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A much-needed update ….

I recall Abby telling me just this week that someone was telling her she needed to update her blog more frequently. Well, allow me to oblige.

As some of the cousins, in-laws, etc. from the Minnesota side of the family have asked – am I ever home?

Yes, I’m home quite a bit, it’s just the weekends that have me on the road. This year, being an Olympic year, it will probably get worse. My boss told me earlier to prepare for the busiest year of my life. Somewhat prophetic if you ask me. I’ve already crossed Premier Executive status on United. I’ve been to New York City four times in the past calendar year, which is two more times than I’d been in my entire life combined. I bug Abby to death with the constant Foursquare updates on my phone. But now we even get United miles for me checking in.

This weekend, I have no travel. Whew. But here’s what I’ve got in store:
Dec. 15-18: Arlington, Texas
Dec. 23-27: Minnesota for Christmas
Dec. 27-31: Chicago, Ill. (Evanston, actually)
Jan. 6-9: Springfield, Ill.
January 10-16: Hampton, Va. (Work trip, but it takes me back home)
January 20-21: Event in Colorado Springs
January 28: Event in Colorado Springs
February 2-4: Event in Colorado Springs
February 5: Another unrelated event in Colorado Springs (TV)
— Nothing Confirmed for these two weekends as yet —
February 23-26: Yet another event in Colorado Springs
February 29-March5: Des Moines & Waterloo, Iowa. (NAIA Nationals)
March 8-12: La Crosse, Wis. (Division III Nationals)
March 13-18: St. Louis, Mo. (Division I Nationals)
March 22-26: Orlando, Fla. (Olympic Qualifier)
March 29-April 1: Cedar Falls, Iowa (Last Chance Olympic Qualifier)
April 19-22: Iowa City, Iowa (Olympic Trials)

Whew … so there you have it. I’m a bit of a road warrior.

And to make up for lost time, here’s a blog I wrote about the Rodeo for my work’s blog site:

“It’s bulls and blood, it’s dust and mud. It’s the roar of a Sunday crowd. It’s the white in his knuckles, the gold in the buckle, he’ll win the next go ‘round. It’s boots and chaps, it’s cowboy hats, it’s spurs and lattigo. It’s the ropes and the reigns and the joy and the pain and they call the thing rodeo.” – Rodeo, By Garth Brooks.

While Las Vegas may be a city that never sleeps, it’s also a venerable sports mecca. The first weekend in December has long been the host of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.

Wrestling isn’t alone in Vegas. Amidst the neon lights, card tables and dashed dreams of many a gambler, there’s an oddly disproportionate number of boots and chaps and cowboy hats, even in this part of the country.

Before the action got started in the Las Vegas Convention Center, nearly 18,000 rodeo fans packed the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas for the opening night of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

For those of you who didn’t grow up around ranchers, farmland or livestock of any kind, let me give you the neophyte version of what a rodeo is: A BLAST!

Didn’t expect that, did you? While I like to make light of my southern roots and my relatives twangy dialect, where I come from, rodeo isn’t a thing. We (myself not included) prefer things like NASCAR and … NASACAR. Out west, the dialects may be similar but the passion for the original extreme sport, rodeo, is mindblowing.

USA Wrestling hosted the Olympic Trials at the Thomas & Mack back in 2008. Boy, would we have loved to see the same type of crowd then as we did on day one (of ten) of the National Finals Rodeo.

It started out with pyrotechnics and renowned rodeo announcer Boyd Polhamus getting the crowd geared up. Polhamus also has a strong connection to wrestling. He was featured in a 2010 issue of USA Wrestler Magazine.

Polhamus is to rodeo what Ed Aliverti was to wrestling. The absolute master of ceremony. He and his sidekick announcer joke the riders and joke each other, providing an endless commentary to the events taking place on an arena floor covered with dirt.

As Craig Sesker and I watched on, we saw bareback bronco bucking, steer wrestling, barrel racing, calf roping and of course, everyone’s favorite, the bull riding.

As Craig scanned the start sheet, he noticed a few names with wrestling backgrounds, including a wrestler he did a feature on while he was working in Omaha, Steven Dent.

On this night, Dent would come away with over $10,000 by riding Nutrena’s Wise Guy (the horse’s name) to a third-place finish in Bareback Riding.

