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How you justify an impulsive 2,752-mile drive? Here’s how …

I’ve repeated this story probably 100 times since Thursday … but now I can finish it out with the setting and closure it deserves.

Tuesday night, Kyle Klingman and I were in the office discussing our show with Dan Dennis and Tom Borrelli. While I was browsing my e-mail and was sent a story from Dave Fairbank, a former comrade at the Daily Press. It was an advance on the upcoming Virginia Tech-Old Dominion dual set for Thursday night. I’d been trying to figure out a way to get to the match for about a month, but airfare had been outrageous.

I show Kyle the story and without a beat, he says, “Dude, you should go.” Kyle was heading to Colorado and was going to catch two duals to and fro (yes, I said fro) and we quickly devised a plan to get Thursday’s show done on the road while we went in different directions. After clearing it with our beloved Marketing Director Janie Lenz, I packed up and was set to DRIVE to Virginia.

I’ve traversed the country seven times, this would make eight and nine. I shipped out of my digs in Arden Hills at approximately 9 a.m. on Wednesday. This was really not planned at all. Because as I thought about the weekend, I said “Hey, the AAA states are Friday at Oscar Smith … then I can drive out to Salem and see the Double A’s.”

This is the first time since 1996 both state tournaments fell on the same weekend. AAA is at Oscar Smith H.S. in Chesapeake, while the AA and A tournaments are in Southwest Virginia … yes, two different sites, three tournaments and for years, they were two different weekends.

I went to Poquoson High School, a AA school, and Salem was a place I loved going to cover wrestling. Smith is always a problem for various reasons. I announced the AAA’s in Northern Virginia when they were up at Robinson in the Fairfax area, but that was when I lived in Pennsylvania.

So I’ve told you that story to tell you these bits.

Dinner in Indianapolis
While I was working at the Daily Press, I had many a fine writer to work with. I had many a fine copy editor to work with as well. I spoke of the late Warner Hessler, and he was really a mentor, but as I got older, I wasn’t just “a kid” working on the sports desk. I got to know people pretty well and became friends with my co-workers. Joe Reedy came to the Daily Press when I was still in college and our mutual sarcasm and discontent for all things stupid were an immediate plus. Joe once told a story about writing a story on Edinboro wrestling for the Meadville (Pa.) paper and asked for wrestling coach “Bruce Boxleitner” … some may know he’s an actor. Of course he meant Baumgartner. Joe went from the Daily Press to a paper in Fort Lauderdale and now covers the Cincinnati Bengals for the Cincy Enquirer.

I called up Joe on my way down south, thinking Cincy would be a possible stopping point as I was looking for a place to crash for the night. Joe was on the road, heading west to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine. I was heading south down I-65 from Chicago. Timing was perfect. He was staying with Ryan O’Halloran, a former co-worker with us at the Daily Press. Ryan now covers the Washington Redskins for the Washington Times. Joe had an on-air spot with AM 700 WLW out of Cincy around 8 p.m. I tuned in on XM radio … 10 minutes later, I was knocking on the door. I was meeting the guys for a random meal as I was heading to Virginia.

I couldn’t get over how random this meeting was. Ryan’s from Fargo, and we’ve talked about this constantly. It just so happened that I was wearing my Bison Turf hoodie … we know from my travel blogs, The Turf, holds a special place in my world.

We talked about the newspaper industry, how we’ve moved from place to place and now, I cover wrestling and they cover the NFL. We all worked at the same place once upon a time. Both guys are first class and it was great to catch up on old times and what’s new.

We said our farewells and I got back in my new 2008 Chevy Trailblazer and headed East … I didn’t know when I was going to stop, because I still had Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia to drive through.

Parts of the trip had my Garmin send me through some banjo-playing parts of Southern Ohio. There were parts of the trip where I was thinking, “This is how those horror movies start,” and sure enough, there were countless cliches dotted along the highway.

On one stretch of road, the only vehicles I saw were a beat up tow truck and a local sherrif, probably in cahoots with one another in stashing bodies or something. As I made my way along the Ohio River, I was texing ODU assistant Matt Storniolo with my progress. There were some things exchanged about my surroundings that I’m not going to repeat here, but let’s just say there were some “Deliverance” references going along.

I got on I-64 heading east, which would be my last “turn off” because 64 runs all the way back to Hampton Roads. Around 6 a.m., I’d had enough, I crossed into Alleghany (yes, that’s how it’s spelled in VA) County and pulled into the rest area/welcome center. I caught a two-hour power nap and resumed by trip around 8 a.m.

I’ve made countless drives down I-81 and I-64 in my life. It was simple. I knew where I was going and at that time, turned off the GPS. I got to Poquoson, said hello to my dad and sat down, opened up the computer and called Kyle. We had Bruce Burnett lined up. Kyle was stopping in Kearney, Neb., to do the three-way interview. We previewed Army-Navy with Burnett. Great interview, great guy. He kinda looks like Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

My nephew came by, showing off his jacked up new truck. I was content with my modest Trailblazer. Spent about an hour or two in Poquoson and stopped into 7-11 to get a water. I’m on the phone with Frank Lipoli as I’m in the store and someone yells at me, “Twinkie, what do you know about wrestling?”

It was Wesley Backus, a former Poquoson wrestler. His dad was the first four-time state champion in Poquoson history. Mike Akers was the second. He asked what I was doing in town and where I was living. “Minnesota, drove back to announce the match tonight.”

He said he was going. This was a good sign.

I got over to Old Dominion and as I walked into the wrestling room, Virginia Tech was just getting there as well. At this time, I was delirious. I showed assistant coach Mike Dixon the “nicknames” show from Wrestling411 before sitting down and passing out for 20 minutes. I hit up a shower, changed and headed over to “The Ted.”

“The Ted” is the nickname for the Ted Constant Convocation Center, an awesome 9,000 seat arena. ODU just started wrestling in the facility two years ago, tonight would be the first top-20 matchup in the building’s history for a wrestling dual. Tech fans came out to support their Hokies, students were there with a spirit competition and I was looking dapper and re-training the pipes to announce the dual.

