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Archive for March 2009

The Ides of March came and went

Of course, the Ides of March were about two weeks ago, but I needed a title for this entry.

It’s March 31 and I’m about to head up to the ol’ alma mater for some high school baseball. It’s been a long month of March. I’d only been in my house in Minnesota from March 1-3, then again March 22-25, and then I’ve been on the road.

March took me to 13 states. Technically 14, because I consider driving all that distance a state of insanity and confusion, if not both.

statemap_march

That’s a quarter of the states in just one month.

On another note, I’m pretty proud of myself. Don’t you just love cryptic messages? Banana!

Written by Jason Bryant

March 31, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Sweet home Bull Island …

Every time I talk about where I’m from, I usually bring up the mascot of my school alma mater – Poquoson. It’s always been an interesting point of discussion amongst the locals not from the town. Locals meaning folks in the greater Hampton Roads area.

Well, Poquoson’s called “Bull Island” for some reason. I believe they used to raise cattle out here in Poquoson, hence the name “Bull Island.” But the thing is, Poquoson isn’t an island, it’s a smaller peninsula jutting out into the Chesapeake Bay on the larger “Peninsula” containing Hampton, Newport News, York County, James City County and Williamsburg. It is a complete misnomer, but that doesn’t bother the folks around here.

The nickname of the school is either “Islanders,” “Bulls,” or “Bull Islanders.” It’s pretty unique. Much like the New York Islanders NHL team, which is based on Long Island.

Well, I’ve been back since Saturday.

The reaction by Old Dominion assistant wrestling coach Mike Dixon was priceless on Sunday morning. I’d gone to breakfast with some of the guys while I was over at school and Dixon shuttled by to take a recruit back to the airport so he could obviously fly back home. I’m not telling you where he was going, because I’m not about to let the cat out of the bag on who it was.

Anyway, Dixon wipes the sleep out of his eyes, looks at me, looks at my car, looks at me again and says, “You drove AGAIN? You ain’t right.”

No, I’m not “right.”

Well, this has been a good trip so far, but I’ve not nearly done enough things in the first three days. I’ll still have to spend time with my sister, my nieces, do my fantasy baseball draft with a bunch of media types, set up the live draft board, go see my grandma, head to the beach, see the old roommates, spend more time with my mom, et al.

Hanging out with my dad is always interesting, since he’s about as old school as you get. He’s loving retirement and still recovering from a knee replacement. It’s fishing season, so it’ll only be a matter of time before he puts the boat over and pulls out fish from the Chesapeake. I’m picky about my seafood and I think it’s pretty amazing that my dad has never bought any fish from a store. Everything he has ever eaten has been freshly caught by himself or by friends. Then again, in this town, you can get stuff at the store friends have caught, but not at a grocery store. The little seafood shops down at the end of Messick Point do the trick if he does have to NOT catch something.

I grew up on the water. I spent every weekend from the time I was an infant til about the time I was 12 on a boat fishing. I miss it a lot. I haven’t dabbled too much into the lake and river fishing in Minnesota, although I’ve gone twice, but not since I moved.

Other plans for the week are coordinating two of our Wrestling 411 shows with Kyle Klingman as well as doing some work out at the NHSCA High School Nationals. Rob Sherrill’s their media guru and I’ll be lending a hand for the ESPN360.com broadcast on Sunday. Hopefully there’s some airtime involved, because I’m still completely “at home” when I’m on a micraphone. It’s still a rush after all these years.

Tuesday, I’ll hit up a baseball game at Poquoson. I announced baseball for four years in high school … one of eight sports I was on the mic for. I’ll have to drift through the high school. My time at PHS was full of ups and downs, but mostly positive. Had we not moved to Poquoson in 1992, I wouldn’t be where I am today and would have never discovered the sport of wrestling.

Wednesday, I might hit up a hockey game. Yes, I do find it odd that the only hockey game I’ve hit up this year was when I was home for Christmas. So I live in “The State of Hockey,” yet haven’t been to a Wild game, or any other game for that matter. I used to work as a broadcast intern for the then-Hampton Roads Admirals. Now they’re in the AHL and are known as the Norfolk Admirals. I’ll probably go with my sister and my friend Terry. Or as I call him, “Old Man.”

