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My time machine: One of the best — and toughest — stories I’ve ever written

I’ve had the opportunity to write about a lot in my life. Not all of it about sports, but the majority of my time writing for the Daily Press, W.I.N., the Poquoson Post, The Mace & Crown and several other wrestling publications and web sites have been about wrestling.

When Mike Finn interviewed me a few years ago after I was named W.I.N.’s Wrestling Journalist of the Year, he asked me about the best story I’d ever written.

I’m proud of some of the social commentaries I’ve penned about trying to save programs at Longwood, Eastern Illinois, Fresno State and Oregon, but my response didn’t require a lot of thought.

It was on a kid named Caleb Sparkman. Some of you might know him, some might have seen his name on All-American lists from his days wrestling on the USA Kids circuit. So I e-mailed a buddy who still works down at the Daily Press (even through all the newspaper downsizing) and asked him to pull the story from the archives.

I wrote this over six years ago. I was covering wrestling and was a part-timer at the paper, a post I’d held since 1996. I was in my sixth year at ODU and lived in “The 12 House.”

The raw emotion couldn’t be truly captured, but I tried. Tears were shed by parents, friends and teammates. In writing the story, I was even overcome by emotion. Years have passed and when I go back to Norfolk, I’ve run into Caleb from time to time. It’s hard to tell someone that their difficulties led to what I note as my best single story. I’ve known the guy a while, but when I think about writing and the impact people have in others lives and the sport of wrestling has on people, I also think about this story.

So here it is:

Following his heart: Medical condition prompts wrestler to quit after winning district title
By Jason Bryant, Daily Press
February 21, 2003

An accomplished wrestler from his days with the Hampton Jaguars and Pin2Win wrestling clubs, the Hampton High sophomore won the 171-pound championship in the Peninsula District last Saturday.

Sparkman has dozens of medals, trophies and awards. He will not, however, compete in this week’s Eastern Regional or the upcoming state championship this year.

The bushy-haired, happy 15-year-old wrestled his last match in the district finals, a 3-2 decision over Heritage’s Akeem Wilkins.

That wasn’t his last match for the season. It was his last match for life.

Sparkman has aorta stenosis. The condition, a narrowing of the heart valve, applies pressure to the aorta valve as the heart works to get the amount of blood it needs to function properly. He was diagnosed with the condition when he was 3 months old.

He and his family made the decision late in January to stop wrestling — after three more matches in the district tournament.

“I wanted to help the team win the districts. I thought we had a good chance,” Sparkman said.

But his participation was not without risk.

The doctor advised the Sparkmans that the decision to continue to wrestle was theirs, but the recommendation was not to wrestle, according to Sparkman. Among the potential dangers, Sparkman said “heart attack.”

But after considering all the facts, the family decided it was not a life-threatening decision.

“I wasn’t really going to be pushed in the district tournament. If I would have had super-hard matches, then I probably wouldn’t have wrestled,” Sparkman said.

Denbigh’s Zack Winfrey, a returning district champion and state place-winner, also played a role in Sparkman’s move up to 171.

“Wrestling a guy like Winfrey would probably have been pushing the envelope. But had I felt any dizziness or light-headedness I wouldn’t have wrestled,” he said.

The intensity of this weekend’s regional tournament would require more physical exertion than the district tournament did.

A normal heart has a pressure of zero. When he was four, the pressure was 20. As of November, it read 43. A pressure of 50 would result in a balloon being inserted to try to force open the aortic valve.

“I never thought it would be a problem, at least not until high school,” Sparkman said.

The condition began to cause Sparkman problems as he grew from a 130-pound middle school wrestler to a 152-pound freshman and has become worse as he has grown.

Caleb’s parents, Charlie and Chesley Sparkman, met with doctors in November as part of his regular checkups.

“We had the echocardiogram done,” Chesley said. “Charlie and I met with the surgeon and talked to him. We tried to get the procedure (cardiac catheterization) done over the Christmas break, but had to wait until right after school started.

“He wasn’t aware of a meeting with the doctor in December, but just before Christmas, we told him we were going to do the procedure.”

After the catheterization, a procedure in which a tube is inserted into an artery in the leg and sent up to the heart, the decision had to be made.