I talk to the ODU managers, one of which, Samantha Freeman, went to Poquoson. It was strange, because I knew her cousins, but she didn’t know my sister or my nephew, both were in school with her at the same time. Odd. She said she was going to Salem for AA’s. So there was some sense of “I know where you’re coming from” being associated with both Poquoson and ODU. She’s also Wesley Backus’ cousin.

Paul White was covering the match for The Virginian-Pilot, the newspaper covering what’s referred to as “The Southside” … the Daily Press covers the “Peninsula.” Paul was shocked to see me. I re-told the random story. The match was big, not just locally, but for two Virginia colleges to be squaring off, the night before the AAA state tournament, was notable, not just back home, but nationally as well. I felt I needed to be there.

Paul asked me why I was there, and even quoted me in the next day’s story.

The dual was outstanding. Close matches, big throws, heart-stopping moments (for fans of both teams) and ultimately ODU pulled out the 19-15 win. I had to take off the announcer cap and put on the “reporter” cap, which believe me, is tough. I wrote a story and met my mom and sister out at University Pizza for the post-match social. I was glad to get to see them, because if I hadn’t seen either after driving halfway across the country, there would be hell to pay.

I saw some old friends and closed the place down. The next day, I was going to states.

I was last at AAA States when they were held at Robinson. Bryan Hazard, who some might know as the guy who announced the National Duals this past year with Sandy Stevens, brought me in for two years to announce the AAA States for those two years in Northern Virginia. When I lived in Pennsylvania, it was an easy two-hour drive. It was also conference weekend, so I was doubling up with InterMat coverage back then.

I got to Oscar Smith around 11:05 … and parked. Which is more of a chore than you realize, since school is still in session. One major drawback to having it at Smith is the atmosphere and the fact it is a high school.

First people I see walking into the gym are Jay Black, Mark Black and Bill Swink. Mark and Bill coach at Colonial Forge. I make my way past, people are surprised I’m wearing a sport coat. Some haven’t seen me since I moved to Pennsylvania. They all noticed my weight loss. I was pretty pleased about that. I went to the media table, gave a shout to Kyle Tucker, the Pilot writer, and saw countless people, so many I can’t write them all down, in the first five minutes there. I gave Anna Baker a big hug. Mrs. Baker is one of those special people in the sport. For years, her and her late husband Colon traveled the country following Virginia wrestling on both the high school and college levels. She’s the “press chief” … making sure everyone’s got updated brackets, passes and whatever they need. The woman is a saint. I’m truly a better person for knowing her and Colon.

The tournament’s rolling and of course, there’s a familiar voice … it’s Ken Berger. Kenny and I have been friends for a long time. He was an announcer at the Olympics this year and he was full “Berger” on the mic at Smith. I walk over to Steve Styron, the tournament pairmaster, and Wayne Martin, the tournament director (ODU coach Steve Martin’s older brother). Within seconds, Berger’s on the mic announcing my presence. I didn’t think it was necessary, but it’s nice to feel like I’ve had some impact on Virginia wrestling. I blushed, waved, and went back to my conversations. Charlie Church and Glen Miller said hello, as did the infamous “Cav Fan.” Lucia Grant is her name and she’s one of my very best friends. She was one of the first regular posters when Mat Talk On-Line, my old Virginia wrestling site, had a forum. People still call her this, as well as another name, but that’s not something I’m going to tell all the world. People in VA, especially my buddies from college, know it. No, it’s not a nasty name, but a derivitave of mine.

I watch the first round and the quarters. Before the quarters, another wrestling writer, Andee Sears, from the Richmond Times-Dispatch arrives. I first met her covering the AA states in 2001 (I think). She was then writing for the Roanoke Times. We’ve been friends for a long while too, so it was great to see her again. An aside to this story is she was the first female wrestler to qualify for a public school state wrestling tournament, making the Single A state tournament at Shawsville. I won’t dwell on that, but for those wondering about her knowledge of the sport, she’s got it.

Andrew Clement and Caleb Richardson, both of Grassfield High School, a second-year program in Chesapeake, are the most impressive wrestlers I saw on Friday. Caleb is a scrappy 103-pounder, the son of Bryan Richardson, a former NCAA qualifier and wrestling state champion at Virginia Beach’s Kempsville High School. Little Richie is a stud. This kid is fluid and quick. He won Grassfield’s first state championship on Saturday, followed by Clement at 171, giving them two.

I chat with Matt Small, the head coach at Grassfield and former rival turned friend. Small is a trip. One of the funniest guys you’ll ever come across. He’s also one of the most caring, dedicated coaches you’ll ever find. His life is wrestling, but he tells it like it is, but has a sick sense of humor which I appreciate.

Willie Evans, one of my former roommates and a former wrestler at Lock Haven, is coaching with his alma mater, Western Branch, with former NCAA All-American Chris Martin, who wrestled at Virginia Tech. Martin was still in the frame of mind that D.J. Bruce had Jesse Strawn pinned the night before. I couldn’t tell him otherwise, because I went to ODU, he went to Virginia Tech. We were going to disagree.

Nick Pullano, another former Monarch, was coaching with Danta Moore at Fredericksburg area high school Massaponax. Danta wrestled at Division III Luther College for a while before transferring back to Mary Washington in Virginia. Watching Pullano coach was like watching Steve Martin. Same mannerisms. But this is part of my theory. Martin’s mannerisms in some ways come from Dan Gable’s mannerisms. The whole right fist up, left arm pointing (like a flipper, not a finger) for stalling. Waving arms to get attention of the wrestler. The only thing Pullano did better than Stevie was actually sit down in the corner.

About that time, Jim Thompson, a wrestling fan from Iowa and rankings-guru from The Predicament, sends me a text message. ODU recruit John Nicholson beat Iowa recruit Derek St. John in the Iowa state semifinals.

(WOW, this is getting long).

