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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

Tagged with

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

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