Not sure what the rest of the week holds, and while it’s tremendously fantastic being home and seeing my friends — saw Kurt last night for a short bit — something’s drawing me back to Minnesota. <insert smiley face or something here>

No, this isn’t a full disclosure moment, but there’s so many people to see before I get back up North. Great to be home, great to look forward to being home, great to look forward to going back to the new home.

Checking out … for now.

Written by Jason Bryant

March 30, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Blogging

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Things I learned, discovered or realized while on the road for 19 days

As I wrote yesterday, at about the same time of night, I’d just finished a blog wrapping up the last nine days of my trip.

Well, I’m watching “The Whitest Kids U’Know” from IFC (originally on FUSE), and there was a scene that totally gave me an idea I’d been milling over about the trip.

Here are some things I’ve learned about the world in the last 19 days on the road.

  1. Spicy Guacamole Pringles might be the best flavored chips on the planet. Kyle Klingman is now addicted to them, well, he would be if we ate them the entire time. We housed a can in no time somewhere in Oklahoma.
  2. Why do expensive hotels charge for internet access, yet it’s free at the Econo Lodge?
  3. I didn’t see a single high school off any highway we traveled in Arkansas, yet I saw nearly a dozen in Missouri.
  4. Sonic Malts are fantastic.
  5. I didn’t gain any weight eating crap food and malts during the entire length of the trip.
  6. We must have passed 100 Mexican Restaurants on the trip, I counted only ONE that didn’t say “Authentic.” I mean seriously, do they all have to say “authentic?” Like there’s going to be a place that has New York Style Mexican or Seattle Style Mexican? I’m assuming if it’s Mexican food, it’s Mexican food. Then again, while in Iowa, perhaps it provides peace of mind when you’re eating Mexican food and you know it’s authentic … I guess?
  7. This goes back to #4. After passing Steak and Shake, I often said, “Their milkshakes are the best.” Kyle piped in with saying “Every place with milkshakes say they’re the best.” Well, have you ever had a bad milkshake? Kyle has a point.
  8. The first thing I saw while driving into Texas was an Adult book store.
  9. Persian food is highly underrated.
  10. Street food vendors at Laclede’s Landing in St. Louis have great grub.
  11. “I don’t think it’s wise to have a retarded horse as a house pet” — Lois Griffin.
  12. Houses that are converted bars are freakin’ awesome.
  13. I didn’t pack enough shorts for the trip, so I thought. But then it got cold the second day in Houston, so it was a good decision.
  14. Our hotel in Houston did NOT have an evil monkey in the closet.
  15. I didn’t add one new person on Facebook as a result of this trip.
  16. I hate the new Facebook layout.
  17. Southern Maine can claim a stand-up comic … not directly, but hell, it’s the only connection I can throw in with Joe Narvaez.
  18. Chai Tea Lattes might sound fruity, but they’re pretty good, but don’t tell anyone I said that.
  19. Sending postcards to people on random trips is incredibly fulfilling. I recommend those who don’t do it, start. It costs what, 50-something cents? I sent 30 on this trip alone.
  20. “Shutter” is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.
  21. I didn’t miss television the 19 days I didn’t watch it.
  22. March Madness has little meaning to me anymore.
  23. The NBA hasn’t meant anything in a long time. Damn you Nick Anderson and your four missed free throws.
  24. Lee Pritts convinced me to try surfing … the results will be detailed when I get back from High School Nationals.
  25. I still haven’t played a round of disc golf since I moved to Minnesota.
  26. Raggedy Anne’s in North Austin is probably the crappiest place I’ve ever walked into. It’s also the worst place I’d ever walked out of.
  27. Staying at the Smith house in Del City, Oklahoma was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been able to do. Mega thanks to Lee Roy.
  28. I have only one story in common with Marcos Orozco, and it’s pretty funny.
  29. Never, ever buy the Magic Bullet. This has nothing to do with the trip, but I figured I’d just drop that knowledge bomb on you.
  30. The Division III tournament was one of the most exciting wrestling tournaments I’ve ever experienced.
  31. The Division II tournament had all the action of the Division III’s, but lacked the atmosphere.
  32. This year’s Division I tournament is my most memorable to date.
  33. I drove through the birthplaces of both Bill Clinton and Mark Twain.
  34. Bluechip Wrestling gear is awesome.
  35. Walking around for five days in Doc Martens is a bit of a pain.
  36. Making lists always makes you forget something … like now.
  37. Meeting new friends is quite good.
  38. It’s better to see old ones … there’s too many people to list, but I’m glad to have ran into everyone!