Sparkman would stop wrestling.

Last week, Hampton, Denbigh and Woodside were in a battle for the district championship. Each team had a chance to claim the title. Hampton, which had just two wrestlers in 1998, hoped having Sparkman would improve its chances of claiming its first district title in decades. Woodside won, but Hampton finished second, three points behind.

As Sparkman, the team captain, stepped off the podium, teammate Mike Rutkowski was in tears. He’d known Sparkman since they were 4 and came up in the same wrestling clubs.

“Of all the people I’ve ever known, he’s had the most heart. You’ve got to love him for that,” Rutkowski said.

After the district tournament, Fenner was happy with his team’s finish, but somber about losing Caleb.

“We turned out great this weekend,” Fenner said. “Next year we can take it up another notch, but we’re really going to miss Caleb. He wanted to do this (wrestle in districts) to help us win.”

Rutkowski’s mother, Sherry Thacker, also has memories of Sparkman’s wrestling career.

“He had a lot going for him as a wrestler,” Thacker said.

“After getting his medal, he ran up to his dad and (Pin2Win coach) Steve Pittman and gave them big hugs. We were hoping he could stick it out, but it was just too much.”

As the regionals start today, Sparkman will be at Churchland supporting his team. He still goes to practice for some light drills and to encourage his teammates. He’ll likely be found near the corner of the mat.

“He says he wants to coach and wants to referee,” Chesley Sparkman said.

Sparkman wants to contine playing soccer, too. He split time between the varsity and junior varsity squads last spring.

While he is done with competitive wrestling, his love of the sport keeps him around.

Two weeks into the Peninsula Youth Wrestling League, the league where he got started, Sparkman wears an official’s shirt, red and green wristbands and a whistle, refereeing the next generation of wrestlers that will stand on top of the podium.

And that’s how Sparkman went out, on top of the podium.

INFOBOX
EASTERN REGION WRESTLING TOURNAMENT

* WHERE: Churchland High School, Portsmouth
* WHEN: Today: First round at 11 a.m., then quarterfinals at 6:30 p.m. Saturday: Semifinals at noon; finals at 7:30 p.m.
* IMPACT: Top four wrestlers per weight will qualify for next weekend’s state tournament.
* PREDICTION: Great Bridge is expected to take the region title, but Peninsula wrestlers aim to qualify for the state tournament.
* PENINSULA’S BEST SHOTS: Andre Bland, 103, Hampton; Kyle Gular, 112, Kecoughtan; Todd Gular, 119, Kecoughtan; Jamar Sumpter, 135, Hampton; Duder Edmunds, 135, Gloucester; Devon Alston, 140, Heritage; Dustin Chaney, 145, Denbigh; John Nicholson, 145, Bethel; Nick Chrismon, 152, Woodside; Zack Winfrey, 160, Denbigh; James DeGroat, 189, Menchville; Antoine Adams, 215, Bethel; Quest King, 275, Phoebus.

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Written by Jason Bryant

August 10, 2009 at 1:15 am

Posted in Blogging, Good Stuff

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.

Thursday
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.

Friday
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.

Saturday
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

My first wrestling match

I spend a lot of time on Facebook. I was dead set against social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook in the early days. In fact, I didn’t jump on Facebook until after I’d graduated from ODU. But I still had a university e-mail account (which I never used), so I was “eligible” to jump on back in 2004.

Well, those of you on MySpace and Facebook are familiar with those little surveys that roll around and you tag people and then they give their responses and whatnot. Well, one of my high school acquaintences who I later became friends with (we weren’t really friends in high school) tagged me.

This was #17 random fact, so I’m honoring it by this blog:

17.) I think Jason Bryant a.k.a Twinkie is a great example of someone who are living the dream. He is also a HUGE asset to the sport of wrestling and I wish he would mention me in a up coming article about how I took him to his first tournament in which he wrestled in at Northhampton Middle School. I also hope he forgives me for being a dick to him sometimes in class…

So Jimbo, here’s the story of my first wrestling match.

It’s well documented that I was a pretty crappy wrestler. I came out for the team basically beacuse of my interest in the sport. I wrestled a bit in open tournaments but could never hack it on the mat. I was, by that time, pretty deep into my love of broadcasting and writing and was writing a lot and announcing eight sports. Well, here’s the deal about my first wrestling tournament.

