The Bryant Blog: Life, Wrestling, Pop Culture

Find my wrestling podcasts at MatTalkOnline.com

Archive for April 2009

Wrestling 411: May 1 Randy Lewis Returns to the Mat

[blip.tv ?posts_id=2066964&dest=39050]

The last time Randy Lewis stepped on the mat in a competitive sense was in 1992. The old joke has been Lewboo has talked about getting on the mat for some time. Well, we get the straight dirt from Lewis on Wrestling 411 as the 1984 Olympic Champion tells all about his plans to wrestle at the Northern Plains Regional on May 16. Listen to what Lewis has to say about his “comeback,” and what he’s looking to get out of it, not to mention, the tricks he’s got up his sleeve for wrestlers not even born when he won his Olympic Gold in Los Angeles in 1984.

Written by Jason Bryant

April 30, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Wrestling 411: April 30 with Andrew Hipps

[blip.tv ?posts_id=2066597&dest=39050]

Andrew Hipps of RevWrestling.com/InterMat joined Wrestling 411 on Thursday morning to discuss a few topics in college wrestling, most notably the open position at Iowa State. Why? Well, Hipps wont tell people readily, but hes an ISU alum. Like any good sportswriter, you cant tell hes a Cyclone by his balanced and insightful coverage. Kyle Klingman and Jason Bryant talk to the Minnesota native as we head for the weekend. Whats on Hipps mind?

Written by Jason Bryant

April 30, 2009 at 12:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

How to have a calm debate about Title IX: Don’t get angry, state the facts.

Because I’ve been following and covering wrestling for quite a while, I started educating myself on Title IX back in high school. I’ve written countless position papers, commentaries, features and research stories regarding the law, specifically as it relates to college athletics.

We’ve lost eight (8) college wrestling programs this year: Wagner, Delaware State, Portland State, Carson-Newman, MIT, Lawrence and Rose-Hulman. Most, if not all, cited the economy and the budget as the reason for the cuts. Delaware State, the last HBCU (Historically Black College & University) to sponsor the sport, and I use the term “sponsor” very loosely. They’ve been through four coaches in five years, have showed little support for the program evidenced by no practice facility and transportation failing to show up to take the team to two competitions (imagine if Duke’s bus didn’t pick them up to play basketball against North Carolina), and have given coaches the run-around about how they “support” the program.

The cut at Delaware State, according to the Athletic Department, were based upon “ongoing concerns of financial viability, academic deficiencies and the lack of improvement with the Academic Progress Rate (APR) at the NCAA Division I level,” according to a university release.

Basically, the above excuses are all crap, considering the school only spent roughly 36K on the team, while spending over $5 million on football and men’s basketball, losing $3 million in the process.

Well, in a recent issue of the Delaware News Journal, longtime Delaware high school coach Dickie Howell pointed to Title IX, a common knee-jerk reaction to any such athletic cut in men’s non-revenue sports.

This is where the calm debate part comes in.

I read blogs of all types, but I read the blogs about Title IX, to keep a pulse on what’s being said and to stimulate debate. I don’t hate women’s groups, but I do tire of the falsehoods often given as an excuse when wrestling gets cut. Specifically, wrestling isn’t “popular” or is a “dying” sport.

Case in point: http://title-ix.blogspot.com/2009/04/delaware-state-cuts-wrestling.html

Quote: “But as many of us know, and as Donna Lopiano reiterated last week in her talk at Western New England College, wrestling’s demise isn’t because of Title IX. It just is not as popular of a sport any more.”

According to NFHS participation numbers, wrestling at the high school level is at its highest since 1980 … and has grown every year since 2003-04. Don’t believe me? Look for yourself.

So this is an obvious falsehood. It’s not popular among college administrators because it’s a large male roster with no female equivalent. Those sports are the first to go (typically) when there’s a gender quota (I mean “proportionality”) problem.

So here’s my response regarding the comment.

Read your blog about Coach Dickie Howell’s statements regarding Title IX.

