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Tour ACW provides more opportunities to compete

Mark Palmer

7/29/2013
Mark Palmer, InterMat Senior Writer
mark@intermatwrestle.com, Twitter: @MatWriter

What competitive options does a wrestler have once his college career is over?

If he wants to stay active in wrestling (and isn't quite ready to become a coach), he can pursue the Olympic dream and compete in freestyle or Greco-Roman. He could enter mixed martial arts (MMA) competition ... or become a pro wrestler.

Now there's a new way to continue to compete in wrestling ... and make some money doing it.

Tour ACW, the Association of Career Wrestlers, is a brand-new venture, launched by Teague Moore -- 1998 NCAA 118-pound champ for Oklahoma State, now American University head coach -- and business partner Kyle N. Smith. The idea behind Tour ACW is to provide wrestlers who aren't old enough for the veterans' circuit new opportunities to continue their competitive careers in the sport they love.

The first-ever Tour ACW event will take place this fall in Pittsburgh.

Intro to Tour ACW

When asked to provide a quick overview description of Tour ACW, Moore responded, "We're attempting to start a new style of wrestling, with new rules that bring together elements of folkstyle and freestyle. The idea is to create a more fan-friendly, action-packed event."

"Unlike college wrestling, there won't be a match time limit, and there won't be a set number of periods. There are two ways for a wrestler to win: by pinning his opponent, or by being the first to score ten points." ("First2Ten" is a phrase that appears more than once at the Tour ACW website.)

Some fans who are all-too-familiar with low-scoring college wrestling bouts that have all the strategy and physicality of a chess match may be wondering how it might even be possible for a wrestler to score ten points. It's a concern that Teague Moore understands fully.

"When you start a match with two very good wrestlers, it would normally take a while to get to ten points," said Moore. "So we've opened up opportunities for scoring, incorporating effective scoring techniques from freestyle and folkstyle."

"When the wrestlers are on their feet, it's a combination of freestyle and folkstyle," Moore continued. "Once the wrestling action is on the mat, it's more like folkstyle."

Here's how the Tour ACW website breaks down the point values for scoring. As with college wrestling, a takedown or a reversal is each worth two points ... while an escape is worth one point. However, Tour ACW provides new ways for wrestlers to tally more points ... including a one-point push out (pushing your opponent out of the wrestling area). Taking your opponent from his feet to back exposure nets you three points ... while a nearfall can add two or three points to your score, depending on how long you put your opponent in danger of getting pinned.

Those high-value back points should be easier to come by under Tour ACW rules, according to Moore.

"If an opponent's shoulder blades are facing the mat, that will count towards back points," said the American University coach.

Who can compete?

For the inaugural event this fall, Tour ACW has five weight classes for men -- 135, 155, 170, 205, and 265 pounds. Sixteen wrestlers will compete in each weight class. ("We hope to grow to offer more opportunities in the future," said Moore.)

Teague Moore coaching at the 2013 NCAAs in Des Moines (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Tour ACW is open to athletes 18 years old and up. "We're looking for young men in their mid 20s to early 30s who would be able to compete," Moore told InterMat. "There aren't that many opportunities for guys who want to compete."

Rarer still are opportunities for wrestlers to make money on the mat. With Tour ACW, winners in each weight class will earn $2,500 each.

"Ideally, we're looking for guys who have completed their college wrestling careers," Moore continued. "Current college wrestlers can compete, but it could affect a wrestler's eligibility. Athletes must understand the possible ramifications."

Beyond recent college graduates, Tour ACW offers potentially profitable opportunities for other athletes to compete on the mat.

"A lot of guys fighting in amateur MMA see the importance of having strong wrestling skills to succeed, and may enter Tour ACW to improve their wrestling," said Moore.

"We think there are other guys who wrestled in high school but for whatever reason did not compete in college, who would be great candidates for this," Moore continued. "We can imagine that there are guys who had their wrestling careers cut short after high school for whatever reason -- couldn't afford to go to college, family obligations -- who would make great human interest stories for Tour ACW."

Does Tour ACW have a familiar ring?

For long-time fans of amateur wrestling, Tour ACW may sound like previous ventures designed to provide former college wrestlers the opportunity to compete for glory and prize money.

The one that may be most familiar is Real Pro Wrestling, a 2005 attempt at what could be called "paid amateur wrestling" in that contestants competed for money. Despite the name, Real Pro Wrestling bore little resemblance to recent-vintage professional wrestling; there was no ring, no "heels" (villains) or "faces" (good guys), no costumes, no soap-opera storylines, and no predetermined outcomes. Rather, Real Pro Wrestling was more a souped-up version of what takes place in high school gyms and college arenas, complete with a round mat, and wrestlers with legitimate amateur wrestling backgrounds. (Most Real Pro Wrestling contestants were former top college wrestlers -- NCAA champs or All-Americans -- along with guys with impressive freestyle or Greco credentials.)