I had been to TWO club practices to start learning how to wrestle. We were team state runners-up at the AA state tournament that year to rival Grundy. Jamie Holloway, our 135-pounder, had toted me to my first practice and taught me the finer points of the Poquoson crossface, which basically amounted to a forearm that knocked both of my contact lenses out. Great.

Well, I’d been to TWO practices and saw there was a tournament the upcoming weekend at Jeff Davis Middle School (or as Jimmy mentioned, Northampton M.S.), well, it’s pretty much the same since that was the Northampton section of Hampton.

Well, I’d waited for Jimmy to come pick me up. Earlier in the week at the wrestling room, I’d borrowed a pair of his old shoes, a pair of black Asics with the hot pink trim, they were pretty popular back in the late 90s. Well, I knew the start time was around 9 a.m., so I was up and ready. No Jimbo. So I got my mom to drive me 15 minutes over. No biggie. I met up with Jimmy as we came in. I can’t remember exactly what the excuse was, but afterwards, I did catch a ride home.

Well, as I sat there, I looked at the wall charts and saw my name along with three others using the VA Easy System (or Madison) system. I weighed in at 204 the day before, had my USA Card and I was set to go.

I found some teammates, Jason Forrest, Jimmy, Coach Ruff and Mike Green, who was an 8th grader at the time. I made a joke as I walked past a mat of tots wrestling and said, “Hey coach, that kid knows more than I do.”

“Yes, Twink, he does,” said coach. This got a laugh out of the guys.

Well, I didn’t have a singlet, I was wearing a t-shirt from the AA/A State Tournament I’d bought the week or two prior. My headgear was brand-spankin’ new. I didn’t even know how to adjust it.

I sat on the bleachers and watched Jason Forrest get called for his first match. Jimmy graduated a year earlier and was helping with the upper weights towards the end of the season. The guy had freakish strength and was from the same area of Newport News I’d previously lived. He was wrestling in the open division, along with two folks I knew, one well, the other I’d know well later. Allen Hackmann, our assistant coach and Rob Henesey, a former Poquoson state champ who is now a wrestling official. Jimmy, Hackmann and Rob were in the same weight with another guy.

I sat waiting to be called and when I heard my name, I walked over and waited for my bout sheet. As I write this, I can actually feel the rush of adrenaline back to my system. I was so nervous. I mean, I can, right now, feel that sense of a raised heart rate, jitters, etc.

Well, two of the other guys in the bracket next to me were from Kecoughtan (Kick-o-tan), a high school in Hampton. They didn’t show up. Neither did anyone else from Kecoughtan, severely screwing up the hand-paired brackets by local wrestling pairmaster Candido Rodriquez.

Victor Holloway was the coach at Kecoughtan, I didn’t know who he was yet at the time. I ended up getting to know Victor as I covered wrestling for the Daily Press in later years. Well, the tournament director was so pissed, he told “Everyone who has a Kecoughtan guy, walk over to that guy (pointing at Holloway) over there and say thank you.”

So we did.

That left me and someone named Andre Elliot in the bracket. Andre was from Northampton … not the Northampton section of Hampton, but from the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Those of you that wonder what that is, well, it’s that section of Virginia connected to Maryland on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel runs from the southern point of the Eastern Shore to Virginia Beach … it’s about a 30-mile run on the CBBT itself.

Well, little did I know that Andre was there looking for the Poquoson 215-pounder … but not any 215-pounder. He wanted our state qualifier and eventual state runner-up Emile Cochet. He got me.

I saw him, and like a dumbass wrestling noob, I sat next to him and said, “Hey man, how long have you been wrestling?”

“Forever,” he said. “Sh*t,” I said to myself.

He said, “Hey, is that shirt from this year?” I replied, “Yup.”

Then a finger is poked into my back, “Yup, there I am.”

Like a dork, I asked “So, how’d you do?”

“Third this year, I was second last year.”

Granted, Northampton was Single A, but coach Brian Harmon had produced some monster teams over there. Great for Single A and when they went AA, they were still pretty solid.