Oh, here’s that state map.

statemap

Written by Jason Bryant

March 24, 2009 at 2:40 am

Posted in Blogging

Tagged with

Day 19: It’s all over … and what a finish

After being harassed on Facebook by one Sara Levin for not providing any update for the last nine days, I figured I’d wrap it all up with this one, long, tiresome post.

Here’s the quick day-by-day recap.

March 14: Last day of the Division II tournament. Semis were good, finals were so-so, but there was still plenty of action. The atmosphere still left a bit to be desired, but there was no difference in raw emotion and competition displayed like what I’d seen at the Division III championships. Kyle was struggling with congestion and a hoarse voice … working the finals with NCAA.com was fantastic. We had a blast with the semifinal rounds, going back and forth and the finals, we were really on point.

I was really impressed by Newberry heavyweight Cy Wainwright, a former I-AA (FCS) football player at Bethune-Cookman who came to Newberry to wrestle after leaving the gridiron. He could probably have done some damage at the D1’s. Tommy Abbott winning the title for Mankato was a nice feeling. I’ve known Tommy and his folks for a number of years. Got to see buddies Matt McConnell and Sheldon Thomas quite a bit over the weekend too. I now have a fond affinity for Lone Star beer … goes down easy. And yes, while in Texas, I did partake in the Shiner Bock, a personal favorite.

March 15: Kyle and I woke up and headed North … well, Northeast. It was a bit of a role reversal, we spent the weekend on the “InterMat guy’s” floor. In the past, I was usually letting people crash on the fold out and the floor. Now it was my turn. Hell, when I got to Houston, the first thing I did was get Pat Tocci and Jeff Breese a hot cup of coffee. I don’t even work for the NWCA anymore and I’m still fetching coffee!

Well, we run around town dropping the rental car off and toting Jeff back to the hotel. Kyle’s phone broke, so he spent an hour at AT&T Wireless getting something to work for the rest of the trip. We left Houston bound for someplace … that place ended up being Texarkana, Texas. Yes, we stayed on the Texas side, ate at Whataburger and crashed at an Econo Lodge. Cheap digs, but it was clean, and the beds were comfortable.

March 16: We woke up and headed through Arkansas. I’d never been to Arkansas before and this would completely cross off all the states in the Southeast for my personal map crossing-off thinger. We stopped for Postcards at a Flying J on the Arkansas side of Texarkana. Some of these cards were just so politically incorrect. Hillbilly Livin’ cards aren’t for the faint of heart. They’re offensive and outright funny. I know, because that’s what my mom said when she got them in the mail a few days after mailing them out.

Kyle’s really good with sending people postcards, I’m starting to get back on the horse with the sending of the cards. I needed stamps, and so did Kyle, so we drove to where the GPS said the closest post office was. It ended up being in Columbus, Ark. … about 10 miles from Hope, the birthplace of President Bill Clinton. We drove through Hope, wound past cows, and everything stereotypical you might think when you think of Arkansas. I’ll be nice, but there were some literal laugh-out-loud moments while traveling on some county road. This included one of the smallest post offices I’d ever been in.

Seriously, this place was TINY. Kyle and I chatted with the postmaster, a very sweet and polite woman who had an affinity for the rodeo. We talked a bit about our trip as we looked over the stamps. I’d filled out the cards in the car, but Kyle had a bit of an aversion to sending the “hillbilly” cards out from such a small post office. The guy has manners, that’s for sure. We decided it was best to not send them from this particular Arkansas post office.

The GPS then did something I’d never have expected … it charted a course via a dirt road. Wow. This was a first. I mean, we joke about it being from “down south” (and yes, I do consider my particular area of Virginia … THE SOUTH). We drove the rest of the day, winding through small Arkansas towns heading north to St. Louis. We stopped for lunch at Sonic in Haskell, Ark. … I love the old time towns we drove through, it reminds me of where my grandparents lived on the Northern Neck Peninsula of Virginia.

Wow, as I write this … the wind is completely HOWLING outside. Welcome back to Minnesota, eh?