Teague Moore finished runner-up in the Real Pro Wrestling event in 2005, losing in the finals to Sammie Henson (Photo/Danielle Hobeika)
That said, Real Pro Wrestling incorporated some showbiz elements to attract cable TV viewers who might not consider themselves to be amateur wrestling fans. The rules were a hybrid of various amateur wrestling styles with an eye to enhancing action, including a push-out rule that has since been incorporated into international wrestling ... as well as Tour ACW. The round mat was surrounded by a dry moat, upping the stakes for the push-out rule. Filmed inside a large Hollywood studio, the wrestlers entered the circular arena (which bore some resemblance to the Roman Colisseum) with attention-getting music and light show ... and, perhaps most controversial at the time, all but the heavyweights competed in trunks, without shirts. (The guys in the 265-pound weight class wore singlets.)

Despite generating considerable buzz in the amateur wrestling community -- and decent ratings -- Real Pro Wrestling disappeared after one season.

Teague Moore understands how some fans might think of Real Pro Wrestling when they learn about his Tour ACW. After all, he made it to the finals of that one and only 2005 season of Real Pro Wrestling ... and has fond memories of the experience.

"When I left that event, I thought it was really cool," Moore told InterMat. "However, it appears (Real Pro Wrestling's) business model didn't work for them."

"There were a lot of strong aspects of the Real Pro Wrestling product. We liked the way they combined various wrestling styles, and the way they introduced the push-out rule as a way to score."

"That said, we decided to start smaller," Moore continued. "We thought, let's start with five weight classes for men, then we can grow into more opportunities in the future."

"We decided to start with a single event," said Moore, who hopes to have three more Tour ACW events in 2014.

First stop for Tour ACW: Pittsburgh

The first Tour ACW event will be held Sunday, Oct. 20 at the Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency hotel near the Pittsburgh International Airport. Athlete registration opens August 1, with 16 wrestlers competing in each of the five weight classes. (The idea behind early registration, according to Teague Moore: so that Tour ACW can generate advance publicity for the contestants, thus creating more media coverage and fan interest ahead of the event.)

"We're focused on creating a great athlete experience," said Moore. "If we can create a really great event, we can generate excitement among participants as well as wrestling fans."

Wrestling fans who want to be a part of the inaugural Tour ACW event may want to act quickly, as there will be only 300 seats available in the Hyatt ballroom. Tickets may be purchased directly at the Tour ACW website as part of a Social Membership, which includes a ticket to the Pittsburgh event -- and first rights to purchase tickets for future events -- along with additional perks such as a collared shirt with an embroidered Tour ACW logo, admission to weigh-ins and social events, and discounts on hotel accommodations.

The idea: New competitive and promotional opportunities

In creating Tour ACW, Teague Moore has considered all aspects of broadening the appeal of wrestling to make the event more attractive to competitors ... and to fans.

With that in mind, one element that is already in place for Tour ACW athletes: They won't have to wear a singlet to compete.

"I think the traditional wrestling singlet turns away a lot of potential competitors," said Moore. "It also turns off a lot of kids."

"Tour ACW competitors can wear fight shorts, and even get sponsorships to be displayed on their gear," Moore continued. "I think it could attract new athletes to high school and college to wear fight shorts, and, ultimately, help how wrestling is marketed."

"Our hope is that Tour ACW will help wrestling grow in the next ten years and beyond. We need to make wrestlers and wrestling more marketable."

The International Olympic Committee's decision in February to remove wrestling as a core sport as of the 2020 Olympics got Moore -- who, in addition to wrestling in high school and college, competed in freestyle -- to thinking about his sport's future.

"For the first time in my life, I see individuals like me asking what we can do to ensure wrestling's future," said Moore. "We're asking, 'What can we do to promote the sport?'"

"That said, if we're not analyzing our sport to see about eliminating any weaknesses, how can we expect to reach potential fans?"

"I think events like Tour ACW can contribute to that effort."

"Originally, I was concerned about the possible reaction," Moore said of his new venture. "But I'm getting a lot of positive response. I think one reason is that we are opening up new opportunities for athletes to continue wrestling."

To learn more about Tour ACW -- and how you can participate either as an athlete, or as a fan -- visit the organization's official website: www.touracw.com .

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