So here I am, my first wrestling match, and I get a state runner-up and two-time state placewinner who came looking for our starter (and later my drill partner). I’m in for a rough day.

Having started learning to wrestle about a week prior, I knew about half of an inside step, an armbar tilt and an anklepick, even though my arms were like T-Rex arms, short and not very good for going underneath and snatching up ankles.

After watching Jimmy win, Jason Forrest battle Western Branch’s Danny Smith and Mike Green maul some poor sap, I was on the mat.

We wrestled one four minute period at the Bethel Open. I wouldn’t make it the four minutes.

Jason Forrest, who’d just lost in overtime, heard me called and grabbed Mike. “Twinkie’s wrestling, we have to watch this!” Admittedly, they didn’t help with my hesistancy. I was scared to freakin’ death.

The whistle blows and Andre’s in great shape, this guy has muscles on muscles. I tie up (or so I think) and halfway bang the head down and instead of changing my level and attacking the leg, I just dive. I think I might have touched Andre’s kneepad. He snapped (well, didn’t really have to), spun around and scored two. He then threw a half and drove me over to my back. Having no knowledge of wrestling other than a year of watching it and covering the stat aspect, I knew one thing —  I wasn’t going to flap around like a fish out there. It just looks stupid, so I remember thinking, “No, I’m not going to look like that.”

Well, my left arm was trapped underneath me, so there was no way for him to have pinned me from that situation, so he released the half and I bellied down. I moved up to my base and Andre pushed me away for a one-point escape. Before I turned to face him, I looked over at Coach Ruff and Coach Hackmann and said, I kid you not, “I scored!”

I turned and faced Andre again and repeated my folly, a half shot dive. This time, it wasn’t so difficult. Andre sunk in another deep half and simply overpowered me. The half was on my right side, which was the direction of Ruff and Hackmann.

“TWINKIE! LOOK AWAY!”

“C’MON TWINKIE!” hollered other teammates, half amused, half concerned.

This is also the point where I realized my nickname wasn’t really suited for wrestling. I mean, couldn’t they have just yelled my name instead? That might have saved some of the embarrassment. I mean, c’mon … who’s going to be scared of a wrestler named Twinkie? But I digress.

Of course, instead of looking away, I look directly at them, looking right into the half. Not Good.

Whistle blew and I was pinned. Fall time 2:51. So in a regulation match, I would have at least made it through the first period.

For my efforts, I was given a second place medal, my first and only wrestling medal. I should have it somewhere, my mom I think has it back in Poquoson. I look at it more of a turning point in my life than it was “winning” a medal, because I took second … out of two.

Jimmy ended up beating Hackmann, but then lost with an illegal slam, so even though he beat Hackmann, Hack got more classification points. Jimmy took second, so did I.

As I left the tournament, Jimmy looked over at me looking at my medal.

“You’re proud of that aren’t you?” he said.

“Actually, kinda,” I said.

I later ran into Andre in college. He went to Old Dominion and was a bouncer at the now-demolished 4400 Club. I’d see him from time to time and be like “Dude, why’d you have to whip my ass like that?” He’d always laugh. He was a good guy.

Coach Ruff and I still talk to this day. He’s a big reason why I’m so enamored with this sport. When my wrestling career came to an end, Ruff pulled me aside and told me “You’ll do more for this sport doing what you’re doing now, than you ever will for me on a wrestling mat.”

Those words ended up being prophetic. Jason Forrest ended up taking fifth in the state his senior year at 130. Mike Green never got the chance. Later that summer, Mike died after sustaining injuries in a freak accident at the base of his driveway. Until that time, Mike beat me up and down the Poquoson wrestling room. He was a 6-2, 190-pound specimen of a rising freshman. I truly believe he would have been a four-time state champion. After Mike died in August of 1996, I told myself I would make 189 and make states, because that was his spot.

I never fulfilled that obligation, because quite frankly, I got too late of a start in the sport and was so far behind the curve. I remember one practice where Mike just beat me up and down the room, it was just bad. But after a 10-minute go where I think he pinned me five or six times, he looked over and said, “I’m scoring on all your mistakes. It’s not like you’re not picking this up, but you’re just making bad choices on when to shoot and when not to shoot.”