I want to point out a flaw in what you’re saying about wrestling not being as popular anymore. It’s the sixth-most popular boys sport in the country on the high school level, and according to NFHS participation statistics, high school wrestling participation on both BOYS and GIRLS numbers have increased since 2003-04. At the Division I level, the NCAA Wrestling Championships set an attendance record in 2009 and your school, Iowa, set the record for most fans to witness a dual meet with nearly 16,000 in attendance back in December against rival Iowa State.

Here’s a thought to consider for a school like Delaware State, the LAST HBCU to sponsor wrestling (while minority participation is also increasing). Delaware State’s women’s tennis team is a head count sport, but here’s the odd thing … for all the advances Title IX has made for women and girls in this country, seven out of the eight women receiving full scholarships to play tennis at Delaware State are international students. Only ONE American benefits from the Title IX opportunity. The equestian team, which has no roots within the African-American community and is deemed more of a “blue blood” sport for women and girls, has 10 white participants of the 13 on the roster.

Do you find it a bit odd an HBCU adds a sport which doesn’t improve its own mission? What’s troubling, at least to me, is that HBCU’s are approaching 70 percent female enrollment. Constant cuts of men’s sports prevent men from even coming remotely close to balancing this out. Yes, I realize the law, I know prong one, two and three very well.

Donna Lopiano might reiterate that Title IX doesn’t make schools cut men’s programs, but when a budget crunch is cited, the men’s programs get the axe the majority of the time. Quinnipiac is dropping three sports, the ACLU-CT sues for Title IX discrimination for the removal of women’s volleyball, but no one bats an eye about the men’s golf and track programs.

Why does Title IX always get mentioned when men’s sports are cut because teams have to stay in line with proportionality? Doesn’t that basically say, “you can only cut men’s teams in a budget crunch?” I believe it does.

Don’t take this as attack, but just a common sense viewpoint from the other side of the fence. I read your blog frequently and I’ve debated with Erin on a few topics, all with a discussionary tone and with no malicious intent. I think it’s important for both sides of the issue to have healthy debates involving the facts rather than political rhetoric (from either side). Some people are too quick to blame Title IX and I know it’s not always the case.

Delaware State has a gross mismanagement of its athletic department, going through several AD’s, Associate AD’s … and four wrestling coaches in five years. At one point, Delaware State fired its black head coach, one of only three at the Division I level. His successor, another black head coach, quit because of constant broken promises and zero support.

Thanks for your time and here’s to a healthy discussion. I always make sure I see both sides of the situation and think rationally … but many times, Title IX proponents to say wrestling isn’t as popular, when in actuality, it’s very popular, but the interests of our high school wrestlers aren’t being met by colleges. The NAIA has added 30 wrestling programs (plus) in the past few years. Those small, enrollment driven institutions are providing opportunity. The NAIA has also added women’s wrestling programs.

You know there are more high school girls rowing than college women rowing … adding opportunites for the sake of numbers sets the wrong example. Cutting opportunities for men to get in line with proportionality is also wrong. Taking away from men doesn’t show growing opportunity for women.

Thanks and have a good week,
Regards,
JB

What I do appreciate in regards to the women who run the Title IX blog is their general acceptance of the debates. Sometimes I’ll fire off a note about a cut, citing an obvious Title IX hack job and get the same response I’ve read from D-Lo and groups like the Women’s Sports Foundation. Oh, and Myles Brand, too, since he doesn’t see any problem with how men’s programs are cut when gender equity becomes an issue. Blame the budget, not Title IX, he (paraphrasing) said.

The women who post on the blog are friendly in tone and always give a response, which I think is important when trying to get a healthy debate. They’re not going to agree with me and I’m not going to agree with them, but if there are things that can be said that educate both sides, then the debate does some good.

Oh, and I e-mail them because their blog doesn’t allow comments to posts (odd?). So might as well go straight to the source.

