The Bryant Blog: Life, Wrestling, Pop Culture

Find my wrestling podcasts at MatTalkOnline.com

Archive for the ‘Not Completely About Wrestling’ Category

Star Trek: The “I don’t do movie reviews” version

This might contain spoilers … so that being said SPOILER ALERT!

I’m not a Trekkie. I’ve never been a fan of anything in the Star Trek franchise. Whether it be the original, the Next Generation (with the guy from Reading Rainbow), Deep Space Nine or whatever the others were — I’d have to actually look them up to tell you their names.

I never watched any of the original Star Trek movies, with perhaps the beginning of The Wrath of Khan, where Captain Kirk is scaling the side of some mountain.

The only experiences I’d had with Star Trek were watching some of the animated series back when it was on Nickelodeon back when I was a kid and sitting through it with my dad and step mom. I never thought she’d be much of a Trekkie until I tried to change the channel one day and she snapped at me.

I’m a big fan of reliving things from my childhood, even though they might have been someone else’s childhood. For this Star Trek is an anamoly to me. I don’t have any Star Trek memories, other than the aforementioned animated series.

I was enthralled with Transformers when it came out. I saw the animated movie when I was like seven. Peter Cullen as the voice of Optimus Prime thrust me back into childhood.

But now with Star Trek, this was all new. I knew who the charachters were … Spock, McCoy, Kirk, Scotty, Sulu, Checkov, Uhura. I wasn’t familiar with any backstory and didn’t go in with any pre-conceived notions about it.

I knew about Vulcan, the Romulans, Kirk’s womanizing (which I thought was comedically tactful in the movie). I didn’t recognize Winona Ryder for some reason.

One big chuckle came early in the film where the screen showed “Iowa,” immediately getting a rise out of the college kids situated in the back of the theater.

I’d consider this movie highly enjoyable to the non-Trekkie. I was captivated, engaged and entertained. At the risk of sounding like a complete douche, I never quite understood the Trekkie culture, but if people felt this way about the original, I can see why one could be caught up in it. I won’t do conventions or whatever, but here’s a few things that made the movie campy enough, but exciting to watch again (gasp!).

Simon Pegg as Scotty was freakin’ awesome. I agree with one critic who said he stole the movie. No way was the guy from Hot Fuzz and the guy from Harold & Kumar going to be in a serious movie … but holy shit, they pulled it off.

The catchphrases were worked in, sometimes seeming forced, but not without a laugh. I don’t know much beyond the fringe of it, but I understood everything that was going on. That could be a credit to the movie doing a lot to educate, without being overbearing. This was a great Tuesday at the movies and I’d highly recommend it — Trekkie or not.

Terminator Salvation, on the other hand … not impressed. And I LOVE the Terminator series.

Although I am growing tired of seeing The Terminator and Terminator 3 on TV constantly because of the rise of the new movie. Why no T2, which I feel was the best of the series.

The Wrath of Khan is on right now, I don’t think I’ll be watching it.

But Leonard Nimoy was one of those people when you see in film or TV, that just makes you go “DUUUDE, SPOCK!” I liked his role in Star Trek and might actually go see the movie again (double gasp!)

Written by Jason Bryant

May 27, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Well, there’s been a slight change in plans

Last year, I made a decision to run a marathon. This decision still stands, but the timeframe was a bit premature for me to try to run the St. Louis Marathon on April 19. That being said, I’m simply backing up my schedule, and instead, running the Twin Cities Marathon on October 4.

I could make excuses, but the reality is, I’ve got running shoes and the desire to accomplish this feat, but wrestling season, traveling and of course, the Minnesota winter, got in the way.

I started running in October and early November, then the cold got to me. I’m from Virginia, so I’m used to pretty mild winters with little, if any snow. I’m not a runner. I’ve never been a runner. I’m also not a runnin’ fool like my co-worker, who can probably rip off 10-15 miles if you say “Go.”

The most I ran in one set before the winter set in was six miles. Now, the weather is starting to cooperate and I can get some real headway before the summer. Another bit of motivation is my girlfriend is going to run one in June. Now, the alpha male in me cannot have that on my conscious. If anything, it’s something we can do together and I’m looking forward to it.

Kyle had suggested I start with some 5K’s after I train some, that way I can get used to running road races and get a bit acclimated to the decorum and rules of running. I’m to the point where I’m 255 pounds and my knees don’t have 30 extra pounds of weight pushing down on them. Why join a health club when I live in the suburbs and have many running trails and less-traveled roads to follow.

The trail behind my house is a few miles long and could be a great way to just relax. I’ve been eating right, living right and doing what I can to make my body work better for me. Gone are the days I’d kill 2-3 pitchers while shooting darts and rifling through a pack of smokes. Gone are the college parties, bar hopping and general debauchery. Oh, I’m not going all prude, if anyone saw me in St. Louis, they know I’m still a social being.

I still loathe fast food, but during the wrestling season and traveling, it’s very hard to avoid those types of food options. What may come as a surprise to many of you is that I really enjoy salads. I’ve made some kick ass salads since returning home from Nationals and returning back after my trip to Virginia. It’s a lot more cost effective than ordering salads out. I’m cutting the dining out portion of my life back and using the space in which I live to be more conducive to a healthy, life-loving atmosphere.

The last three weeks, especially the last nine days, have been a great motivator for me. The weather is cooperating and it’s now disc golf season. For the die-hards, it never died, but I now have maps to 100 courses within 100 miles of my residence. I bought some new plastic (discs) from the Disc Golf shop on Rice Street in St. Paul and I’m eager to toss them around and check out the new courses.