I ship out after the quarterfinals … and drive five hours to Salem. I text Poquoson assistant Jimmy Jones, a guy I went to high school with. I let him know I’m coming in. He lets me crash in his room. As I get to the Holiday Inn in Salem, Rob Green opens the door. Rob was the older brother of my drill partner, Mike Green, who I discussed in an earlier post about my first wrestling match. Rob lived around the corner from me. My house on White House Drive was across the street from current PHS wrestling coach Mike Casey. It was great to see Rob again and a more reformed Jimbo. We battled in high school, but things are different now.

I hadn’t been to Salem since 2005. I saw the following college wrestlers win state titles that year. Denny Herndon, George Mason’s 133-pounder, won the title as a sophomore at 103 for Grafton; Duquesne’s Kevin Chapman won his only title at 112 for Fauquier; ODU’s Joey Metzler won his lone title at 125 for Turner Ashby; Virginia Tech’s Matt Epperly won his second of four state titles for Christiansburg, as did Ohio State’s Cody Gardner.

I walk into the Salem Civic Center, get a pass and head down to the floor. Robert Anderson of the Roanoke Times and Lynn Burke from the Daily Press are at the media table. Lloyd Combs has covered this tournament forever. He’s with the Virginia Mountaineer, a paper in Buchanan County where Grundy High is located.

I’m there for the semifinals. My high school has five in the semis. Christiansburg is ready to put the stamp on its ninth straight championship. They put eight into the finals. Poquoson wins four of the five semis. Jeff Ogburn picks up a forfeit after his opponent missed weight. Patrik Foxworth, a junior who transferred in from Hanover, wins at 125, Louie Shearer, originally from Georgia, wins at 130. Tanner Tinsley, a talented freshman, gets hit for stalling twice in the final 13 seconds and then loses in overtime. Chase McAdams wins with a fall at 152. The win is big for Chase, he’d never made a final in his career despite placing three previous times in Salem.

There are familiar faces all over the place here too. Poquoson folks haven’t seen me in some time, Fred McAdams comes down to the floor to say hello, as does NCAA wrestling official Mike McCormick. He hadn’t been to the tournament in 20-something years, since he won the last of his three state championships. Lee Coon comes down from the stands and gives me a hug. Lee is the aunt of my former teammate Jacob Inge, a two-time state champ and former wrestler at VMI. My first state tournament was in 1996. If Lee could have opened up the hotel window that year, she’d have thrown me out of it. Seriously. She still tells that story. I still have to correct her on the details, but she insists she’s right.

I see Chris Wiatt, now coaching at Smithfield. I covered Chris’ teams when he coached at Menchville when I worked at the Daily Press. He’s married to a girl I went to college with. There are connections all over the place. I don’t want to sound like I’m name-dropping, but this is the scope of how big the tournaments are in Virginia. They’re a place just like Iowa and Pennsylvania, although not as deep, with great pride. Scott Justus and his brother P.J. are standing along the railing. Reed Carpenter, another former Hokie, is coaching with William Byrd. Adam Wright and Jake Forestiere are both former friends from ODU coaching with teams in Region II. Wright with his alma mater, Turner Ashby, and Forestiere at Millbrook, where Wisconsin signee Derrick Borlie wrestles.

Semis are great. I find Maggie Shumaker and her dad Bruce, now the head coach at the Apprentice School. I ran one of Bruce’s tournaments for three years when he was coaching at Lafayette High — The Mat Talk Ram Rumble. Maggie has been a great source for wrestling info while I lived on the Southside and needed Peninsula wrestling info. She’s been to EVERY state tournament in Salem. EVERY SINGLE ONE. Went to lunch with them and former Lafayette wrestler Kyle Spruill, who is helping out at the new Williamsburg school, Warhill.

As the finals are set to begin, I’m just watching. I’m not covering this, I’m there as a wrestling fan. I’m there as an alum of Poquoson High School. There were some kids wearing maroon and gold I’d never seen before. There were some I knew since they were tykes.

The Poquoson kid loses at 103, he led early, but couldn’t get out from bottom. He was distraught. Your heart went out to the kid. Especially after what happened with the three other teammates, all who won state titles.

I’ve always thought the Jesse Riggleman-Anthony Burke match was the best finals match I’d ever seen in Salem. This was in 2003 when Burke won his only title, Riggleman beat him in the finals the next year. Well, enter Millbrook freshman Jacob Crawford. He started the year at 103 … then grew. He was a stout 119-pounder. His opponent was a returning two-time state champion from Magna Vista, Tony Gravely. The Magna Vista senior took an early lead but Crawford, coached by former Lock Haven wrestler Chris Haines, battled back. In the third, the score was tied. Crawford was on top and just started grinding. Bars, halfs, tilts, he was doing everything he could to score nearfall points, but Gravely, a very big 119 resisted. We saw one count here, belly down. One count there, belly down. It goes into overtime. Gravely comes close to scoring, then Crawford, then a scramble. They face up, BOOM. Crawford with the takedown. Place erupts. Great bout.

We see overtime at 125 and 130, both matches won by Poquoson kids. I’m jumping up and down, clapping, happy for my school. Dan McAdams, a Poquoson assistant and older brother of Chase is next to me for much of it. As is Dale Reed, a Christiansburg fan who has become one of my favorite people when it comes to wrestling. Dale’s a big backer of C-Burg and Virginia Tech.

The Chase McAdams Factor
This is where my entire trip’s focus changed. You see, when I told the story about starting wrestling a few weeks back, I didn’t mention Dan McAdams. Because at the time of my first wrestling match, Dan and I were friends, but he didn’t wrestle. Dan just came back with his family after living in North Carolina for a short time. He was a sophomore, I was a junior.

One day, I get the bright idea of bringing Dan into club wrestling practice. You see, I needed a workout partner for heavyweight and since another heavyweight, Curtis Booth, was still “green around the gills,” I needed someone to practice with … then Dan threw me around the room. He was bigger, stronger, more athletic and better suited to wrestling than I was. I never hacked it, Dan started the next year.