Fighting doesn’t seem to solve anything, but I don’t “attack” when I go with this subject, I don’t get personal, I keep it professional, friendly, and most of all, tactful. So hopefully this dialogue might stimulate some common sense when looking at cuts. I’ll never agree on the point that it’s always the budget for men’s cuts. I fail to see how proportionality (student-athlete M/F ratio matches that of the student body) creates opportunities for women when men’s programs get cut. If you want to see how close a percentage is into gender equity, it’s been addition by means of subtraction with Prong One of Title IX.

Oh, and in regards to Delaware State, I’ll be on HBCU Sports Talk Radio on Saturday at 11 a.m. I’ll be educating fans of HBCU’s about the problems involving the wrestling program in Dover.

Written by Jason Bryant

April 29, 2009 at 5:37 pm

Disc golf update … just some late night rambling

I’m heading to the Kentucky Derby this weekend. What does that have to do with playing disc golf? Nothing, but it’ll be my first derby and it’s serving as a bachelor party for my buddy George, who is getting married the following weekend in New Jersey. So the next two weekends, I’ll be out of town for non-wrestling related things, which for anyone who knows me, is quite weird.

But I was chatting on Facebook with a friend of mine who scored an ace today at a course near Blaine, and it got me to thinking about how many different courses I’ve played. It’s not a big list, but here’s my random, late night list of disc courses.

Virginia
Newport News Park – This is where I got my start playing when I was about 19. I started playing with friends Nick Pennow, Billy Sincoskie, Sean Buckley and Adam Simmons. That summer, I was working at a KFC and interning at a local radio station morning show. This was fresh off a summer bouncing at a bar called the Atlanta Beer Garten, which is now a bank. Go figure. Anyway, growing up and starting out on Newport News is good. It’s a good beginner course and has alternate tees (Reds and whites) and is really open and really wooded. It’s about 1.5 miles around, so it’s a good little sweaty walk if you’re a tad portly like I was (and still am). My best score here was six under from the whites. When I moved to PA, those courses killed me and then I’d come back and just rock Newport News. One Christmas, exactly a year after playing disc with Ben Askren (details below), I played a round with Nate Schy and Matt Storniolo. A few days later, I played a round with Storny and that bastard aced #12. Or as I call it, “Manuel.” My home course and I’ve never aced a hole there.

Dorey Park- I played 18 here on the way to Freestyle States in Virginia just before a thunderstorm hit. I was driving a 1981 El Camino at the time. I remember former Grundy and Virginia Tech wrestler Canaan Prater laughing at it that same day. This was a bit of a “dirty” course, I was used to tee pads at Newport News. I think I shot one or two under here, making me believe it wasn’t very tough. Oh, this is in Richmond, but the PDGA course directory incorrectly lists it in Roanoke.

Golden Hills- This one beat the everloving piss out of me. Mainly because it’s in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Christiansburg, Va. I played a round here with my buddy and former teammate Mike Akers. He was a four-time state champion and former wrestler at Virginia Tech. This was during my very unhealthy days. Trying to navigate some nasty elevation, rocks and oh yeah, we’re on a MOUNTAIN, was tough when you’re smoking a pack and a half a day. This was brutal. Hammer throws/meat tosses all around. I wasn’t used to this. I’ll never play this one again.

Munden Point- This was one of the more interesting disc golf experiences, because it was about a year after the forum craze which was “Herbert DEC Askren 5-4” by my buddy Nate. He went by a certain username on themat.com and was boldy predicting the outcome of the 174-pound final. Well, Ben Askren of Missouri won that match big. So because Nate and I are from the same general area, we drove from PA down to Virginia for the holidays. Caravan style. Oh, we almost died in the process as a car wiped out in front of us on the D.C. Beltway. Anyway, Ben is in Virginia Beach with the family vacationing before going to the Southern Scuffle. We got up to play a round while we were both in the same area. Ben’s pretty damned good. Probably the second best player I’ve thrown with, my boy Chris Kirk in PA takes the title of best disc golfer I’ve ever played a round with. Anyway, me and Nate show up and Chuck, Ben’s dad, fires a zinger of a quip right at Nate. Quite comical. I won’t divulge it, because there are some stories that are just better told than spit out on the internet. Ben had the disc golf directory and we set a course for Munden Point out in Pungo in Virginia Beach. It was a ways. I lost two discs this day and lodged a disc into a fence. Nice course, a little wet from the rain (or melted snow?). It was late December and 65 degrees this day. This was a nice, flat course, but hard to get out to play when I go home.