Later that summer, after Mike’s passing, I scored my first (and only) legitimate takedown on Hackmann, who had been a state runner-up at Green Run when he was in high school. Bash the head, quick level change, shot in the direction of where he was circling, snatched the leg, doubled off on the leg and drove him to the mat.

Had it been a match where he was in trouble, I doubt I would have scored it, but to this day, I can still say “Hackmann, I took you down.”

So there’s a little bit about my first wrestling match and the summer that followed. It began my passion for the sport. I ended up winning a few matches at tournaments the rest of the summer, but never qualified for Fargo despite wrestling freestyle for, like a week, that summer.

So Jimmy, that’s the story about my first wrestling match. You talked me into wrestling in it and toted me home. Funny how that seemingly random event would have an effect on the rest of my life.

Written by Jason Bryant

February 2, 2009 at 11:21 pm

Wrestling fans outdrawn by Roller Derby?

I’m a little overdue for a poingant post about anything not relating to Wrestling411, but this weekend in Minnesota, something dawned on me that I feel wrestling fans need to address.

Kyle and I have harped constantly about fan support of college wrestling. In places like Iowa City, an off-day can mean 4,000 people. In New Brunswick, N.J., that’s an all-time record.

Rutgers beat Rider in an all-New Jersey dual over the weekend, drawing just over 4,000 fans with a solid high school dual as a prelim to entice a large crowd to see the state’s two Division I wrestling programs. Nice job, but that needs to be consistent, not a one-time deal, once in a blue moon.

In Denny Diehl’s most recent edition of the Lehigh Wrestling News (LUWN), he pointed out this attenance mark broke the previous mark, which was set 44-45 years ago.

Some of you might know I’ve got a relationship with Roller Derby. I spent time announcing derby back in Pennsylvania under my (registered) derby name — Horace N. Buggy. Last night, I checked out my first Minnesota Roller Girls (MNRG) bout. I took one of my roommates, who’d never seen derby. He’d also never seen wrestling on TV until two weeks ago.

Now, I’m used to seeing derby in rinks surrounded by concrete walls. ESPN did a feature on Roller Derby not too long ago. This isn’t the banked-track type many might think of, but Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby.

But here’s the thing … the capacity of the “legendary” Roy Wilkins Auditorium in downtown St. Paul is about 4,000. There were at least 3,500 people there last night. It blew me away. It was a real event, big time, concessions, beer sales, merchandise.

Compare that to what I saw today, about 10 miles from where I sat last night. The Sports Pavilion on Minnesota’s campus saw 2,571 come through the doors. That’s not a bad crowd, especially when I’ve announced duals in front of 50 fans.

But Roller Derby drew more fans than Minnesota wrestling did on Sunday against Michigan State.

Before fans make excuses about the weather (it was sunny, with a slight breeze and 10 degrees — in Minnesota, we call that WARM for January) or the team (Michigan State is the only unranked team in the Big Ten), you’re telling me that Roller Derby outdrew college wrestling in the same area?

I didn’t hear a single commercial for the MNRG bout, but I saw sponsor booths, vendors, radio station bumper stickers (For an NPR station!) and a carnival atmosphere. The smell of PBR and mini-donuts and overcooked hot dogs oozed from the place.

So why only 2,500 for a college wrestling dual? We will complain about lack of television coverage, but until wrestling fans start showing up more than once in a while, we’re going to be relegated as a second-tier sport, disrespected … not by the networks, but by our own sport itself.

We can make excuses that “Oh, it was just Michigan State, I’ll go when they wrestle someone good.” That’s like playing the lottery when the jackpot only gets over $80 million or something. What, a little bit isn’t good enough?

C’mon people. I really enjoy Roller Derby, but I love wrestling and I sat back and wondered what is it going to take for us to finally get off our butts, stop making excuses and go to a wrestling match, any match, all matches, bringing people, to NOT get outdrawn by Roller Derby.

I don’t know what marketing the MNRG uses, but they started out in a small rink (much like Dutchland) and now have sellouts, halftime entertainment, a risk factor with the contact sport.