Well, there are 11 years between Dan and his brother Chase. By the time senior year rolled around, Dan had started dating one of my then-best friends Kristi. Chase was around five years old. Dan and I were around each other more because I was around Kristi a lot in high school. This was to be his first year on the team, he was the guy at heavyweight. Dan pinned Grafton’s Joe Donatelli for his first win in an 81-0 win over the Clippers to start the 1996-97 season. Later on the weekend, Dan places eighth in Fairfax at the NOVA Classic, a big deal for a first-year wrestler.

Shortly thereafter, Chase follows. He starts wrestling because Dan started wrestling. Chase wore #58 on his mite league football jersey. Dan wore #58 on his football jersey. Chase followed big brother.

I graduated without ever starting. Dan was a starter before getting injured his senior year. The backup, Curtis Booth, ended up finishing second in the region in 1998. Dan would have made states.

About that time, Frank Lipoli starts the Virginia Challenge, a non-profit wrestling organization which started middle school and elementary level wrestling tournaments in Virginia. With Chase now wrestling regularly, Fred McAdams and Mara McAdams were involved. Fred became the weigh-in director of the VAC.

I lost track of Dan for a while after high school, but I’d always see Fred, Mara and Chase at tournaments. One time, outside of the Norfolk Scope for the NHSCA Open Nationals (their summer tournament), I saw Fred and said jokingly, “You still blame me for this?”

Fred has a stern look about him, in high school, he scared me. Hell, to this day, he still kinda does. He’s got the second strongest grip of any man I’ve ever shook hands with. Dan Hodge is the first.

When I asked that question, Fred looked at me, cocking his head sideways and said with a Mississippi drawl, “Weeelll, TWANK, sometimes I do.” We’d get a laugh out of it.

The first year Chase wrestled, he, as Fred puts it, had a “perfect season.” It’s sarcasm. Chase didn’t win a match his first year wrestling. He was either 0-18 or 0-16.

The only time I’d seen Chase wrestle in high school was at the Virginia Duals, but that hadn’t been in at least two years. I’d not seen Chase wrestle in the state tournament yet. He’d never made a final and lost in the quarters last year before battling back to take third.

I say all this retrospectively, because I haven’t thought about all these details in years.

But then it happened.

As time ticked away, I was bouncing up and down, then freaking out, then trying to keep those from “jinxing” the match. Dan and I stood shoulder to shoulder, Dale Reed, seeing how in tune to the match I was, stood there too.

Chase was wrestling Brady Craft, a 40-1 senior from Roanoke’s Northside High School. Chase came in 39-0, he’d pinned his way through the tournament.

Chase wrestled safe, because Craft had a wicked crossface cradle.

Takedown in the first … escape. Takedown again. It was a blur. I can’t remember what happened during the match. But the time starts ticking down and Chase is riding tough. 10 seconds …. I’m froze. 5-4-3-2-…. ONE…. TIME!!!!!!!!!!!

I high five Dan and he’s mobbed by friends and fellow coaches down on the floor (oh yeah, we were on the floor behind the railing). I could have sat on press row and had a better seat, but this wasn’t about a good seat.

Chase comes off the mat, Dan gives him a big hug. Three for four. THREE state champions. The highest points a team from Poquoson had scored since the 1999 state championship team. The most finalists since the five we put in the finals in 1998. All this coming from a season which started in turmoil after coach Mark Strickland was relieved of his coaching duties for an out-of-school incident.

Those kids responded. Chase McAdams responded.

As Chase was mobbed by coaches, I stood alone for a brief moment. Then it hit me.

I’ve had good friends win state championships, I’ve watched my alma mater win a state team title, win the Virginia Duals, pick up championships at the Beast (Victor Jackson), but in all the years I’ve covered wrestling, college, high school and middle school, I have never felt like this.

I can’t explain what happened next, but I tried to say something to Dale Reed. I couldn’t. I could feel my eyes welling up. I had to step back. I stood, by myself, in tears.

I wasn’t bawling, but I was completely speechless. There was a kid, who was so distraught he couldn’t wrestle in the Beast of the East, a kid who was a five-year-old kid wanting to wrestle because his brother did, a kid who had been short of the finals the three previous years … I saw a kid win a state title and I felt like I had a little part in it.

Chase put in the time, put in the work, made wrestling his life. He won it, he deserved it. Dan had started coaching, this was their moment. This was coach Mike Casey’s moment. Mike coached Chase all through youth league and middle school.

I wasn’t going to take this and make it mine, but I never thought something so small, so minor, could have such an impact. I was so very proud of a kid who really didn’t know me very well. He knew me, but I always followed his career, because I felt like I’d helped him get going in this sport.

I couldn’t put this into words. I never won a state title, but in all of Chase’s hard work, what he did was make it important to me without even knowing. Chase, at this moment, probably doesn’t know what it means to me to see him finally win that title.

Mara McAdams came up to me grinning ear to ear, she was so happy, as she should have been. But I think she was even surprised. She wiped a tear away from my eye and just gave me a big hug. I’ve probably told this story to 20 people during the 18-hour drive back from Roanoke. I’m getting misty just writing it now.

I can’t remember who said it, so I want to give it proper attribution, but someone said, “It’s like watching your little brother win a state championship.”

Well, it was kind of like that. Dan has the right to that claim. He did more to help Chase than I ever did. But the power and sheer emotion that overcame me at that moment was something I had never experienced before. I’ve seen wrestlers drop to their knees, crying, and I saw a ton of parents doing the same after their sons won states.

I just feel like I had a little, tiny part in it … and the impact it had on me on Saturday night was beyond words, although I think I’ve put more words down than I needed to.

Between the three days of wrestling back home, nothing had an impact on me like Chase McAdams. It’s truly a moment I will never forget. From one perfect season … to the right kind of perfect season, 40-0.

Congrats Chase … you’ve made a difference in my life you didn’t even realize.

Poquoson state champion Chase McAdams.

Poquoson state champion Chase McAdams.