Well, we continue our trip, catching back up with Sara to again crash at her place in St. Louis. The best part of the day came at dinner. I’m pretty indifferent on what I care to eat when going out, I was like “ok, anything’s good.” She recommended this place called Natasha’s … well, it’s official name is Cafe Natasha’s Kabob International. Persian food … Oh MY GOODNESS. This was a spectacular meal. We topped it off by getting gelato from Gelateria Del Leone … ANOTHER SLAM DUNK. I got a pint, mint oreo and mixed berry. Yeah, the combo doesn’t sound too appealing, but I’m an ice cream hound and gelato is just a better step up from traditional ice cream/sorbet types of stuff.

Sara was expecting folks to come into town for NCAA’s, so she had the place ready to go.

March 17: Kyle went for a run (I think), while I slept in. We both had time to do laundry, something we badly needed, because I was on life support with only packing about a week and a half’s worth of clothes. Laundry was done, Kyle and I were ready and we headed to the Sheraton Center City. It was to be our home for the next five or so days. We check in, get situated and were greeted by a friend from Pennsylvania now living in New Jersey.

Nate Schy was one of my live text guys when I worked at InterMat. I knew him back when we both lived in Virginia and he won a state title in 1998 at Bethel High (same H.S. as Allen Iverson) before moving to PA and wrestling at Franklin & Marshall. He crashed on the fold out for the first day before his room opened up. We took a cab down to the Dubliner … a fitting place for St. Patrick’s Day. Kyle had Fish & Chips and water, while I had the bangers and mash and a Guinness. Nate also shared in the Guinness. The only green shirt I had was my Wagner College wrestling shirt Doug Jesse had sent to Kyle and I. Damn shame they announced the cutting of the program just days earlier. First time I wear the shirt, they cut the program, one I had a hand in saving three years ago.

We walk back to the hotel and chill for a while, discuss brackets. We set out on our own for a bit, then we collect back together. Kyle’s still feeling the effects of being sick, so he’s going to call it a night. Nate and I hit Maggie O’Brien’s for St. Patty’s before venturing down to Laclede’s Landing, the night home of nearly ever NCAA wrestling fan in St. Louis for the next week.

March 18: It’s press conference day, so I head over to the Scottrade Center to pick up my credentials. We hit both the athlete and coach press conferences. Kyle starts off the athlete press conference by asking the panel of Jake Herbert, Steve Luke, Nick Marable, Brent Metcalf and Jordan Leen, I kid you not, “What did you have for breakfast this morning.”

You’d have loved the responses … in fact, I think Gary Abbott at USA Wrestling has them on video. Check it out here.

As I get back to the press table, I get an e-mail announcing Portland State is dropping wrestling. What a crappy way to start out the championships.

Kyle and I run over to meet with Randy Lewis and Jim Gibbons for a Division I preview show for Wrestling 411. This was fun with Jim and Lewboo. Did the show from their hotel room and it was a great meeting of the minds.

Later in the day, Kyle and I head over to the NWCA Award Social, which was much smaller this year. I see Bryan Johnston, the Virginia Tech SID in a corner watching the Hokies’ NIT game. I think it’s the NIT, because now there are three non-NCAA tournament post-season tournaments. The NIT (which is actually owned now by the NCAA), the CBI and the whatever(dot)com somethinganother tournament.

I leave the social and drive out to Texas Roadhouse in Kirkwood to meet up with my friend Megan, a long-time acquaintence from back in high school. Oddly enough, she works in the building right behind the Sheraton, funny how the world works. I meet her new husband (they tied the knot in December) and have a great time catching up and telling old stories. I head back to the room, and so some social things the rest of the evening.

March 19: Tournament kicks off … we don’t go 20 minutes befor the first upset hits. Dave Marble of Bucknell knocks off third-seeded Jimmy Kennedy of Illinois in overtime. Wow. What a way to start. Seeds start falling, upsets are everywhere and the Scottrade is abuzz with activity and “oohs” and “ahhhs.”

I’m keeping an eye on the six kids from my alma mater, three of them are seeded — James Nicholson, Ryan Williams and Chris Brown. Kyle Hutter drew Boise State’s Andrew Hochstrasser — ouch. Eric Decker drew Nebraska’s Brandon Browne — ouch. Jesse Strawn won his opener over North Carolina’s Dennis Drury. For his effort, he got top-seeded Craig Brester of Nebraska — ouch. Brown wins, Nicholson wins, Willie wins.

Bubba Jenkins from Penn State is a kid I’ve known since he was in the sixth grade. Something’s wrong. He’s upset in the first round, then put out in the consolations. He can barely walk upright. Something was very, very wrong with Bubba. Painful to watch, even more painful for him to wrestle.