Pennsylvania
Buchmiller Park– I played this course more than any during my three years in Lancaster. Nate, who I mentioned above, went to Franklin & Marshall and had like three beat up discs the first time we played a round. He whipped my ass. I was so pissed. Cussing at my bag, the throw, basically throwing a hissy fit because of all the disc I’d played, I really knew I was “better” than that performance. Well, Buchmiller chewed me up and spit me out continually. I never beat Nate at this course, we tied once, and I bogeyed the 18th hole, blowing my chance at finally beating him. Played with Chris Kirk and Nate quite frequently here. Although Kirky would have to play early so he could watch the Phillies when they came on. Damn, I hate the Phils, but Harry Kalas was the best. My best shot here was oddly on the same hole with my WORST disc golf shot ever. Well, one day, I was working on my flick. This is a hole which is right by a road. Across the street is a ball golf course. Well, the throw went awry and the disc ended up to the far left, across the street, through the woods and on to the golf course. This wasn’t a good toss. The best throw was when I botched a tee shot on the same hole, hit a tree and dropped about 75 feet from the tee box, leaving me around 250 feet away. I can’t really “throw” straight, so I have this one shot in my arsenal which is extremely effective — sometimes. I call it a high hyzer. Probably the wrong terminology, but I went with a high arcing shot around a Northwood Spruce (inside joe for Nate) and dropped it right into the chains. Best-shot-ever.

Roland Park- This one’s up near Ephrata in Akron and my favorite course in Pennsylvania that is actually “a course” (more on that in a sec). Heart-shaped Lake, Great White and lost discs. A great course, but no real memorable shots. It was just a fun course to play, very open and wooded at the same time.

Pinchot Park- Only played this once, and we were surrounded by bikers. Nice course, hard to find tees on the front nine, but a real good course. Only time I played this one was with Kirky and Nate.

French Creek Park- This one’s in Hanover, Pa., just past York. This one was rough. Nate and I got out there to play with two buddies from the bar, Dave and Jason. We ended up playing 27 holes that day on a steaming hot day. It was rough because I was completely obliterated from the night before. One thing about Lancaster was a dive called Brendee’s. Lager, PBR, Jager … that’s all I’ve gotta say. I don’t even know what I did the night before, but I was death on the ride out. Sucking down Turkey Hill Orange Tea and Gatorade. I seriously felt like I was going to puke. Dave K put himself at near the top of the list on disc. In fact, he might actually be better than Kirky. He was in the process of moving back to PA from Rhode Island. I’d love to get another round of disc in when I go back to PA. I loved this course, but it was TOUGH. I think I stopped keeping score because I was so far over. Later that day, Nate and I played Buchmiller for 45 holes in one day.

Maryland
Druid Hill Park- Nate and I shipped down to Baltimore to catch an Angels-Orioles game at Camden Yards. We went early and tried to follow the directions to the course. This … led us through some ghetto, so the doors locked and we didn’t dare ask for directions. We found the course and had a great round. I was doing really well, about even par, until 18, where I shanked the hell out of my toss. My best shot was a second shot. I shanked one into the trees and had to shoot from my knee. I whipped the disc through, it skipped under the trees and right within tap range of the chains. Great shot. Went to the game, Nate got kicked out, met some Angels fans who knew about InterMat. Stayed at Nate’s girlfriend’s sister’s place. She was a grad student at Johns Hopkins. ROFO and Roof Jammy!

… so now I head west. Wait a minute, I’m going from Maryland, PA and Virginia to ….

North Dakota!
Oak Grove Park – When I was in Fargo for Junior Nationals in 2002, I brought my discs with me. Why? Because I drove from Virginia to Fargo in a 1989 Ford Bronco II with over 200,000 miles on it … and no A/C. Oddly enough, this would be the first time I stepped foot into Joe Busch’s house on Chatham Avenue in Arden Hills, Minnesota. This is where I now live. I spent some time in Wabasha and Rochester. I met my buddy Charlie’s three-legged dog Kelly at Aunt Sharon’s house. Charlie wrestled at ODU and was from Rochester, which in a weird way, is some of the connection I had to moving out to Minnesota. I knew “some” people. Well, after fishing and going to Slippery’s with our other ODU buddy, Timmy, I drove to Fargo. One of the half days of the event, I found a course, which was in the midst of drying after a flood. The grass was gone and the baskets broken and the ground looked like a tried riverbed … or the toxic waste scene from Fletch Lives. I played half a round because I lost where the rest of the baskets were.

Iowa
Sertoma Park– This one was in Sioux City. I was in town covering the 2006 World Team Trials. This was the first round played with Askren. Also joining the fray were Raymond Jordan and Mark Ellis. So in hindsight, I played a round with two NCAA champs. This was a nine-hole course on top of a massive hill and some big ass water tower type thing. I joked that it was the highest point in Iowa on a video which never made it to InterMat. I still joke Ellis about his bad game, same with Raymond. Mark got the last laugh, he won an NCAA wrestling title, I’m writing a long ass blog at 1:30 a.m. Awful round. Ben had a trunk full of discs. This is where I discovered he was somewhat obsessive about disc.

Minnesota
Silverview Park- I went into Fairway Flyers on Rice Street after dropping off a cable box with Comcast one day. This was also the scene of a funny scenario where a woman demanded her cable bill be 83 cents LOWER than it was. She kept saying “Charlie charged me this for years.” The representative kept telling the woman she underpaid, which kept with the compounding balance. “Well, Charlie did this.” Joe and I are cracking up, as are the other three people in the place. Anyway, I remembered seeing a disc golf store on the way there. So when I took the box back a few weeks ago, I stopped into Fairway Flyers to pick up some new plastic. I hadn’t played since I moved to Minnesota and I was going stir crazy to throw. I chatted with one of the guys in the shop who hooked me up with a Metro Twin Cities directory of courses. Apparently, there’s like 100 courses within 100 miles of the Twin Cities. Damn, that’s awesome. Anyway, I go up to Silverview Park in Mounds View, about 10 minutes up the road. It’s a short, nine-hole course and I completely sucked. Ended up playing with a crew of people and had a modest round after not throwing for over half a year.

Anyway, I’ll be adding a ton of new courses, but thanks to a random facebook message, I’ve written this long diatribe. Thanks for Diet Dew!

I’m sure I left some details out … but what the hell, I’ll tag this up on Facebook and see what other people can remember. I love playing disc, but I’d only consider myself average.

Written by Jason Bryant

April 29, 2009 at 1:28 am

Long-time assistant Jim Heffernan takes the reigns at Illinois

Posting my story from Wrestling411 over here.

By Jason Bryant
Wrestling 411

No longer will the University of Illinois have an imposing face standing behind Mark Johnson on the Fighting Illini bench.

The imposing face and stature of Jim Heffernan will be at the forefront of the new coaching era in Champaign as Heffernan was announced as the new head wrestling coach in a Tuesday press conference.

“I am pleased to announce Jim Heffernan as our head wrestling coach,” Guenther said in a release issued by the Illinois sports information office. “Jim has been an assistant in our program for the past 17 years and was an integral part of the program’s success. He has displayed exceptional loyalty and has a great understanding of the University of Illinois. Jim had an exceptional career as a collegiate wrestler and is well respected in the wrestling community. I look forward to working with him to advance our program to the next level.”

Guenther opened the press conference remarking about the third new head coach the Fighthing Illini Athletic Department has had to hire this year.

“I hope it’s the last one,” Guenther joked.

Kevin Hamby and Justin Spring were hired this year as well. Hamby heads up the women’s volleyball program, while Spring took over men’s gymnastics.

Heffernan, an assistant coach for Johnson at Illinois for 17 seasons, served under Johnson for 19 years in all, spending two seasons as Johnson’s assistant at Oregon State.

“It’s been a long month. One month ago, I had a full head of hair and looked a lot different than i did now,” chortled Heffernan.

Johnson led the Fighting Illini to a 203-44-3 record during his tenure.

This is Heffernan’s first head coaching position.

It’s one of those things. It’s always a goal,” said Heffernan of becoming a head coach. “You want to be a leader of a program.”

“I love being at Illinois, I wasn’t in any hurry,” he said. “Often times, what happens, you get started and you get caught up in your own success and you wake up 17 years later. For me, I have a great job. I have great kids, a great situation and an administration that supports us.

“I can positively speak about Illinois. I can talk about all the things we’ve done in the past 17 years, that gets me excited about being here,” he said.

Heffernan stated before being asked that Carl Perry, the 2000 NCAA Champion at 141 pounds, will remain on staff at Illinois. Perry also applied for the job and was a two-time All-American under Johnson.

The rest of the staff is yet to be determined.

“The second assistant position will be open,” said Heffernan. “Jeremy (Hunter) will apply and we’ll see how it goes.”

Mike Poeta’s status on the coaching staff was brought up, but Heffernan said he wasn’t sure what his role would or could be, but he plans on staying in Champaign to train for World and Olympic teams.

Heffernan will look to continue building upon the foundation Johnson brought to Champaign.

“I think we’ve done a lot of good things over the past 17 years,” said Heffernan. “There’s a few things Carl and I will talk about in the next couple of days. They might not be major things, but Mark and I have a very similar philosophy. I might view things differently, but we’ll talk about changes that need to be made.”

Heffernan will lean on Johnson for advice, as expected.

“I’m a smart guy, but I don’t have all the answers,” said Heffernan. “For 17 years, this was his baby. I’m sure he’d like to see it continue.”

The Illini return starters B.J. Futrell (125), Jimmy Kennedy (133), Ryan Prater (141), Eric Terrazas (149), John Dergo (174), Jordan Blanton (184) and Patrick Bond (197).

Kennedy is the lone All-American returning from a team which finished eighth in 2009 and graduates All-Americans Poeta (157) and John Wise (285).

Heffernan becomes the 14th coach in program history. A four-time All-American at Iowa and 1986 NCAA Champion, Heffernan is now the 16th former Hawkeye to be a head coach at a four-year college program. Thirteen of those 16 are in Division I.

Written by Jason Bryant

April 28, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Wrestling 411: April 28

[blip.tv ?posts_id=2057663&dest=39050]

After a college wrestling career at Princeton and a successful jump into the financial world, Mike Novogratz got back into wrestling and started giving back. Novogratz, the Chairman of Beat the Streets in New York City, along with his group will host a gala on Thursday in NYC to celebrate the program and fundraise.

Novogratz, the Freestyle team leader for this Olympic Cycle, joined Wrestling 411 on Tuesday morning to talk about the program and the upcoming gala on April 30.

Written by Jason Bryant

April 28, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Wrestling 411: April 21

Two New Jersey natives from different colleges and a passionate radio broadcaster chimed in with their thoughts about Fridays hiring and Mondays press conference announcing Cael Sanderson as the new head coach at Penn State University.

David Zabriskie talked on his feelings from Iowa State, Dan Vallimont discussed his from the Penn State front and longtime voice of PSU Nittany Lion Jeff Byers gave a view from outside the practice room on the goings on in State College.

Written by Jason Bryant

April 22, 2009 at 4:45 pm