I’m now back home in Minnesota … and that’s how 2,700 miles of driving is all worth it.


Written by Jason Bryant

February 23, 2009 at 8:38 pm

Arkansas numbers skyrocketing

I’m short on motivation today, although I did polish off six miles on the second week of my 26-week marathon training. Me and my roommate Tim (if you haven’t guessed, I went from living by myself for three years to living in a house with four other people — you could really do a Real World Arden Hills out of this place) walked up to Jake’s Sports Cafe and got dinner.

Counterproductive? I don’t think so. Three miles up, water and a salad (yes, I actually like salads, although my waistline didn’t always show it) and three miles back. Walked/Jogged at a pretty good clip. Still not on the full running thing yet, but based on the program I noted the other day, I’m getting to the point where 3-4 mile walks/jogs don’t tire me out and my feet still aren’t hurting.

Halloween’s tomorrow and we have a pot luck in the office. I was assigned to “drinks” last time … pretty unimaginative. I got salad for tomorrow. So rather than buying a bag o’ salad and faking it, I got two different types of lettuce, fresh carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes. Boiled up some eggs and grated them, chopped up some ham and turkey and cooked up some chicken breasts in a homemade lemon pepper glaze. They’re just gonna love me tomorrow … as I’m dressed in my costume. Pictures, I’m sure, will follow.

I haven’t been “in shape” in a long time. Hell, I’ve even curtailed the social aspect of life since the Tommie-Johnnie game.

Weather today was great … sported the Missouri Wrestling shirt, the cool dry-wicking stuff that Cliff Keen’s got. Those killer long sleeves from Fargo — yeah, they rock. Blue Chip in the house!

I’m also now a Minnesota resident as my driver’s license will show.

Weather: It was 71 today!? It was awesome.
Gas: $2.09 and steady as we head towards Election Day.
Mileage: 21 miles
STL: 171 days.

I wanted to pass this message along from Greg Hatcher down in Arkansas about how the boom in wrestling down there has been very positive. They’ll be sanctioned by the Arkansas Activities Association for the first time this year.

Here’s Greg’s e-mail.

I wanted to drop all of our participating schools a note and let you know that I am hearing from schools and it appears that the number of wrestlers at each school is skyrocketing.  I’ve already heard from Conway and they have over 100 wrestlers, Springdale Har-Ber has 98 wrestlers signed up, North Little Rock High School has 48 wrestlers signed up and that’s not even counting those athletes who are in fall sports who will sign up as soon as the fall season is over.

I wanted to drop each of you a note and ask you to send me back an email telling me approximately how many wrestlers you had in your program last year and how many you expect to have in your program this year.  These don’t have to be exact numbers, but ballparks.  If you did not have wrestling last year and this is your first year then your last year number would be zero and this year would be the number you expect or have signed up now.

In addition, when you get your rosters of wrestlers if you want to email them to us we will add under your schools icon a listing of all of your wrestlers and their different weight classes.  It’s our goal to continue to build our website to provide more and more information to the wrestling community.

Finally, don’t forget about our new wrestling message board that you can link to on at our wrestling website at or you can go directly to it at .

Written by Jason Bryant

October 30, 2008 at 10:48 pm

Posted in Four Points

Tagged with ,

Four Points: Boy, that’s brisk!

Yes, I’m being a complete wuss about my animosity towards the cold weather and snow. The worst thing about living up here is going to be getting used to the winter chill that’s already in the air. The best part about living here is easily the people. It’s really hard to find a nicer bunch of people (collectively) than those I’ve met in the upper Midwest.

I’m watching the Wild-Blackhawks game as two of my roommates are there watching. I’ve got another roommate shooting darts behind me. I’ve already beaten him in Cricket tonight so my undefeated streak here in Arden Hills remains safe.

I’m going to have to get that health club membership soon. Why? I need a place to run, jog and walk. As I noted before, I’ve decided to give the Go! St. Louis Marathon a shot come April. I started to get in the frame of mind last week. I walked/jogged 13 miles last week and tonight, did more running than I had on a short “Route 66” two-mile trip. There’s a convenience store just across 35W which is a mile from the house. An up and back is what I call “The 66.” It’s now an Exxon or something, but it used to be a Phillips 66 as my roommate Joe (Tired of Renting?) explained.

I’m tracking my progress at, but I’m looking over things for the running rookie, which I am, and realized my start date last week was exactly 26 weeks from the marathon, which works well with‘s 26-week training plan. I’ll basically be spending the next 11 weeks getting myself into a state where I CAN put some foot to pavement with some speed and distance. Right now, it’s just slow jogs and brisk walks.

Two more miles Monday. It’s freakin’ cold.

Weather: Beautiful, clear and COLD. 38 degrees here, but 39 degrees back home!
Gas: $2.15
Mileage: 15 miles.
STL: 174 days.

This is Halloweentown
One thing I do like about the office environment I have here in Minnesota is the relationship Kyle and I have with the other entities in the office building. The other half of the building is occupied by J Robinson Camps and the staff over there is incredibly fun to work with. While we’re not working with them directly, the office dynamic is laid back, fun and you can always find someone cracking a joke or, as I found out, making very useful signs on dry-erase boards and appliances.

This Friday will be our monthly “Pot Luck” lunch where we all bring something in and grub out. It’s also Halloween. The girls love this, as I’ve seen in pictures posted around the office. They’re all quite creative.

Streak @ 32 ends @ 3
I won’t be going to the Super 32 this year, which will end a three-year run in Greensboro. Dave Barker, Sara Koenig and staff have done a great job making that event what it is today — the most talked-about and most competitive preseason tournament in the nation. Not bad for a little club tournament not even 10 years ago. I really enjoyed going down there, but not being on the East Coast makes a one-day trek across the country most difficult. I knew this in advance, so I tried to make up for it by going down to Iowa on Saturday, as I talked about yesterday.

