memorial assistant coach. While the dual meet had been scheduled for mid-December, a mall Santa Claus had reserved the space outside Macy’s for that date, so the schools had to adjust their schedules to host the event in January.
The result was an eventual 38-32 victory for Putnam North and some very excited wrestlers and fans.
“It was crazy,” Putnam North wrestler Austin Carter told the Oklahoman. “I couldn't have asked for anything better. The crowd was more hyped. There were probably people here who didn't know anything about wrestling, but yet they were still cheering. I thought it was great.”
The goal of attracting new fans was clearly successful, too, with random passers by stopping to check out the commotion and staying for the wrestling.
“I think it is awesome in a setting like this,” Edmond Oklahoma resident Mike Brandt, who came to the mall with his wife and daughter, told the Oklahoman. “Nothing against [wrestling], but if I didn't have a son or daughter in it, I probably wouldn't go watch it.”
While both schools intimated that they would happily host another meet at a mall, they did encounter one rather unique problem: wrestlers heading to the food court. Putnam North coach Mitch Brinlee said that three of his wrestlers were caught at fast food restaurants in the Quail Springs food court, one before the weigh in had even occurred.
Unluckily for those wrestlers and their teammates, Brinlee said he planned to make the team run when it got back to the school after the meet just to remind them about their responsibility to eat healthy.
Evidently some things never change, even in a completely novel setting like a mall.