I then pay attention to the rest of the tournament, uploading and updating the Wrestling 411 first session blog. Kyle’s great at getting interviews and we put up a few that first session.

Kellen Russell gets pinned, Corey Jantzen gets pinned. Alex Krom beats Alex Tsirtsis. I start looking at Willie’s draw. Things open up. It gets interesting.

There’s so much to talk about from Thursday, I don’t know where to really begin. This is where the rest of the weekend gets fuzzy.

March 20: Second day of the tournament. I have no idea what the heck the time is. I start working with ESPN and the broadcast team of Dave Armstrong, Tim Johnson and Jeff Blatnick. I’m their stats guy. I’m the one doing the grunt work on research for the production truck and the “talent” on air.

I honestly have so much to say about this day, but can’t recall it all. End up meeting with some folks from TheWrestlingTalk fan get together and have some fun. Meet up with a friend from Lehigh before running into the Flo guys, stachies and all. I get a call from Adam Frey, I end up meeting him and some other friends before the night is over. “ToughHawk” from the forums comes up to me to say hello. I always like meeting folks.

March 21: The most incredible day of wrestling I have ever witnessed. I could write another 2,000 words on that. And I will when I have the mental capacity to do so.

Here’s the quick highlights:

149 pounds: I never thought I’d see Superman defeated. Wow. What a moment. What a complete shock. What a fantastic match.
141 pounds: Total homer moment. Ryan Williams makes the NCAA finals, the second finalist for Old Dominion in school history (Division I). ODU has three Division II champs, but only two finalists since moving to Division I back in the mid-70s. Jody Staylor in 1994 was the other. Willie paid his dues, but was just outmatched in the finals against Ohio State’s J Jaggers. Still awesome for the program. First top-20 finish that I can think of. I have to check in 1991, when ODU had two All-Americans (Peter Horst and Nick Garone).

Willie’s finals appearance is going to do wonders for the program. His quarterfinal win put him #1 on ODU’s all-time wins list, surpassing my college roommate, Jeff Rusak. Not bad for a kid no one had heard of before this weekend.

Even though Matt Storniolo continues to give me a hard time about my predictions, in which I didn’t have said Mr. Williams on the podium, I think everyone in the nation knows why I couldn’t pick such. You don’t think I wasn’t rooting for the kid? C’mon. Chompers is an awesome kid, hard worker, great student, a great guy to build a program around. Willie is simply “the man.” Great exposure and great career.

More on the Ryan Williams paradox later, that’s an entry unto itself.

157 pounds: What a weight. Jordan Burroughs proved it. “The Usain Bolt” of College Wrestling. Nate came up with it … and it made its way on to ESPN.
285 pounds: Gotta root for a kid like Konrad Dudziak of Duke. Same with Missouri’s Mark Ellis. First time I met Ellis was back in Sioux City playing disc golf with Ben Askren and Raymond Jordan. Good dude, I’m happy for him.

March 22: I woke up, packed up, drove home. Kyle rode back to Iowa with his folks, leaving me flying solo for the last eight hours of the trip.

I drove down Market Street heading out of town and snapped this shot quickly.

As I drive out of town, about to pick up I-70, I see some orange and red. The orange of U.Va.’s team colors and the red hair of 197-pounder Brent Jones. I holler out the window at him, giving him a wave as I head out of town.

Before getting to Minnesota, I have to drop some stuff off in Cedar Rapids at Kent Sesker’s house. He left some stuff in the room at D3’s … I was returning it, his goofy hat and sunglasses.

I make some calls, talk about the incredible finals with friends and roll into the Twin Cities around 10 p.m. … I go to Jake’s Sports Cafe, get a Cobb Salad and head home to call it a night.

You have no idea how much mail I have to sift through.

Here’s the final tally

Total time in the car: 59 hours, 55 minutes.
Total Miles: 3,451 (give or take)
Total Days: 19
Total Memorable Moments: Too many to list.

I’m going to sleep …

Written by Jason Bryant

March 23, 2009 at 2:09 am

Posted in Blogging

Tagged with

Wrestling 411: Donate to get College Wrestling on Television

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1888054&dest=39050]

Wrestling 411 is working through its first year and our goal is to provide a weekly television show to highlight and promote the sport of wrestling. We cannot do this without the support of the wrestling community. We're seeking A LITTLE FROM A LOT. Think about this: If we had 10 dollars from every wrestling fan who has accessed the site, wrestling would be on television. Our project, production costs, travel expenses, etc., would be covered. You can have a direct impact in getting the sport you love so much on television in a way which not only tells the story, but tells the story wrestling's way.

Go to http://www.wrestling411.tv and click donate. A LITTLE FROM A LOT is all we're asking from the wrestling community to ensure the promotion to the masses and make wrestling a main event sport to the national media. 

Written by Jason Bryant

March 14, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Day 10: I forget what day it is …. Live from Houston

Haven’t had an update since we were in Del City, Oklahoma, which as I stated in my last post, was awe-inspiring. Kyle’s been a bit under the weather and his voice is a bit rough. He’s been sleeping to try to stave off any illness prior to today’s broadcast. So here’s a recap of the last few days since we’ve been on the road and a quick synapse of what’s been going on here at the Division II Nationals.

Day 7: Started the day with Lee Roy Smith Sr. taking us out for a late breakfast in Del City. Lee Roy is such a good man, it was truly a pleasure to meet him. I went over to Oklahoma City University for about an hour to spend some time with two friends I knew who attended school there — Ashley Sword and Nicole Woody. Kyle worked from the computer lab and Ashley showed me some of her clay vases and raw materials in the art lab. She gave me crap because I plum forgot we were even going to stay in the Oklahoma City area. So my friend guilted me into it. Not really, but Ashley’s been a great friend for a long time.

While in the lab, I saw Nicole pop on facebook, I quickly called her a dork, which she is a complete dorkface, and she noticed my status and ran over to the lab and promptly punched me in the arm. I think she’s still blaming me for some interview in Fargo a few years back. It was great to see them both, they’re really good people and fun to be around.

Kyle and I got on the road and headed to Austin. We both had friends in Austin and I was trying to get a round or two of disc golf in with Mark Bader and Joe Williamson of PureFight and FloWrestling, but the weather just didn’t cooperate. We got to Austin late on Tuesday and I dropped Kyle off and I went my way. I ended up with my high school buddy Scott at one of the shadiest places I’d ever stepped foot in. Fe-mullets and lack of teeth. The bartender was cool and there was a sign on the wall that said “Lukenbach, Texas” and an arrow. I kinda dug that.

I ended up crashing out in the Motel 6 down the street because the situation was less than pleasant. I traded some texts with JoeFlo in the morning, and with the pouring down rain and a 30-degree change in temperature, no disc was to be played.

I went over to pick up Kyle and we were set to do a show with Brad Traviolia from the NCAA about the 11:30 release of the 52 Division I wild cards. Well, the expected 11:30 a.m. release. Then it was a 2 p.m. release … then who knows. We ended up bailing on the interview then, because we couldn’t wait anymore. We drove to San Antonio through a nice little downpour and checked out the Riverwalk and had some great Mexican food at Cafe Ole. We picked up some postcards and headed to the Alamo. Wow, what an experience that was. We didn’t have much time to check it out, but it was worth it.

We packed up and headed towards Houston. We stopped about 100 miles outside of Houston in a town called Schulenburg. We checked out the lodging and touched base with Traviolia to get the NCAA take on the 52 wildcards. Kyle’s voice was shot, so I took control of the interview and it went about 30 minutes. Drilled Brad on a few questions, but while I didn’t name any specific names of wrestlers, I alluded to certain guys based on credentials and got answers that way. Brad’s been a real good guy to work with, it’s now the third time we’ve had him on the show.

We crashed for the night after looking over the qualifiers, woke up and then headed to Houston on Thursday.

I drop Kyle off at the Hyatt, he’s going to try to crash with some folks from Mankato, I’m on the floor with Jeff Breese at the Courtyard. Yes, the guy who took over for me after I left InterMat. Jeff’s a great guy and I really wish people would stop the comparisons between when I was there and him being there now. It’s not fair because I didn’t have much traffic my first year of InterMat and it’s a very labor intensive job.

I caught up with Tom Abbott, Matt McConnell and Sheldon Thomas and we went out to socialize. Big Tom has been a friend for a long time since I started volunteering at the Beast of the East years ago. I met Matt when I moved to Lancaster. He wrestled at Franklin & Marshall, so I was going to get up with him when I was here to start with. It just worked out. Kyle was now in our room because of tight quarters elsewhere.