I’m waiting to unveil my Halloween Costume, but it would have been cool to wear it at a tournament. I will look forwarded to checking out the historic “First Avenue” that Sunday, though. I’ll be attending a concert by Minnesota’s own Atmosphere.

Book it!
Anyone remember the Book It! Campaign back in the late 80’s and 90’s? It rewarded kids for reading books with personal pan pizzas from Pizza Hut. Man, talk about inspiring a nation of bookworm, cheese-bread munching WoW players. Just kidding. But I’m back on the book kick again. Why? Give Mark Palmer of the credit for this one. After reading his review of “The Fighting Scots of Edinboro,” I jumped right online and headed over to to make this purchase. I’d read “The Silent Gladiators” earlier this year and was rather disappointed. I’m hoping to read a wrestling book that will not only educate, but will be well-written. I just finished “The Granby Roll,” a short biopic about the late Billy Martin.

Before I left Pennsylvania, I headed out to Pier Village, N.J., to visit my former partner in crime, the forum’s infamous prognosticator Gripsnhips (Herbert dec. Askren 5-4). After housing a GreaseTruck-sized sandwich, he made me read a chapter from this wacky book. He insisted that I take it with me. I neglected to, but upon purchasing “The Fighting Scots” the book I so desperately tried to remember, was sitting there on the “recommended reading” from Amazon. SCORE.

So after the ‘Boro book, I’ll dive into the Chuck Klosterman offering pictured.

The Wrestling411 web site has been undergoing some rather odd hack/attack attempts in the last two days. Keep an eye on some great news coming from the NWCA/InterMat that will really change the way wrestling results are distributed and accessed. This is going to be a great asset for the wrestling community and the national media — not wrestling media — but the mainstream media. We will have some substance, trust me. Kyle Klingman released an interview with Wisconsin coach Barry Davis on Wrestling411 today, as well.

Written by Jason Bryant

October 27, 2008 at 9:32 pm

Keck, USAW Preseason Nationals off to great beginning

It’s now Sunday and chilly in the Twin Cities. The last four hours were spent trucking up I-35 heading back to Minnesota from a Saturday jaunt to Des Moines, Iowa for the USA Wrestling Preseason Nationals. Preseason folkstyle tournaments have grown in popularity since the explosion and exposure of events like the Delaware Fall Classic, the Lock Haven Classic and the Super 32. Kansas City now has a large event and now, so does Iowa.

The brain child of Brian Keck, the “Barn” in Des Moines hosted the 12-mat inaugural event with nearly 500 competitors in grades 9-12, which is very good for a first-year event.

Keck’s got a few tournaments he’s running out in Iowa now and with the support of USA Wrestling and the staffing of the Iowa pairing folks and coaches coupled with trackwrestling, this tournament has a lot of room to grow and fill a void in this part of the country.

One of the better matches of the day came at 171 pounds with Jake Dorulla of Michigan and Kyven Gadson of Iowa. Both were state runners-up and both showed tremendous ability in fighting off each other’s attacks, countering and taking advantage of their strengths.

Jesse Thielke was the tournament’s outstanding wrestler. The returning state champion was undefeated last year for Germantown in Wisconsin at 112 pounds. Thielke defeated another undefeated Wisconsin state champion, Alex Dieringer 9-1 in the finals. Dieringer won the title last year at 103 in Division I.

For the full release and results, click here.

USAW’s Chris Moen, Steve Buening and new NCEP director Sam Barber were all in the house. Good people.

The layout of the venue was perfect for wrestling. Lots of floor space, ample seating for spectators and parents and good sight lines. I think the only thing that needs to be improved, and this is not a shot, but I’m sure it’s something Brian’s already working on, is more officials. 14 officials for 12 mats is rough for the men in stripes. I’m sure that will be addressed, but from all accounts and my own observations, this tournament was a big success and will only grow in the future.

Scott Casber of Takedown Radio was manning the PA and I stepped in to do some play-by-play with Steve Foster for the finals. We had two falls in the finals and a couple of overtime matches.

Keep your eye on Alex Polizzi of Wisconsin this season. He topped Kyle Caylor in the finals, but Polizzi doesn’t look like a prototypical 215-pounder. I think he’d be a 189 who didn’t feel like shedding any weight for this event. It’s the first time I’d had an opportunity to see him wrestle. Looks like a real good D1 prospect. Good movement, strong and a thick mop of shaggy hair atop his head.

After the event, I headed out with Scott Casber to his place and we watched the UFC from Rosemont, Ill. Good card, but it’s unfortunate the Patrick Cote-Anderson Silva fight ended the way it did. They don’t measure “reach” with the legs, but Silva looks like he could kick you from Montana, that’s if you’re still sitting in suburban Chicago.

The Mangler
Mark Manning won two NCAA Division II titles in the 80’s for Division II Nebraska-Omaha. Now the head coach at the University of Nebraska, the 40-something coach had been “having words” with a former Husker football player. Long-story short, they settled it on the field.

Here’s the video, but here’s a thread on that explains it a bit better than my explanation.

Manning only had to stop the trask-talking <grin> strength coach once to prove his point.

Word is Brian Smith at Missouri’s going to give Tigers Strong Safety William “Willie Mo” Moore a shot at pass coverage.

Oh, and I still hate snow
The drive back through Iowa was met with insane crosswinds and snow. Yes, SNOW. I was getting pushed all over the highway by the winds coming from the west. Corn husks were flying through the air, pelting my trusty Blazer … then the snow came. Eh. I know there’s going to be worse days than this, but I didn’t expect to see any of the white stuff until at least Halloween.

Cal Baptist Open
One of the first college opens took place yesterday out in California with first-year NAIA program California Baptist hosting the CBU Lancer Open. John Petty, formerly an NAIA head coach at Embry-Riddle and Northwestern College, leads the Lancers into their first season.

How’d things go? Check out the results here.

Written by Jason Bryant

October 26, 2008 at 3:02 pm

Four Points: I will take Chocolate Rain over October Sleet

Real freakin’ funny, Mother Nature. I’m completely amused.

