U.S. Olympic Education Center

Olympic training center in Marquette fighting to keep doors open

HARD STRUGGLE: Freshman Greco-Roman wrestler Arthur Carmona (right, in white) practices against freshman Ramon Moreno at the Olympic Education Center in Marquette. The center’s wrestling training program was struck a huge blow this month when the executive board of the International Olympic Committee voted to drop wrestling as a sport in the 2020 games. (Bridge photo/Christie Bleck)MARQUETTE — Nick Alvarez was one of America’s best young Greco-Roman wrestlers when he was attending high school in southern Florida, a rare talent who could have wrestled for any number of university programs.

He chose Northern Michigan University, even though the small university on the shores of Lake Superior is 1, 800 miles and a world away from Alvarez’s hometown of Miami, Fla.

The reason: Northern is home to the U.S. Olympic Education Center, one of 15 Olympic training sites in the United States and one of the few places athletes can earn a college degree while pursuing their Olympic dreams. It’s the only Olympic training site that focuses exclusively on the Greco-Roman wrestling technique, also known as wrestling above the waist.

“It’s the best program in the country, ” Alvarez said. “Northern is the only university with an Olympic developmental program that does Greco only.”

There are currently 38 Greco-Roman wrestlers and 24 weightlifters in the Olympic training program at Northern. But those programs are the last vestiges of an Olympic training program that has hosted some 25, 000 athletes from 29 different sports since opening in 1985.

And a growing cloud of uncertainty now hangs over the training center’s future.

The U.S. Olympic Committee in 2011 changed the way it funds training centers, which resulted in the loss of the Olympic speed-skating and boxing programs at Northern.

That same year, Congress eliminated the B.J. Stupak Scholarship. The $1 million per year scholarship, CORRECTION — named for the son of the former congressman from the Upper Peninsula named for the former Congressmen from the Upper Peninsula, helped pay tuition for student athletes training in the Olympic program at NMU.Most recently, in a surprise move, the International Olympic Committee voted on Feb. 11 to drop wrestling from the Olympics in 2020. Wrestling could be reinstated as an Olympic sport, but only if it beats out seven other sports vying for one spot in the 2020 games.

The IOC vote was the latest in a series of changes that threaten the survival of an Olympic training center that has brought athletes from around the world to Northern’s Marquette campus and provided an economic boost to the town.

Community hopes to keep center open

“It’s unfortunate that the speed-skating program was dropped, ” said Amy Clickner, CEO of the Lake Superior Partnership, Marquette County’s economic development agency. “To bring athletes from around the world into our community for a world cup (speed-skating) event, there was a definite economic impact.”

Penrod/Hiawatha Co. Superior Dome Marquette, Michigan Original Vintage Postcard
Entertainment Memorabilia (Penrod/Hiawatha Co.)
  • Categories: US State & Town Views,Michigan,Marquette
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