Daniel Jackson is counting down the days until his dream of six years comes to life.
On July 27, eight wrestling teams from the Midwest will arrive at the Menominee Nation Arena in Oshkosh for the first eight dual meets of Jackson’s American Prostyle Wrestling league.
The original schedule had the league going from July through February.
Jackson discovered than many of the league wrestlers are assistant coaches at various colleges and universities, so he reduced the schedule to July through November.
“At least for the first year,” Jackson said of the five-month season. “We’ll just get a feel for things.”
The eight teams are: Illinois Tenacious Flourites, Iowa Brawling Eagles, Minnesota Gold Monarchs, Missouri Raging Honey Bees, Nebraska Mighty Cottonwoods, Ohio Spotted Salamanders, Pennsylvania Great Danes and the Wisconsin Rowdy Robins.
If the action is as wild as the nicknames, this endeavor will be a success.
The teams will converge on Oshkosh once a month through October. Teams will wrestle two dual meets a night. There are five weight classes for men and four for women.
Hartford native a captain
The Rowdy Robins’ captain is Nick Becker, who wrestled at Hartford High School before going to NCAA Division II UW-Parkside.
Becker went 182-25 in high school and then went 89-0 and won three straight Division II national championships at Parkside.
“He’s quite the wrestler,” Jackson said.
Becker drafted the rest of the team. The draft was held in May via a video conference.
There were no Mel Kiper-types doing network coverage, but Jackson said the draft was entertaining.
“The true personalities of all the captains came out,” he said.
The lack of finances this inaugural season will limit team practices to the dates of matches in Oshkosh.
“We’re not in the position at this point to provide funds for training facilities,” Jackson said. “I hope this takes off, but right now most of the athletes are connected with regional training centers.”
Becker trains in a center in Madison.
Bryce Meredith will wrestle for Wisconsin in the 150-pound weight class. A Cheyenne, Wyoming native, Meredith finished his college career in 2018 at the University of Wyoming, where he was a two-time NCAA Division 1 runner-up at 141 pounds and three-time All-American.
“He’s a bad dude,” Jackson said.
Dylan Ness will wrestle at 165. Ness recorded 98 victories at the University of Minnesota before a shoulder injury in the 2015 NCAA Championship semifinals ended his career.
“He’s one of the most exciting wrestlers in all of college history,” Jackson said.
It should be noted Jackson wrestled at Minnesota, so he might be a bit partial.
Jackson had to cut the female weight classes from the planned five to four because the draft pool was less.
Overall, Jackson is encouraged by the talent that signed up for his dream league.
“We recruited some high-caliber athletes,” he said.
He hopes this will give collegiate wrestlers an avenue to continue their careers in the type of wrestling they have participated in for most of their lives.
As in all ventures, the revenue stream is the most critical aspect of his dream project. For the first season, winning wrestlers will receive $2,500 a match. Losers collect $1,500.
All matches will be live-streamed through TrackWrestling, a popular wrestling website.
Subscriptions to watch the stream cost $45 and can be purchased through the www.apswrestling.com website.
The challenge for Jackson is selling the league to viewers before the first match has taken place.
Jackson has also set up a GoFundMe account, where wrestling fans can donate. The link is https://www.gofundme.com/apw-help-secure-the future-of-wrestling.
“That’s for people, particularly in Rock County, who might want to support this, but maybe don’t want to purchase a membership,” Jackson said. “Maybe that will help people support us.”
Jackson has put much thought and time into this venture. The 2003 Janesville Parker High graduate and wrestler coached at Parker for five seasons. He is the dean of students at Janesville’s Marshall Middle School.
Years of preparation is about to take form in the center circle.
“It’s humbling to think about six years ago when I was just bouncing this idea around,” Jackson said. “To put this into action, it’s wild.
“I really can’t believe it’s developed this far. I’m hoping this works just for the sport of wrestling.”
Tom Miller is a sports writer and page designer for The Gazette.