London 2012: USA Wrestling Meets Russia in Times Square in Olympic Tune-Up

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London 2012: USA Wrestling Meets Russia in Times Square in Olympic Tune-Up
Elsa/Getty Images

The scene Thursday in Times Square at the second annual "Grapple in the Apple" freestyle wrestling dual meet between the United States and Russia was like something out of a Cold War propaganda film.

Blues versus Reds. Stars and stripes in abundance. A backdrop so evocative of capitalism and the American Way, it would have brought tears to Rocky Balboa's eyes.

In a conversation with The New York Post, USA Wrestling poster-boy Jordan Burroughs captured the not-so-subtle theater of it all.

“You see it in movies, you see it on TV, but to actually wrestle in it, it’s indescribable...It’s pretty cool. There’s just so much going on. It’s so intense in terms of atmosphere and it’s so different, but it’s a huge opportunity for us. A lot of people are watching.”

As easy as it was to get caught up in the rah-rah atmosphere and even the Olympic implications—the meet included an intra-American qualification portion, with Oklahoma State alum Coleman Scott earning Team USA's Olympic bid at 60 kg—Burroughs captured the true spirit of Thursday's proceedings with his final remark.

"A lot of people are watching."

It's no secret that many top college wrestlers are bypassing the Olympic dream for a shot at the fast money of professional mixed martial arts. Now the onus is on USA Wrestling to create some counter-momentum.

Taking a cue, perhaps, from the NHL's Winter Classic, wrestling seems to have found its novelty showcase.

And I don't mean that to sound cynical. USA wrestling absolutely needs to augment its media presence in this all-important Olympic year. If there was ever a moment to steal some limelight from the growing MMA behemoth, that time is now.

But I wouldn't get too caught up in what happened on the mat.

Yes, Team USA beat Team Russia 4-3, but the Russian squad was composed mostly of up-and-comers.

None of the four Russian freestyle wrestlers who medaled at the 2011 World Championships made it to New York, and easy victories by top American contenders like Burroughs offered relatively little in the way of predictive value.

The Miracle on Ice this was not, but it was a step forward for Olympic wrestling in this country.

Not for the quality or significance of the results, but for the capacity crowd on hand and those interested passersby who caught a glimpse of the sport's star potential.

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