Cliches aside, this really WAS my first rodeo. It’s like going to the Super Bowl to watch your first football game or going to the Kentucky Derby to watch your first horse race – wait, I actually did that Derby thing a few years back.

But this rodeo was captivating. I looked around the arena, surveying opening night of a 10-day festival of belt buckles and 10-gallon hats. I looked up at the jumbotron above the dirt arena floor, only to see Wyoming head wrestling coach Mark Branch on screen enjoying the action.

A few sections over, USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender and his wife were watching the action.

The rodeo production at this stage was nothing short of exceptional. Every rider, every chute, everything had music, a sponsor and excitement tied to it. Opening parades, pyrotechnics, hard rock music … and even some hip hop (yes, at a rodeo). This was a production the likes I’ve never seen with my own eyes, and it belonged to rodeo.

As Polhamus introduced each rider, some of the biggest ovations came when the women took the stage and went barrel racing. The top three ranked riders in the land were the last three to hit the dirt. First through third were decided by two hundreths of a second with Brittany Pozzi and Lindsay Sears tying with 14.03.

You have to remember, there’s 10 rounds. Ten days of action. Ten days to get in the money, which made every session worth attending. In two hours, I went from rodeo rookie to well, someone who truly enjoyed every second of the biggest sporting event Vegas would see that weekend, only it was the third most important to those of us there to watch wrestling.

While the rodeo did provide steer wrestling, the Cliff Keen Invitational and U.S. Freestyle Olympic Trials qualifier was our news – but no matter how great the wrestling was at the Convention Center, Vegas hosting the NFR was the highlight of the weekend.

If money was no object, every wrestling event would have the pomp and circumstance the rodeo does. Many duals and tournaments have it, but maybe someone should take the folks from the NCAA over to the NFR to get some ideas on how to spice up the sport even more.

Written by Jason Bryant

December 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Where does the time go?

It’s been a few months since I scribbled anything over here. Mainly because with the new job, I’m more “in line” than I could be when I was an independent entity. Anyway, just some updates.

I finished up a long list of trips since March.

NCAA Division III
NCAA Division II
NCAA Division I
USA Wrestling Girls Folkstyle Nationals
– Easter –
USA Wrestling University & FILA Cadet Nationals
– Abby came to visit, went house hunting –
USA Wrestling ASICS U.S. Open

That’s six tournaments in eight weekends … all the while trying to assist in planning a wedding. Notice I didn’t say “plan” the wedding, but Abby has been great at organizing and planning, making my hectic travel schedule the last two months a bit easier to deal with.

The next few weeks don’t get any slower.

I go to Virginia for a day and a half this weekend for what amounts to seeing friends who can’t come to the wedding. Bachelor Party isn’t really in the works, but I’m sure I’ll be having fun back home for a bit.

Then I ship out to Minnesota to get married (May 8 … 10 days away, Yikes!), then to Aruba, then to Philly, then to Lancaster, then back to Colorado Springs.

No, I’m not talking too much about wrestling right now, but just saw this page sitting idly and figured, update time. Blah.

Wedding coming soon. Oh boy.

Written by Jason Bryant

April 28, 2010 at 4:47 pm

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

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

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

Like this.

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Jason Bryant

July 15, 2009 at 10:14 pm

Wrestling and MMA, some more thoughts

UFC 100 went off last night at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, and like millions of other fight fans, I ponied up the $45 and sat back in my recliner, laptop sitting on my lap (how appropriate) and sipped on an Arnold Palmer beverage.

Much of the buzz surrounded the rise of Brock Lesnar up the UFC ladder and his rematch with Frank Mir. The two met last year in a bout which saw Lesnar’s raw power trounce Mir in the early going, before the BJJ specialist made the lesser experienced Lesnar tap out.

Here’s where I started getting into things.

As a wrestling writer, I’ve covered the sport and all its nuances for over a decade. College, high school, middle school and youth wrestling events, and I have a vested interest in the sport of wrestling. It is my livelihood.

So that being said, I tend to root for wrestlers, and last night, there were A LOT of wrestlers on the card. I was participating in Maggie Hendricks’ Yahoo MMA live chat/blog, watching the fights and using twitter. I never felt the need to tweet much of anything, especially where everyone and their mother is tweeting from the UFC fight.