I dropped a bit of a bombshell yesterday on people announcing my intention to not only say I’m going to run a marathon, but to follow through on it. Steps one and two were accomplished on Tuesday. Actually, I’d begin with making the decision, then setting out to get some running shoes fitted for my feet, then actually set out on a journey.

The last time I stepped on a mat in any such competitive sense was probably three years ago when I was living back in Poquoson and working out at my old wrestling club, the PWA. I’d walk up to practice, roll around some, hit the AirDyne and catch a ride back home with the coaches. One of the AirDyne bikes in the Poquoson Wrestling Room was used by the 1984 Olympic Team — Goldie — as we call it.

Anyway, I walked two miles yesterday. It’s a start, because I’m 178 days away from the marathon. The plan will call for 18 weeks of training. I’ll need to get in shape before even starting this training. It’s like that Power 90 thing on TV — you can’t go from being a fat waste to ripped in 90 days, you need to build up to be in good enough shape to start something. I’m not a fat waste right now … I might have been at one time, but those days are actually long gone.

Steps I took a long time ago will make this easier. Not living a college lifestyle definitely helps, as does having someone who is going through the training with you.

Gas: $2.39
Weather: 43, raining and sleet and pretty damned miserable.
Days to go: 178

Ice Age? Not Hardly.
By the way, why am I in a sour mood at Mother Nature? I went home for lunch and when I drove back to the office, ice pellets were falling from the sky. It’s OCTOBER!?

My Facebook status has also been an easy target for folks who love to punish me over the fact I’ll be soon to endure my first Minnesota winter. Yeah, you  Sarah in Northern Va. … not funny. You, Tammy in PA and you Joe in Minnesota… not funny either. Chris, taking another shot from here in Minnesota. I’ll take the warning. Natanya in Naptown. I know this. Amanda, you’re now in the Deep South. Keep rubbing it in and thinking you’re funny.

The rest of you — I am not amused. That goes for Diego, too.

Some of you might not get this.

Wrestle-off Time
Tis the season for college wrestling intrasquad matches. It basically means we’re thismuch closer to kicking off the year. Last night, Indiana wrestled its Cream and Crimson intrasquad. Team Hernandez and Team Escobedo wrestled to a 16-16 tie. What some might find surprising are the individual outcomes, especially if you are thinking some high school studs can come in right away and expect to punk down the upperclassmen. How did guys like Vince Ramos and Nick Cook do? How about the outcome of Kurt Kinser and Matt Coughlin? Find out here.

Hall of Famers
Some differing news on the wrestling front with several individuals known throughout our sport getting inducted into various Halls of Fame.

Art Martori of the Sunkist Kids and John Smith, the head coach at Oklahoma State and six-time World & Olympic Champion, will be inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame on November 1. Wait, Smith? Italian? Yessir.

“I am half-Italian. It is always a proud side of my family,” said Smith. “There are a lot of happy Italians in Oklahoma about this. The athletes inducted are all tied to Italian blood. It is a proud people. My family has a remarkable history, having to grind it out for many years to allow the next generation to have a better life. It wasn’t easy for the Italian people when my family first came to America. They made a commitment to their family. My mother is as excited as anyone about this.”

Other notable Hall of Famers making the news are Jim Scherr, who’s heading into the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame and Maryland native Bruce Malinowski goes into his state’s chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Pitching in
(Rich Tortorelli release)
Oklahoma City University faculty, staff and students including student athletes participated in the “One Give” program Oct.12 in an effort to spruce up the OCU campus.

More than 450 students, faculty and staff came out Sunday afternoon to participate in a number of projects across the campus. Members of both the men’s and women’s wrestling teams were a part of the “One Give” project. They’re pictured, and to read the full release, click here.

Written by Jason Bryant

October 22, 2008 at 5:03 pm

Four-Pointless: The Presidential Debate

I have a good source informing me Joe The Plumber wrestled collegiately at Plainfield Teachers College. Allegedly, Joe is the son of some guy who went by the nickname “The Celestial Comet.”

Some of you might not get it.

Gas: $2.69
Weather: 52, but it was chilly this mo-nin’

A ranking oddity
This is strange. For the first time in three years, I’m not getting any flack for the InterMat rankings. Whew, what a relief. Rankings are a tough pill to take, especially when you’re thrown right into the fire. Jeff Breese, my successor at InterMat, is going to find this out pretty quickly. My advice – don’t take it personal and don’t be afraid to tell some of these folks they’re too one-sided to look at anything objectively.

Some people like to rant and complain. Some should spend more time actually coaching than complaining. That’s not saying everyone, or even most everyone, just some folks like to use only one half of an argument. It’s the same when dealing with some overzealous high school parent who wants their son ranked. Great, tell me all about the wins, but how can you, like clockwork, not mention losses.

Of course, no longer being the rankings coordinator, I don’t have the luxury of making a case for my own opinions to the voting panel of the National Wrestling Media Association. Now, I have to sit and wait for the rankings each week, just like the rest of the free world.

Obviously, I’m still holding a lucrative <insert sarcasm> role as the Vice President of the NWMA, so I still get a “vote.” Woo hoo! The team rankings are still on the coaches.

Numbers and Pirates
About two years ago, a Florida resident e-mailed me some interesting facts and figures he thought would be good for the InterMat web site. I looked them over, and agreed, these would be interesting to generate discussion. They absolutely did.

That Florida resident, Britt Malinsky, better known as SetonHallPirate on the wrestling message boards, loves to plug in numbers, calculate tournament points and projections and figuring out things beneficial to the sport. His efforts are appreciated. But when the rankings came out this year, holy crap, everything seemed to favor a school in Iowa – but not the defending national champion Hawkeyes. Iowa State seemed to barely edge out the University of Iowa when D1CW’s rankings were put into a tournament format, same with the AWN and InterMat. Upon further review (and correction), WrestlingReport and WIN showed Iowa ahead.

"I like to bowhunt ... with my BARE HANDS."