And the thing is … more people here in Minnesota know about wrestling than they do Roller Derby, BUT I can’t prove that based on the attendance I’ve seen. This isn’t just in Minnesota, because I know Dutchland outdraws both Millersville and F&M combined. The Windy City Roller Girls outdraw Northwestern on average.

We, as fans, point to basketball constantly about coverage. We don’t get this, but basketball does. Why are we focusing on a sport every Division I school plays (I haven’t looked it up, but I’m sure the 300-plus D1 schools all have hoops)?

We’re being outdrawn by Roller Derby. That’s a great thing for derby fans, but if wrestling fans are so passionate about supporting their teams and programs, even in wrestling hotbeds like the midwest and Pennsylvania, we sure have a funny way of showing it.

I’m happy that there’s such a following for MNRG and Roller Derby in general, but they make their events … events. Jim Harshaw talks about marketing our sport (no, this isn’t a name-drop, but it’s something people have read about on the boards and on Flo recently), well, I can’t think of a better reason to kickstart the marketing of our ON CAMPUS duals than to realize we’re now drawing fewer fans in some areas than Roller Derby.

Some schools have meet and greets and autograph signings, Derby has after parties. Same general concept that the Gopher club uses here in Minnesota with a bus to and from the meet point. Great. The interaction between fans of derby and the derby girls themselves is something that gets people coming back. Perhaps we need more of that.

Mike Denney at Nebraska-Omaha had about 800 fans on Friday, which for Division II, isn’t a bad draw against a non-traditional opponent like Augsburg. But they honored local coaches, threw t-shirts into the crowd, had a great opening intro sequence, made it fun to show up and watch. Wrestlers mingled with fans afterwards with ease.

We, as a sport, like the fact that our athletes are approachable and we don’t have the ushers shooing us away like in roundball … but we don’t take advantage of how good we have it.

Get to a match … because right now, I wouldn’t compare us to basketball … I’d strive to outdraw Roller Derby first.

Bottom line: Sports Pavilion and every wrestling venue SHOULD be full EVERY TIME OUT. Until that happens, we’re going to be a community relegated to whining on message boards about why the NCAA hates wrestling and why ESPN hates wrestling and why wrestling doesn’t get respect.

We must first respect our own sport by showing the support it deserves. I had fun at the derby bout last night … and for good reason, it was a good show.

Today’s Jayson Ness-Franklin Gomez bout was a good show … and more people could have been there to see it.

Written by Jason Bryant

January 25, 2009 at 11:41 pm

E:60 Feature Power of One – ESPN Video

Wrestling is one of the many sports mentioned played by this young man. Great video and inspirational story. We should get this kid in touch with Arizona State’s Anthony Robles.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “E:60 Feature Power of One – ESPN Video“, posted with vodpod

Written by Jason Bryant

November 13, 2008 at 6:20 pm

Posted in Good Stuff

Tagged with

A moment of clarity: What does your college wrestling program mean to you?

I’ll preface this by saying I am very proud to walk into my office each day and see a degree from Old Dominion University placed on the wall. It’s no big secret to people within our sport that I attended school there for seven years (hold the Van Wilder jokes until the end). People bring it up frequently, and like any alum, I’m proud of my school.

I had a gutcheck a short time ago. A moment of clarity, if you will. I really don’t like to write about the ODU program much anymore, because, as most of you might guess, my opinions could be viewed as biased towards my particular alma mater. I’ve always made sure my coverage was down the line and fair, equitable and most of all, professional.

But in responding to a post on the CAAZone, a message board for fans of Colonial Athletic Association teams, I took a moment to think about what that program has meant to me and has done for me as an individual, a friend, a writer, and a broadcaster.

Honestly, I really want all our fans, fans of wrestling, to read this.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jason Bryant

November 7, 2008 at 2:46 am

Anyone want to read a big load of crap?

I got a forwarded e-mail this morning from a friend of mine who keeps an eye on all things combat. What I read was of great interest, because Sweden’s Ara Abrahamian has been one of the top Greco-Roman wrestlers in the world for the past decade.

Swedens Ara Abrahamian was fuming at FILA officials for a call he felt cost him a chance at the Gold Medal match in Beijing.

Sweden's Ara Abrahamian was fuming at FILA officials for a call he felt cost him a chance at the Gold Medal match in Beijing.

