Group picks Iowa City for Olympic wrestling trials

USA Wrestling on Tuesday chose tradition-rich Iowa City to host the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for wrestling.

The group announced that Iowa City's bid beat out those from Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Columbus, Ohio.

The trials will determine which athletes will represent the United States at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The event will be held April 21-22, 2012, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on the University of Iowa campus.

USA Wrestling executive director Rich Bender told The Associated Press that the region's long history of supporting wrestling played a critical role in awarding the bid to Iowa City.

Iowa's wrestling team has won 23 NCAA titles and routinely leads the nation in attendance. The Hawkeyes averaged 8,125 fans per home dual meet in 2009-10 and set a national record in 2008 when nearly 16,000 saw host Iowa beat rival Iowa State.

"You can't ignore the history that our sport has had in the state of Iowa, and particularly in a pretty famous wrestling building on the campus of the University of Iowa," Bender said. "It's had somewhat of a monumental impact on our sport."

About 200 athletes are expected to compete in the wrestling trials.

Greensboro, N.C.; Hampton, Va.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Pontiac, Mich., also bid for the wrestling trials but weren't selected.

USA Weightlifting was set to hold its trials in conjunction with the wrestling event, but Bender said they stepped out of the bid process because of conflicts with the date. It wasn't clear where the weightlifting trials would be held.

Iowa City, with a population of about 60,000, is much smaller than the last three cities to hold the trials — Dallas, Indianapolis and Las Vegas. But USA Wrestling believes the city's passion for the sport will help draw large crowds for the two-day meet.

Carver-Hawkeye Arena, which seats 15,000, is in the midst of a $47 million renovation set to be completed for the 2011-12 school year. But Bender said the work to the 28-year old arena was simply "icing on the cake."

"It was, in my 20-some years at USA Wrestling, one of the more difficult decisions we've had to make, and one that will ultimately pay dividends for our sport down the road," Bender said.