Now we’re on Friday and we get to the venue … which was in the middle of a rec center. It’s really taking away from the competition. I want to focus on the wrestling itself, but it just feels like a middle school or youth tournament. This isn’t where I’d want to wrestle. The folks here are making it work, but wrestling wasn’t really wanted at the venue and they were basically told, yes, you have to take it. So we’ve got 1,000 seats … 500 on either side (give or take) and six mats in the middle.

We’re again working with WebStream Productions to do the audio for the NCAA broadcast on NCAA.com. Technical issues at Track & Field gave the production crew a late start on getting set up and some bugs had to be worked out. Kyle and I got up and running on the broadcast about 40 minutes late. Once we got the bugs worked out, we were rolling and pushing out some great Division II wrestling.

Drawbacks include no sight lines for SID’s and media on the front row, no flag for the National Anthem (which pissed more than one veteran off) and basketballs being dribbled in the gym next to the competition area. Mike Denney at UNO is already talking about what he’s going to do next year to make the Division II’s in Omaha the best ever.

The competition’s good and there have been some upsets, but all in all, this trip has been exciting.

The thing about the tournament here is there are no Division II schools within 500 miles of Houston.

Central Oklahoma is the closest (See graphic)
picture-4
I then figure New Mexico Highlands in Las Vegas, N.M. is the second closest … 840 miles away. I could be wrong, maybe Fort Hays State, but New Mexico is a border state … so let’s check that out.

picture-5

San Francisco State is the longest, I think, at about 1,900 miles away.

I’m not going to post that map … but here’s the status of our trip so far.

picture-7

Written by Jason Bryant

March 13, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Posted in Blogging

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Day 6: The “Smith”-sonian … of wrestling in Del City

I’m sitting where Alexander Medved once sat … it’s a brown couch and I’m sitting across from the patriarch of the Smith wrestling family. Lee Roy Smith Sr., sits across from me showing Kyle and I pictures of the 10 Smith children. Four of them, you’ve probably heard of — Lee Roy, John, Pat and Mark.

Yes, we have the privilege of staying with Lee Roy Sr. and Madeline for the finale of day seven. Lee Roy Sr. was awaiting for us as we left the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. We’d just interviewed the Executive Director, Lee Roy Jr. (although I don’t think anyone calls him “Junior”), and he’d called up his parents and arranged a place for us to stay for the night before we head to Austin on Day 8.

The drive from St. Louis, where we stayed with Sara Levin, was a pleasant, but long seven hour drive. We’d stopped in Tulsa to pick up a new power adapter at the Apple Store. I’d left mine at the U.S. Cellular Center, so it’d be necessary that I get one to finish the trip with all these blogs and broadcasts. Yes, I’m a Mac head now and I love this little machine. It’s provided us with the ability to turn around great interviews and broadcast the show from pretty much any location — provided the internet access isn’t firewalled.

While shooting down towards Stillwater, I called up Roger Moore, former sports editor at the Stillwater News Press, who is now one of the play-by-play guys for Oklahoma State wrestling radio. Roger was about to do the John Smith show on 93.7 so Kyle and I tuned in and listened to Double 0 talk about the Big 12 championships.

When he’d given the phone number out as he was awaiting John’s arrival in studio, I called up and helped Roger fill about 10 minutes of airtime. As John arrived, we were pulling into the Hall. Lee Roy greeted us and showed us around.

He showed us the upcoming exhibit honoring wrestlers in the military which will be on display at the NCAA Championships this year.

This was a big moment for me, because while we were there to do a show, there was one section of the Hall I needed to see for my own self-serving needs.

It’s the Bob Dellinger Award. The famed wrestling reporter was named Amateur Wrestling News’ wrestling writer of the year for the first three years it was in existence, then the award was named for him and he removed himself from future considerations.

I first remember seeing this listing back in 2005 during my first visit to the Hall of Fame when I was working with the NWCA and attending my first All-Star Classic, held in Stillwater that year.

Well, I was fortunate enough to win the Bob Dellinger Award in 2007 and to be able to see my name included amongst some of the finest wrestling journalists of past and present, it was a deep moment of personal reflection.

While I write a column for W.I.N., Amateur Wrestling News’ impact to the wrestling world is well-documented, in fact, in many cases, it’s the only documentation. Flipping through old AWN’s was a great time-killer back in Pennsylvania. A wrestling fan gave us copies about two years ago of every AWN. Great history there.