The thing about disc for a portly fellow like myself isn’t just throwing and chasing, but the walking involved does lead to breaking a sweat up the hills. The course back home in Newport News is about 1.5 miles around, and I usually play 1-2 rounds a day. This will start to pick up, probably tomorrow. I’ve finished editing Tuesday’s show and it should be encoding as I type this, but there’s something very calming about disc golf to me. I’m not very good in the grand scheme of things, but it’s an activity you can start doing with little cost and even less effort.

I won’t be playing today, but I’m anxious to get my new drivers some added distance. I’ve never been a “big arm” thrower, which doesn’t make sense since I’m a big guy. One of these days, I’ll finally beat my buddy Nate, who has NEVER lost to me once. We’ve tied once at Buchmiller Park in Lancaster, but maybe I’ll get a shot when he comes into town on business next week.

I’ll also be blogging more and blogging less, if that makes any sense. I feel energized now that our season has come to an end, but it also hasn’t. We’re having more topical shows on Wrestling 411 and still doing two shows a week and trying to fundraise, which is always a treat in this economy.

So the new goal is October 4, 2009 — Twin Cities Marathon. I WILL be ready.

Written by Jason Bryant

April 15, 2009 at 5:33 pm

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

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

Fear and Loathing in a Chevy Blazer

I’m cold, I’m covered in snow and now, I will soon be parting from my owner for the last time. I’ve had a good run, I’ve had some interesting company. I was born in 2000 and don’t really remember much about my first owner.

Apparently they didn’t feel I was good enough, so I sat in Hampton, until one day, some guy named Twinkie came in and rescued me and took me for a whirlwind tour and it was one helluva ride.

It was October of 2003 and a distant cousin, a Ford Bronco II, had been put to pasture. I was newer, more in tune with society, I even had an airbag or two. I was more comfortable and kicked serious ass.

I got pissed at times. I’ve been puked on, puked in, pissed on, sneezed on, spit on, smoked in, spilled on, spilled in, hit by trees, sideswiped by taxis and seen the country.

I started out living in Virginia, hitting potholes in ghetto neighborhoods and driving up on curbs. I was not the Bronco, so Twinkie treated me with more respect. I wasn’t beaten up, I was in great shape, in the prime of my life.

I’m a Southern being, I don’t like snow, I don’t like the cold. I’ve had better days, been sick, broke down here and there, but I’m powered by Vortec, and I know how to get from point A to point B.

I’ve come home for Christmas, moves across country, been jammed with a 46-inch flat screen TV as the only other passenger. I’ve been crammed with seven people heading down to a concert, where I was sadly left outside.

I’ve been pulled over, towed, and I’ve had three different coworkers with my sound system.

I’ve been covered in dog hair, old CD’s, dirt. I’ve had better days, I’d have worse days.

I’ve been to Philadelphia, New York City, Virginia Beach … I went over 100,000 miles at the base of the Washington Monument in D.C. I’ve been lost in Baltimore, turned around in Harrisburg, and seemingly, at home, in some place called Fargo, N.D.

I’d never been to Fargo, yet I seemed to know everything about it. Why did I know what the Bison Turf was? I’d never been there. Who were these people piling into me? They seemed familiar, like friends, but I hadn’t met them.

Oh wait, I remember you Ben, you puked in me two weeks after I was purchased.

It was a happy day when I learned I was no longer the property of a bank, but some guy who couldn’t drive a lick and ran me to the bone … October, five years after I drove off a Pomoco lot in the shadows of the Hampton Coliseum on Mercury Boulevard, I was now fully paid off.

Here it is, January of 2009 … and I won’t see February. My wheels don’t grip ice well, I got punched in the face by a concrete wall. I’m done, I’m not going to ever get back on the road. I’m worm food, well, at least I’m due for a slow demise in a crusher or salvage yard. I’ve got some good things left, but I’m no longer of any use to anyone who wants to drive me.

I haven’t been on as many roads as Johnny Cash, but I’ve been to Fargo, I can probably sing half the lines, because I’ve heard it so many times.

I’ll never hear any more 2 Skinnee J’s, I’ll never hear any more Atmosphere. I’ll never be stuck in a parking garage again. I’ll never have to deal with needing new wipers. I’ll never know what it’s like to see the Pacific.

I know these inherent facts:
I’ve had many co-pilots from Virginia to Pennsylvania to Minnesota.
I’ve seen people spin out and crash in front of me just days before Christmas.
I know that disc golf isn’t just an activity.
I’ve toted Olympians, NCAA Wrestling Champions and the sport’s finest.
I’ve toted scumbags and complete jackasses as well.
I’ve hauled PA equipment.
I’ve attended Roller Derby.
I’ve reeked of beer and smoke.
I’ve been unlocked by locksmiths.
I’ve been unlocked by a very large Katana blade.
I know what the drive thru attendant at the Lancaster McDonalds sounds like and she knows the rattle of my muffler.
I know people see me and know I spent time at Old Dominion University.
I know people have used me to sleep in … and pass out … and again, puke.
I know I once cost 80 bucks to fill up.
I know I’ve been worked on, fixed, broken and repaired.
I’ve been to New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and North Dakota.
I know what the outside of Pat’s and Geno’s look like.
Very few people have ever been behind my wheel.
I know what a “WU-FONG” is and have mastered it.
I know I had a good run.

I had a great life and in 136,000 miles … I don’t regret it all.

I knew my time was coming, but didn’t think it would be this abrupt.

I will say this … when I see you in hell, Mr. Concrete, I’m going to EFF you up something good.

This is my swan song …

Blazer – OUT.

Written by Jason Bryant

January 12, 2009 at 3:29 pm