When the InterMat/NWCA Coaches Poll comes out, there should be little argument about the Iowa’s projected ranking as the #1 team in the land. Team and Dual wise, they won the National Duals and the NCAA Championship last season and return the core of the team. They, without question, should be #1. While rational minds can think one way, numbers can always tell you something different. Even Tom Brands got wind of something saying Iowa wasn’t #1 on a video on Flowrestling. There hasn’t been a single “official” ranking with that, but it’s already bulletin board material for the spirited Hawkeye head coach. That’s the last thing anyone needs, to fire up the juggernaut in Iowa City even more.

In case you missed it
What is somewhat odd, but not altogether unexplainable, there was a wrestling world championship held this year. Normally, the Olympics serve that capacity every four years, but since the women only have four of their seven recognized weights contested during the Olympiad, FILA’s grand wisdom said let’s do the worlds.

It’s actually something FILA did I don’t mind. Only one U.S. Olympian, Clarissa Chun, chose to compete at the Trials and earn a chance to wrestle at the World Championships in Tokyo last week.

The net result? Chun became only the fifth American woman to win a world championship. The 27-year-old Hawaii native won the World title at 48 kg.

Also of note were two teenagers making their debut on the senior-level world stage – 17-year-olds Tatiana Padilla of California and Helen Maroulis of Maryland. Padilla earned a bronze medal, while Maroulis lost to eventual champion Hitomi Sakamoto of Japan at 51kg.

The U.S. finished fourth in the team race behind Japan, Canada and Russia.

Mark your calendars
Wrestling 411’s
radio show kicks off November 11 at 7 p.m. Central live from the studios of KAUG in Minneapolis. Listen in at

Written by Jason Bryant

October 16, 2008 at 4:07 pm

Four Points: Trolling the feeds

Rather than spending the day feeding the trolls on your favorite wrestling message boards, I’ll just troll the news and see what I can pick up. First thing was the news we’re going to be breaking on Wrestling 411about our formats and release dates and such. Spent the first five hours of my day in meetings with the Media Sports Productions folk about the radio and TV shows, the internet and broadcast distribution and our new relationship with KAUG. It’s going to change in terms of Year One plans, but it will still be there to serve the sport and give it more exposure and market the sport how wrestling should be marketed.

Gas: $3.07 (but I did see it at $2.99 around the corner on County Road D at a Super America.
Weather: 55 and rainy.

It’s nasty outside, but that’s not going to stop me from grilling out tonight. The Angels lost last night, so I’m pretty bitter. Stupid Red Sox.

Olympians visit the White House
Say what you will about the current administration, anytime you get a chance to visit the White House and meet the President, it’s worth noting. Having only met a few political dignitaries in my day, the chance to meet the President (any, not the current specifically) would be a great opportunity. Henry Cejudo, Mike Zadick, Andy Hrovat, Randi Miller, T.C. Dantzler, Brad Vering and Dremiel Byers were part of a U.S. Delegation of wrestlers whom met with the President on Tuesday.

Vering, who has spent the last few seasons coaching with Mark Cody at American University had this to say:

“We got to watch the President talk about how we are more than competitors, but are representatives of our country,” said Vering. “He said he was proud of us for what we are doing, not just as athletes. He said the Olympics are good for the betterment of the World.”

One of my former Lancaster friends, Utility Keystone’s Stan Zeamer, was also in attendance. Stan’s building in Manheim hosts the NWCA offices, so over the last three years, I got to know Stan and the family, many of whom work at UTKS.

“I was excited with the history of the country, the architecture and the décor there,” said U.S. Olympic Women’s Team Leader Stan Zeamer. “I was amazed at the beauty and the tradition there. I took the tour twice. I couldn’t absorb enough. I enjoyed the Abraham Lincoln portrait in the State Room. I took a picture of Randi Miller with Lincoln in the background.”

More press for Beat The Streets
One of the most impressive grassroots movements to start wrestling and make it a viable athletic option for kids has been with New York City’s Beat The Streets campaign. On Tuesday, BTS made more headlines as the New York Daily News featured the program. The focus of the Daily News piece was how the sport helps build self-esteem and confidence, something wrestling doesn’t get much of in mainstream media — a positive spin. It was refreshing to see a short, but informative, story on wrestling which didn’t focus on cutting weight, skin disease or the loss of programs. BTS is doing a fabulous thing in the nation’s biggest city. More info on Beat The Streets can be found here. Here’s a blog from my run with InterMat from May about my trip up to NYC for the BTS Celebration.

I’ve been collecting hats (and frequently wearing them) for quite a while. I’ve fashioned my office shelf to include some of the wrestling hats I’ve acquired over the years. It’s always a conversation piece when someone walks by the door.

Staring me in the face are wrestling-specific hats from: Oregon, Minnesota, Old Dominion, Grundy H.S., Poquoson H.S., Oregon State, Kansas USA Wrestling, Campbellsville, Hawaii Wrestling, USA Wrestling, Franklin & Marshall, the PIAA State Championships, the 2006 NCAA Championships, the 2008 NCAA Championships, and Cliff Keen. Other random hats around the office are a slick Stanford Flex-Fit hat, two Minnesota Wild hats, a Mike Busch State Farm (Programs, Refinance) hat, along with a well-worn Miller Lite chapeau and a few visors, which Kyle Klingman tends to rep more than I. Why would you wear half a hat? Thoughts, reflections?

Scheduling and such
I’m working on putting together the travel schedule for Wrestling 411 this year, which won’t be much different than my previous agendas, however, it’s more collegiate based now than it ever has. I’ll be hitting the All-Star Classic, the Northeast Duals, Cliff Keen Invitational, Reno Tournament of Champions, Lone Star Duals, National Duals and scattered duals during the week. Not sure which post-season tournament (D1 conference) I’ll be attending, but the Big Ten is an option in State College. I plan on attending my first Division II National Championships (in Houston of all places) before trekking back to St. Louis for the third time for the Division I Championships.

Written by Jason Bryant

October 7, 2008 at 3:58 pm