The Road to Cedar Rapids

The following appeared this week in The view from section GG, a blog written by wrestling fan Jim Brown.  Click the link below to go to his blog.

The Road to Cedar Rapids
Monday February 22, 2010

The qualifiers have all been determined and now the families, friends and fans of the 160 young men who will compete for a title at the 2010 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships are planning their travel to Cedar Rapids.

On the surface this year’s tournament looks to be a three-horse race among Augsburg, Wartburg and Coe, all of whom are sending a full ten-wrestler complement. The upset, however, is the beauty of Division III and I wouldn’t be surprised to see UW-La Crosse or Ithaca sneak into the top three.

The scheduling of the Division I qualifiers the same weekend as the Division III National Championships always hurts attendance a little at “DIIIs”. However, if you’re not ready for wrestling season to end and you’re not planning on attending Big 10s, Big XIIs or any of the others, I urge you to come to Cedar Rapids. These athletes deserve a big audience – and you’ll be surprised at how much fun you have.

If you’ve been here for the Championships before, here are a couple of updates. The box office at the US Cellular Center has been repaired from the flood damage and is open during regular hours – no more trips to the Ice Arena. The USCC escalator (also a flood victim) has been removed and replaced with stairs. If you need to use the elevators, give yourself a few extra minutes.

If this will be your first trip to our fair city, here are some tips for getting the most out of your visit. There are two “must see” stops for the hardcore wrestling fan. The Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum is just 1 hour to the north in Waterloo. Don’t let the name fool you – it’s not entirely about Dan Gable. There’s even a wing dedicated to the history of professional wrestling. I promise that you’ll enjoy it.

Leave yourself a little time to drive 20 minutes east to Mount Vernon and the campus of Cornell College (one of the host schools for the Championships). Step into the lobby of the Richard and Norma Small Multi-Sport Complex and you step into a piece of wrestling history. Wander around and look at the Cornell Hall of Fame photos and you’ll see people like Dale Thomas (you’ll love his pose), Lowell Lange, Lloyd Appleton, Paul Scott, Dick Barker and Dale Brand. Then go to the trophy case and there they are – the memorials to the greatest “David beats Goliath” performance in college wrestling history – the 1947 NCAA and AAU championship trophies.

Theatre Cedar Rapids, our local theater troop, is moving back into its downtown home right across the street from the US Cellular Center, with performances of The Producers. Flood waters filled the basement and covered the stage and the first seven rows of seats in 2008. The return is a triumph of our city’s spirit. One of our favorite local personalities (and once my daughter’s English and drama teacher), Scott Schulte, will be starring as Max Bialystock. Our area may have given you Ashton Kutcher, Elijah Wood and Ron Livingston – but we locals love Scott. Anyway – you can attend a performance either Thursday night at 7:30 or Sunday afternoon at 2:30.

Penguin’s Comedy Club is another of our treasures. Forced by the flood to a new location at the Clarion Hotel, Penguin’s will be featuring JR Brow the weekend of the Championships. You have easy access to the Clarion if you’re staying at any of the hotels on the southwest side (33rd Ave SW, etc) and there’s enough time to get to the late night Saturday show after finals.

I urge you to patronize our flood recovering businesses. Virtually anything you can walk to from the US Cellular Center was damaged by the tragedy of 2008. More have re-opened since the last time you were here. The Best Western Cooper’s Mill Hotel and Restaurant is back and is within walking distance of the wrestling action. It’s less than a ten minute drive to our Czech Village district and you’ll find unique shops, bars and restaurants, all waiting to welcome wrestling fans – and all fighting back from one of the most damaging natural disasters in American history.

I’ll once again be holding a reception in the lounge at the Cedar Rapids Marriott from 5:00 to 7:00. Food and beverages are free and all wrestling fans are welcome.

You can visit the following websites to help plan your trip.

Cedar Rapids Convention and Visitors Bureau

Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum

Theatre Cedar Rapids

Penguin’s Comedy Club

Coe College

Cornell College

Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference