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Archive for July 2009

Hey Sporting News, look outside the box with your crappy lists

During my daily troll of the wrestling message boards, I came across a thread on themat.com referring to this list put out by The Sporting News about the Top 50 coaches of all-time.

The poster’s comment was, as expected, negative because the list didn’t contain Dan Gable, the long-time Iowa coach and 1972 Olympic Champion who led the Hawkeyes to 15 NCAA titles, including nine of them in a row. This was also in an era where there was more competition, more programs, Division II and III champions competing. He did it at a time where it was tougher, at least, if you’re looking at total competition. There are schools increasing their budgets to help wrestling, but you can’t pull the “beat everyone because there was no one” card with Gable.

The list was trendy. As a broad-based sports fan, there isn’t a single name I didn’t recognize. The “Hall of Famers” were from the major sports. I think Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma (Tennessee & Connecticut women’s basketball) would have gone unnoticed had they not been likely listed on the nomination form.

Anyway, I also saw another omission — Beth Anders, the long-time field hockey coach at Old Dominion University, my alma mater. So here’s my reply on The Sporting News’ website about Gable and Anders.

Here’s my reply on The Sports News site.

“The comments above on Dan Gable are accurate. You can’t mention college wrestling without mentioning Iowa, which means you can’t not mention Dan Gable. He set the bar in this sport and his omission caters to the trendy mainstream crowd.

Then there’s Beth Anders, the “Wooden” or “Gable” of women’s college field hockey. From ’81-’00, Old Dominion’s field hockey team won NINE NCAA Championships and finished second three times.

How’s this for a winning percentage: 492-92-7 … In 29 seasons, ODU Field Hockey has made the NCAA Tournament 28 times, with last year being the first time in school history the school didn’t make it.

I’d equate Beth Anders dominance to Pat Summitt’s in terms of competition and becoming the dominant force in the sport.

Without Dan Gable or Beth Anders even considered, this list just continues to be part of the “Hey, it’s a trendy list.”

When polled, did these Hall of Famers know anything outside “popular” names?

Every single name on this list is recognizable. Shows lack of research.

You list Hank Iba at Oklahoma State, but what about E.C. Gallagher … you know Gallagher-Iba Arena? E.C. Gallagher led Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) to 11 National Championships in 13 years, ranging from 1928 – 40.

You guys need to let your “experts” and Hall of Famers know there are more Hall of Fames than what SportsCenter and The Sporting News tell you about. I used to subscribe to this publication, a long, long time ago.

Glad to see the reasons I stopped subscribing still exist … lack of any such broad-based sports coverage.

We talk about being mainstream, then the “mainstream” media compiles a list ignoring two of the most important college coaches outside of roundball and pigskin. If it weren’t for ESPN, who the hell would know who Pat Summitt and Geno are?

I even went further, comparing E.C. Gallagher to Hank Iba. Gallagher won 11 national championships in 13 years at Oklahoma A&M/State. Iba won two in 36 seasons. Iba’s not even the best coach in Oklahoma A&M/State’s athletic history. I know he was a well-respected coach, but in this case, numbers don’t lie.

Same with Anders, who might be the second-most instense current head coach in college, behind current Iowa head coach Tom Brands. Basically, if Tom Brands were a field hockey coach, he’d be Beth Anders.

Written by Jason Bryant

July 30, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Marathon Log: July 29

Back at it with a crappy video.

Written by Jason Bryant

July 29, 2009 at 9:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

Time to detox: Recapping Fargo

I wasn’t kidding when I said the words “detox” in the headline. Fargo can really take it to you.

When I say Fargo, everyone in wrestling knows which event I’m talking about — the USA Wrestling Cadet & Junior Nationals. I have a lot of history at this event. Here’s a quick history lesson.

It was 1999, I had left the newspaper temporarily after my second year in college. I was working with a buddy for the summer at a (get this) KFC on Rte. 17 in Grafton. I had spent time earlier in the summer interning with FM99’s Tommy & Rumble morning show. Let’s just say, for a talkative 19-year-old, this didn’t go well. My internship didn’t last very long with the hilarious morning show guys. I think I was just too eager to make an impression and never shut up during station breaks. I was talking too much about my wrestling web site, wrestling, and wrestling people in general.

I remember during one break, I’d said something, and Chuck “The Intern” as he was dubbed (he was a full-time employee) screamed “Just shut the f*** up! Shut up!” I pretty much knew my tenure was done.

Anyway, I’d previously started building a web presence in Virginia with Mat Talk On-Line. I covered the AAU Junior Olympics in Chesapeake the summer prior and met a Virginia coach named Mike Newbern. Well, in doing stuff for that event and then spanning into Virginia’s USA Wrestling chapter, I was sitting in the house my mom was renting on Wythe Creek Road when I got a call from Newbern in July of 1999.

“Twink, Gary Alcon can’t make it to Fargo, we’ve got an extra ticket, do you want to go?”

That moment was another life-changing experience. Remind you, this was pre-9/11 and there weren’t too many restrictions on showing up. I was “Gary Alcon” on my flight to Fargo and I was set to cover the Junior Nationals for MTO in 1999. One of the wrestlers competing that season was Ben Summerlin, a graduated senior from Brookville High School in Lynchburg. He was set to wrestle at Division II Longwood College in Farmville, a program which as since been dropped. When Longwood was cut (for B.S. reasons and a sketchy A.D.), Ben transferred to ODU and was my roommate for two years.

Well, those were the dial-up days. I was using one of those free AOL accounts — you know, the CD’s they’d send in the mail or just give away — and let’s just say MTO wasn’t a big production back then. This was where I first met Gary Abbott, Tom Owens and a few other wrestling media. I also met the crew from NCMat.com — so a shout out to Sara Koenig, who at the time, wondered who this kid was borrowing their phone line.

So that started the roll. From there on out, Team Virginia brought me along as the “Publicity Director,” in which I’d post up-to-date scores from the Virginia kids as they came in. There was no trackwrestling.com then, so it was piles and piles of hand-written vertical brackets to pilfer through. That first year, I also met Van Plocus, the PA state chairman. He worked a deal with me to send the PA stuff back to Bruce Closson at WrestlingReport.com. In return, I was given a PA wrestling jacket (which I still have … and have about five of them actually).

I became a fixture in Fargo. I freelanced for Themat.com, InterMat, sent news and notes back to the newspaper in Virginia, updated my web site and, like any college kid would do, experienced the Fargo nightlife.

Those who have never been don’t really understand what Fargo is. There has been much discussion about moving the tournament, splitting the tournament up, sending the Cadets to wrestle with the schoolboys and such, but personally, as much as people bitch and complain about the location and all the problems with getting there — Fargo is a great place for 8-9 days in July. You’re around friends. I’ve met friends for life at the tournament.

It’s actually the top tournament on my list of events I’ve attended consecutively. The longest streak was 13 — a streak which ended with me covering the National Duals in 2008. I’ve now gone to Fargo for 11 tournaments. Summerlin, the previously mentioned then-high school senior, has been going since he was a Cadet and shifted on to the Greco coaching staff. He hasn’t missed a year since he was a competitor.

Some of you might remember some of the stories I’d written in the past about Fargo, the volunteers, the special moments and features there. I remember the kid with cerebral palsy wrestling for team New Mexico. J.C. McMaster wrestled Junior 114.5 (prior to weight classes being put more in line with NFHS standards). He was a kid of great spirit and positivity. I remember asking him, “Hey, what’s your e-mail, so I can send you a copy.”

mug

New mug ... old mug.

His response was priceless … “It’s Pimp Limpin’ at …” or something like that. That same year, I featured Mary Kelly, the Dibbern triplets, Travis Lee’s first national championship for Hawaii and Jeff Courtney, a deaf wrestler from West Virginia. That was in 2001.

I learned how to play blackjack in Fargo. I bought a “Turf” mug that first year (if you do the math, you can figure out why this is amusing) … I’ve been bringing that mug back to Fargo for the next 10 tournaments. For years, it sat on press row, with water in it during the day, and beer in it during the night. Back in November, I went to the Bison Open, and got a new one. This one was simply for water on press row, while my old mug, which only gets used in Fargo, had been washed down so the “F” was about gone, and all it says now is “Turl.”

turf

The Bison Turf ... a lovely dive.

I’m not much of a name-dropper, but I’ve had some interesting times at The Turf with some of our sports best. My rule about being “off the record” when I have any semblance of a drink still stands, so those stories aren’t going to be aired here. But I’ll say I’ve beaten an Olympic Champion in foosball, played Silverstrike bowling with another, and totally beat down a three-time NCAA champion in darts.

It’s a fine line to balance work and play in wrestling, because wrestlers work hard and play hard.

This year was grueling. I’ve driven to Fargo four time — twice from Virginia, once from Pennsylvania, and the easiest of them all, a 3-1/2 hour drive from my hut in the Twin Cities. I came home, dead tired, but couldn’t go to sleep. I finally crashed around 1 a.m. … and woke up 13 hours later. Yesterday, I crashed late and found myself watching “Teen Wolf” at like 3 a.m. … well, flipping back and forth between that and “Bill Cosby — Himself,” which is quite possibly the funniest stand-up comic routine of all time. Say it with me … “DAD IS GREAT, GIVE US THE CHOCOLATE CAKE!”

I stayed pretty close to the dorm at Pavek Hall, where I was holed up with the officials. I talked to my roommate, and official from Idaho, for probably three minutes total the entire week. I was welcomed into Team Fuggum and I will also never eat Mango Habanero wings again from Buffalo Wild Wings.

I lost my voice, ran errands, drove myself crazy and insane with the broadcast issues, had one of my computers stolen and finished the week just drained.

With the brutality of 14-hour days and even longer nights (so it would seem), you wonder why anyone would subject themselves to this type of work.

I love wrestling. I love this tournament and I love being able to reconnect with friends from around the country for a week at a time. The NCAA’s are great for that, but because Fargo is so low-key, it’s easier to find friends rather than calling 10 different cell numbers and have your friends scattered around a big metro like St. Louis. Fargo leaves you just a few spots to see everyone — The Turf, B-Dubs, Bucks, Chubs and Labby’s (which used to be Reeb’s — which is Beer, spelled backwards).

There are so many great stories to tell … and Ryan Broughman, a former All-American for Team Virginia and coach on staff this year, used expired film to take some crazy exposure shots, like my current Facebook picture (those who have me on there, you can check it out).

All in all, a good, but draining week. I could probably write a novel on what went on, wrestling-wise and non-wrestling-wise, but maybe when all those fuzzy memories are fuzzier, the stories might sound better then.

I’m all for keeping this event in Fargo. If you haven’t experienced it, it’s easy to knock it. If you total up the days I’ve been there, it’s around 100. One hundred days of my life have been spend in and around Fargo.

And to quote Summerlin, “No always gas, not always brake, but always CLUTCH.”

I could write a book on what that means, too.

Written by Jason Bryant

July 28, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Pot, meet kettle. College Sports Council releases study, quota advocates quick to insert foot in mouth

Read this interesting story from The Associated Press on a report on Title IX and scholarships offered by the College Sports Council.

Of course, it brings a study to to normal people. The CSC has been trying to tell people there’s some disparity between the cuts in opportunities for men and women, but the revenge groups like the Women’s Sports Foundation and National Women’s Law Center (this is what they’ve become) again FAIL to look at common sense and spit out the same rhetoric time and time again.

Like this.

“Typically what (the CSC) tries to do is be selective in the facts and how they interpret them, and it’s embarrassing,” said Lopiano, the president of Sports Management Resources. “Equality doesn’t mean the same sports for men and women. The CSC just chooses to disregard what the law is.”

I spit out my Cheerios … POT, meet KETTLE. The WSF (where Lopiano was formerly the CEO) and NWLC have disregarded the intent of the law and perverted it to what it is today. I’m going to have my kids hit the books to get academic scholarship, because my daughter’s going to have more of a chance to play sports than my son will in college.

Not everyone will be a 6-foot, 200-pound meathead set on playing football. Which upon further review could be considered “too small” to play football.

The spectrum of sports for women is amazing. They can do pretty much what they want, where they want. Meanwhile, the athletes who are under 160 pounds (like wrestling, where half of the weights are below 160) are left to wither and die.

Lopiano misses the intent of the study … to show that in EQUITABLE sports, there is a huge disparity. Ignoring that is comical. Good day, Kettle, nice to see you back on your perch.

Written by Jason Bryant

July 15, 2009 at 10:14 pm

More from the land of dropped programs: Division II

I spent Tuesday night milling over the things I was looking at on WrestlingStats.com and trying to look at some new angles in what’s been happening to our wrestling programs.

Time was taken off to hang out with a buddy of mine from Virginia, who is living in nearby White Bear Lake for a bit. I actually covered him in high school as a wrestler. NERD ALERT: We, along with thousands and thousands (and millions nationwide) was the premiere of the new Harry Potter movie. (No spoilers. No, I haven’t read the books, and yes, I like the movies).

Yeah, uh … midnight movie showing on 10 of the 20 screens and a parking lot which stood idle for about half an hour after the movie let out. I didn’t get home until 3:30 in the morning.

Then I went back to looking at some things, schools to be exact.

The opening paragraph of Graham Watson’s story for ESPN.com says the following:

When the NCAA’s annual Sports Participation Report is released in the fall, the association expects to report that more than 100 teams were dropped in the past year, bringing the two-year total of dropped teams since the economic crisis began in the winter of 2007 to more than 227 teams.

Wow. A hundred teams were dropped — including eight wrestling programs (although Norwich looks to be spared and Carson-Newman is also building funds to save its Division II program). I’m really interested to see how many of those 227 were men’s programs — and how many more were Olympic and non-revenue sports.

Now, let’s get back to wrestling for a second. Assuming the worst for the purpose of this breakdown, here are some things to consider with programs who have had success on the mat — to me, this means putting wrestlers on the podium.

Historically, the NCAA championships did not start placing Top 8 until 1979 (30 seasons ago), so the numbers from the 1970’s and before reflect Top 6 (or less going further back).

In the 1980’s, 67 different colleges had Division II All-Americans. As of 2009, 42 of those programs are gone.

In the 1990’s, 53 different colleges had Division II All-Americans. Of the ones that remained from the 1980’s, 18  are gone.

NOTE: The two breakdowns above to not reflect exactly WHEN the programs were cut by decade, but rather the fact they had an All-American in that decade and no longer have a team.

So if you were an All-American in the 1980’s in Division II, there’s a 62.6 percent chance your alma mater’s wrestling program does NOT exist.

One thing that might be flawing any statistical data (because this is an observational report, not scientific), was the addition of schools to Division II from existing colleges from the NAIA. Teams who moved up to Division I (NDSU, SDSU, Northern Colorado, Buffalo, Binghamton, UC Davis, etc.) aren’t counted as “lost” programs. Neither are teams who moved down to Division III (Springfield — Jeff Blatnick’s alma mater).

Notable Division II programs who moved over from the NAIA, bolstering the number of Division II programs are schools like Findlay, Central Oklahoma, Western State, Chadron State, Colorado School of Mines, West Liberty, etc.

Since 2000, the tide of cuts in Division II on the wrestling side have waned, but Carson-Newman (still fighting), Longwood and Central Washington lost programs in the last decade. Again, these are schools with All-Americans, not schools which cut the sport overall.

The reason I looked at Division II, is because the power structure doesn’t center around big time BCS football and the schools are typically (but not always) smaller state schools where taxpayers fit a lot of the bill. They have limited scholarships, but are scholarship nevertheless.

If you’re a wrestler, the NCAA mantra of “I chose Division II,” didn’t seem to make sense back in the 80’s and 90’s. It could have been “I chose Division II, but Prong One zapped me.”

Another point lost in all this Title IX debate isn’t just the fact men aren’t attending college as much as women are, but the correlation between the loss in men’s enrollment and the decrease in athletic programs for men.

With 99 colleges having Division II All-Americans since 1980 and 46 of those teams are gone, where is the enticement for many men to attend college? We’re losing the next generation of coaches, teachers and mentors who come from wrestling.

I’d love to see what the swimming, track, baseball and gymnastics communities have seen as a result. How many winning programs were cut in those sports? If we’re cutting programs for men, we’re losing men who go to college, further skewing the proportionality prong of Title IX. You can’t count what isn’t there.

You can’t ignore Title IX, you have to educate yourself on it. Ignorance on a topic is no reason to avoid discussing and confronting it. If you can’t see there’s a correlation between the diminished programs and dwindling male enrollment, open your eyes.

Written by Jason Bryant

July 15, 2009 at 12:59 pm