So here’s a few ideas.

Twittering from Tommy Rowlands on GSP
Tommy Rowlands was a two-time NCAA wrestling champion at Ohio State. He’s managing the Regional Training Center in Columbus, Ohio, a site where wrestlers have been training in freestyle for places on the U.S. National teams training for world and Olympic titles. Well, Tommy was seeing his first UFC fight and was “tweeting” from the event. One such tweet I found particularly interesting was about Georges St-Pierre.

Simply put: “GSP is the best wrestler to never wrestle.”

That’s what Tommy said and I can’t agree more. What I’ve seen from GSP over the last two years, maybe longer, has been his fantastic takedown and wrestling ability. Considering he never wrestled growing up, GSP has been able to neutralize MMA’s top wrestlers. I was first impressed with his ability to takedown former NCAA champion and four-time All-American Josh Koscheck. Last night against Thiago Alves, GSP neutralized his opponents deadly leg kicks and snatched them up and countered with 10 takedowns. I noted on the Yahoo! live blog that his takedowns were textbook. Snatching up the leg, driving in and doubling off at the waist and finishing with control. I sat in my chair thinking “TWO!” nearly every time GSP took Alves down to the cage floor.

GSP was amazing, and I never realized I was older than he was. He just has a sense about him of maturity and dominance unmatched. He gives Quebecers a sports hero to be proud of.

Even though GSP never wrestled, his mat skills make wrestlers tend to gravitate towards the guy.

Dan Henderson
The knockout of the night. Dan Henderson, a 1992 Greco-Roman Olympian, wasn’t part of the main event, but UFC 100 was solid enough that this bout could have headlined any other UFC event I’ve watched over the past decade.

He KO’ed Ultimate Fighter alum Michael Bisping and then after the fact, landed a hard shot to the face of Bisping as he laid flat on the ground. Henderson was quoted in Dan Doyle’s story eloquently.

“I don’t know if he’ll ever shut his mouth,” said Henderson (25-7) in his postfight octagon interview. “I think that last [forearm] was just to shut him up.”

The UFC has come under fire for promoting a trash-talking element to it and getting away from the sporting aspect. Well, at least that’s the case in the eyes of some combat sports writers and MMA purists. Personally, I like how this can be somewhat “real” in terms of these people just don’t like each other and it’s not scripted like the wonderful world of the WWE.

Hendo gave wrestling fans another reason to cheer last night.

Speaking of the WWE
I get a bit annoyed when fans will immediately associated Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley with the WWE. It’s unfortunate for both of them they will be viewed as the “fake” wrestlers before their stellar amateur/college wrestling careers are mentioned.

Here’s where I have an issue.

Neither Lesnar or new-on-the-scene Lashley use anything they did in the WWE to develop their fighting skills when entering MMA. Lesnar’s attitude drew the ire of MMA fans and media, and Lashley isn’t even in the UFC (yet), but WWE fans are quick to point out those two are “from” the WWE.

No, they are not FROM the WWE. They’re from wrestling, real wrestling. Lesnar was an NCAA wrestling champion at Minnnesota, while Lashley was a solid two-time NAIA champ at Missouri Valley. They got their mat skills from wrestling. It’s like saying a sportswriter learned how to hit the keys because he was a bricklayer previously.

I’m indifferent on Lesnar’s post-fight antics. He was fired up. People might say it was an act and his WWE persona, but hell, he didn’t act classy in victory, but who cares? Didn’t he give us what we wanted to see? He pounded Frank Mir’s face into hamburger. He was fired up and then fired off some shots at Mir, the sponsors, etc.

I like how regal and appreciative and sportsmanlike guys like GSP are in victory and in defeat (although GSP’s defeats are few and far between), but Lesnar was a brash and took all the credit. I loved it. I don’t like showboats or taunts in college wrestling. I appreciate personality and a fiery disposition. I guess I’m watching the UFC, I don’t want to see two guys beat the crap out of each other and then hug when there’s obviously no respect there.

When there’s respect, there’s sportsmanship. When there’s no respect, you see fire. There’s room for both. But in terms of sales, Lesnar did what people might have wanted him, or expected him, to do … taunt and get brash. I don’t have too much of a problem with it.