You remember the Swedish wrestler taking off his medal and setting it in the middle of the mat during the medal ceremony right? Contrary to media reports, Abrahamaian, the wrestler who said “Screw this, I’m outta here,” didn’t “throw” his medal. He felt he was wronged, so he said to his fellow medalists, “Alright guys, congrats, but I’ve got other things to do, PEACE.”

So a few days afterwards, FILA strips Abrahamian of the bronze. Abrahamian already said he didn’t want it, so this was nothing more than a power play to prevent FILA from being upstaged on the sports, well, biggest stage. Abrahamian, however, incited the wrath of the FILA Board and now will have to pay for simply physically showing his protest.

Here’s the PDF of the FILA sanctions handed down yesterday on Sweden’s Ara Abrahamian and his coach, Leo Myllari.

PDF Link Click Here

The Associated Press also ran a story on this: Here’s the ESPN link. You can pick up on the headline sarcasm.

Let’s pull some things from the PDF for some commentary.

The Prosecutor and the Sporting Judge who analysed the case and the investigation procedure, have given their decision:
– No mistake can be attributed to the officiating body that made its decision according to the
current wrestling rules.

Of course there’s “no fault” from FILA officials. This organization treats many of its officials like gods. Letting the media and coaches and athletes fend for themselves for places to stand and warm-up at World Championships, while officials have posh padded seats matside. The only chairs you see on the floor in Baku were for the officials. I can’t back this up with anything, but is there another organization which is so tight with its officials? Was David Stern and the NBA tight with Tim Donaghy? Nope.

It’s not about whether there was a mistake or not, how about letting the wrestlers know what you called, knowing VERY WELL the last point scored wins. The denseness of those higher-ups in FILA are a big reason why American fans can’t understand, or better yet, don’t care to understand, the evolving world of international “wrestling.”

On the other hand,
– For serious lack of Olympic spirit, non-observance of sporting rules and the principle of Fair Play as well
as for scandalous behaviour contrary to the ethics of sport at the end of the match by the wrestler and the
coach;
– For calumny and insults towards FILA, its managing body, the National Federations, coaches and
wrestlers;
– For moral fault and harm to the reputation of the sport of wrestling.

Scandalous behavior? What do you think all these biased officiating claims come from year after year? Scandalous. A protest? Hardly.

Insults towards FILA. Wah Wah Wah. What a bunch of big wigged babies. You cannot make fun of us, we will suspend you, even though we screw up royally all the time.

FILA President Raphael Martinetti

FILA President Raphael Martinetti

Moral Fault and Harm? If Abrahamian would have drop-kicked the referee (which I’m sure now, he might want to have done) I can see “Fault and Harm.” What Abrahamian did, whether you agree with him or not, is human nature. You feel you’ve been wronged, you speak up about it. Yes, after a while, you will “get over it.” Abrahamian showed he was “over it” by showing up FILA.

That’s why he’s being punished and yes — SUSPENDED — for TWO YEARS from international competition. He’s being fined 3,000 in Swiss Francs and can’t even compete within his own country. His coach got a two year ban and 10K in fines.

Oh, and the COUNTRY is banned from holding competition for two years. WTF!

TWO YEARS. That’s right. Can you imagine Allen Iverson or Jeremy Shockey getting a two-year ban for mouthing off to an official? Granted, I wouldn’t mind seeing a little less of “The Answer,” but the fact remains we’re argumentative as a people … but there’s one group you cannot SHOW UP if you’re wrestling — FILA.

By contrast, folks will say USA Wrestling is tight-lipped about things. Message board chatter can be pulled when it either attacks, gets out of hand, or who knows why, but if FILA were to have a message board, the only messages allowed would likely be “FILA is Great.” If you said “FILA is okay,” then expect to get banned — for two years.

My message to FILA is simply this — we know, we all know why you suspended Abrahamian, he made you look bad. Suck it up and take it like a man, suspending Abrahamian only shows how pius and arrogant FILA is as an organization.

The only thing FILA proves by making this type of decision is that they are almighty and shall never be questioned. What a bunch of crap.

Written by Jason Bryant

November 6, 2008 at 12:53 pm