I sheepishly sat on the floor, aimed my camera phone at my mug and the placard on the wall bearing my name “Jason Bryant, InterMat, PA” … the PA meaning my state of residence at the time. I still would have preferred it to say Virginia, but what am I going to do, complain? Situated just before me is Jay Hammond, the author of the History of Collegiate Wrestling and Andy Hamilton, a colleague in the industry. Great company to be associated with.

Bear with this personal rant for just a bit … the wall of AAU champions is just to the left of the Dellinger Award listings. So about five feet from the name “Gray Simons” … sits the name “Jason Bryant.” Two different sections, but to be on the same wall in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for an achievement as the coach during my time at Old Dominion is a special feeling. I’m happy to be able to say my name is in the Hall before the time I reached 30 … being able to see it left me without words.

We then sat down and did a good 50-minute interview with Lee Roy, talking about the Smith family and the upcoming June inductions for the Class of 2009, which I liked immediately because it included Chuck Yagla and two Granby High School alums, Pete Blair and Eddie Eichelberger.

I met Chuck earlier this year and we hit it off instantly. I never met the late Pete Blair nor had I met Eichelberger, but their legendary status back home in Virginia is still talked about. Blair won two NCAA titles for the Naval Academy and then picked up an Olympic silver medal along the way. He never started for Granby, but was coached by the late Billy Martin Sr. Eichelberger won two NCAA titles for Lehigh. They are both held in high regard because of their contributions to the sport.

Lee Roy talked about the other inductees and was looking forward to June, where folks could come out and take in the inductions. Want to go? http://www.wrestlinghalloffame.org

I wish I could explain the depth of the memorabilia on the walls of these proud parents. They’re proud of their children and grand children. Lee Roy Sr., walks over to a wall and points to a picture taken at a family reunion a while ago.

I ask “Where’s Mark?” in reference to two-time NCAA wrestling champion Mark Perry … the Hawkeye.

“There he is … there’s his little brother Christopher and there’s Mark with the hat,” said the polite Del City resident.

Kyle has a greater understanding of the history of wrestling than I do. Kyle started attending NCAA championships about the time I discovered the sport. In fact, he went to his first NCAA’s in 1995 … three months after I witnessed my first wrestling match.

We’re looking forward to stopping by another Smith family member later on in the trip. When we leave Houston after the Division II’s, we’ll drive through Arkansas and visit Pat at the Arkansas Wrestling Academy. It’s something I’ve wanted to talk to Pat about since he arrived down there. I’ve also never been to Arkansas, so I can cross that off my list.

Things that stood out about the day were numerous. Everyone’s retired for the evening and I’m just sitting here thinking about all the great wrestlers and coaches who have sat in this very living room. Admittedly, Lee Roy is the one Smith brother I’ve had the most interaction with during my time in wrestling. As the Executive Director of the Hall, he’s been helpful and generous to me. He didn’t bat an eye to call up his parents to get Kyle and I a place for the night. His place was a bit busy, for which, the details escape me.

I’d love to go into details, but I’m personally in awe of what is surrounding me right now. One day, I’d love to be able to walk into Dan Gable’s house and look at his wall of fame … seeing one of the great icons of our sport, John Smith, in a family portrait looking like John Q. Family Man brings its own sense of satisfaction.

I come from a small family I love very much … but this is a huuuuuuge family and you can hear it in Lee Roy Sr.’s voice, he loves them all very much. Next to John Smith’s 1989 World Championship trophy is another sizable trophy — from one of the grandkids’ 10-year-old baseball league.

I’d like to be able to tell you about how many grandkids there are, but hearing Lee Roy Sr., look at pictures, point and tell me just a little something about each of them is more than enough. There’s a gleam in his eye behind his box-framed glasses. He’s got two grandsons heading to wrestle at Oklahoma State next year — one you know about, Chris Perry of Stillwater, the other is Zach White of Del City. He says “you’ll know about him soon.”

Before Kyle turns in for the night, he asked Lee Roy a question.

“Were you nervous before Pat wrestled his last finals match?”

Lee Roy’s reply was priceless.

“I get nervous before all of them, little league or Olympics.”

Just … wow.

Here’s our two stints yesterday …

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Written by Jason Bryant

March 10, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Posted in Blogging

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