But back to the point here … Lashley and Lesnar aren’t “FROM” the WWE. They spent time in the sports entertainment world, but their talents in fighting, grappling and wrestling didn’t come from the WWE and I want to make that point, even if it falls on deaf ears.

They’re REAL wrestlers and they were REAL wrestlers first.

Written by Jason Bryant

July 12, 2009 at 1:23 pm

I’m not Cameron Crowe, but knowing early is something else

Kyle Klingman, my partner in crime here at Wrestling 411, often points to the Cameron Crowe movie “Almost Famous” in referring to things I’ve done with writing. I love music, I love writing, I love the concept of being able to explain what I write to the common reader in terms they can understand, comprehend and envision.

But it’s a lazy Saturday here in Arden Hills and I’ve got a seven-mile run looming. There’s a point in this movie, where the character, William Miller, plays The Who’s “Tommy” and the track “Sparks” plays. It’s one of my favorite tunes by The Who and it made me want to tell another story.

I’ve been around sports for much of my life. Not my adult life, but my life in general. One of my early “gigs” was with a semipro football team back home in Virginia — the Peninsula Poseidons. They had an aggressive marketing campagin surrounding the Mason-Dixon Football League team. The team was nothing special, but Ed and George Fiscella, wrestling people before I knew they were wrestling people, got the community behind a team which comprised of shipyard workers, bartenders, bouncers and former high school football players. Some personalities had solid careers, like Brian Darden, a speedy wideout who played in the Canadian Football League. Others, like Kevin “Half Pint” Vines, stood at 5-foot-2.

Andy Cohen, a local real estate agent was the P.A. announcer, was an early model in announcing. Guy was hilarious and really gave me some insight on the sporting world.

Well, I started going to Poseidons games back in seventh grade. I kept track of the league, the stats, called up Ed Fiscella weekly on the Poseidons office line to get info on the league and the team. I ended up working as the press box assistant and even made the program. The spring of seventh grade, I moved to Poquoson, about 10 miles from Newport News, but still continued going to games and volunteering, trying to get any jump start on any experience I could in writing and broadcasting.

So in eighth grade, I sat at a Hardees waiting for my mom to come pick me up after a game. The game was a win by the Poseidons over the Virginia Invaders, a team based in Richmond. I sat down and started writing on a legal pad. I was writing a game story, for no other reason, than to write one. As I was sipping on my sweet tea when a couple of the Invader players started chit chatting with me about the game.

I said I was in middle school and wanted to be a sports broadcaster. The Invaders lost that particular game, but one of those guys asked to see what I was writing. They, as a group, read over it and actually thought it was good. It probably was bad. One of them even commented on how neat my handwriting was.

Well, as I sat there, and they offered me the rest of their fried chicken (which was new at Hardees at the time), I kept writing. I never thought that moment would mean anything, but I sometimes wonder what set this all into motion. I enjoy writing, I like covering a game or an event and providing an insight more than just a “who did what.”

One thing I learned in my time working at the Daily Press was the coverage feature. It’s standard in sports writing, but not too frequent in wrestling writing. Sometimes fans will complain that “you didn’t talk enough about this,” or “why didn’t you talk about that?” What I like about being able to write is to tell another angle of the story. What was the biggest part of the match? Well, to fans, that’s not always what intrigues the writer.

The biggest match in a dual isn’t always when the top two wrestlers in the country wrestle, but the worst two wrestlers in the respective starting line-ups decide the outcome.

But this isn’t about wrestling entirely. I’ve told stories about seemingly innocuous events in sports. I remember covering a women’s basketball home opener at Hampton University against the University of Virginia. Debbie Ryan was recovering from breast cancer. Hampton made it a game, but the powerful ACC team was too much.

I get on rants and ramble at times, but in watching “Almost Famous,” I think back of my own experiences growing up, writing about semi-pro football games and youth super bowls. I think about writing a feature on a local wrestler who went on to become a Division III All-American. I think about my start with the Peninsula Poseidons. I think about my start in wrestling.

I think about living that dream that Cameron Crowe outlined so well in a great rock movie.

Everyone has to start somewhere, I’m just happy I started before I even turned 13.

Now if I only could get motivated to edit video, clean the house, do laundry and then run seven miles.

Written by Jason Bryant

June 13, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Posted in Not Completely About Wrestling

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