Monday, November 26, 2007

I hear voices.

Sports fans know voices – Harry Carey, Jack Buck, Al Michaels, John Madden (or is it Frank Caliendo?) – we can immediately recognize those voices. For fans of amateur wrestling it’s not quite the same. You know the voices, but you may not know the names – Ed Winger, Doug Brown, Ed Aliverti … and Sandy Stevens.

You may not know Sandy’s name and you may not know what she looks like, but if you’re a wrestling fan – you know her voice. I’ll let Sandy’s National Wrestling Hall of Fame biography tell the story.

One characteristic of her work is her neutrality. Regardless of who’s on the mat or the school they’re from – she gives each competitor his/her due.

Sandy is involved in wrestling in other ways – you can find her articles on intermat and in the pages of W.I.N. Magazine. She is also a proud alumnus of the University of Northern Iowa and wants you all to know about the second annual Pledges for Pins campaign to support Panther wrestling.

“November 1, 2007

Dear Friends of Panther Wrestling,

Fall means the UNI wrestling season is underway, but it also means its “fall-athon” time: time for our second “Pledges for Pins” drive. But first let’s look at what is being accomplished with pledges for last year’s team total of 48 pins that brought in nearly $25,000.
· A complete makeover of both sides of the West gym’s north hallway, including action shots of all UNI national champions. (View the plans at; click on “Artwork,” then enter “wrestling” as the “magic word.”)
· Coach Brad Penrith’s former office now serves as a wrestlers’ study and video room and contains a desk for assistant Tolly Thompson. The room’s new doors now open into the assistant coaches’ office.
· A former athletic trainer’s room is being updated for the first time in about 30 years to become Brad’s office.
· Exposed plumbing was covered in a tiny custodial office now used for wrestling supplies.
Why is a Pledges for Pins drive necessary? Panther wrestlers compete in the first-rate McLeod center but sorely lack updated facilities in the West gym, which remains their home. This site pales in comparison to that of nearly every other Division I university, a definite recruiting disadvantage for the Panthers.
In recent years, rising costs and lower state funds have combined to severely limit help from the university itself, so those of us as who care about returning the UNI program to its stature as one of the top in the nation are lending our support.
Any pledge amount, from $1 up, is welcome. Donors may specify a maximum number of pins for their contribution; for example, $20 for a maximum 50 pins ($1,000). Outright donations are also welcome, but PLEASE specify to the UNI Foundation that these are for the Pledges for Pins project. Contributors will be sent a statement at the end of the season, and all contributions are tax-deductible.
Pledges and donations should be sent, via the enclosed card, to Pledges for Pins, UNI Foundation Accounting, 1221 W. 23rd St, Cedar Falls, IA 50614 -0239.
Last year, Panther wrestlers built an elementary school playground, moved a hospital daycare center’s playground equipment, donated money for Christmas gifts for a classroom of low-income children (and sang them carols), read to children at area schools, and served as Safe Date escorts during Homecoming Week. And they did all this while posting the fifth-highest GPA in the nation, behind Duke, Stanford, Brown and Princeton! Now we can show them our spirit and concern.


Sandy Stevens

P.S. All UNI meets will be carried on KWAY radio this season, and Coach Penrith will appear on 99.3 FM radio every Wednesday evening from 7 to 8 p.m. Everyone is welcome at Booster Club meetings held the first Wednesday of every month at Stratton’s, 405 Main, Cedar Falls.”

I’m in – are you? Since we’re not including the pledge card, send a note making your pledge and specifying that it is for Pledges for Pins.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Just because they love it

I love NCAA Division III athletes (my daughter was one). They are perhaps nearest to the idealized concept of “student athlete” of all those that participate in college athletics. Without benefit of athletic financial aid, they choose to compete primarily for one reason – love of their sport.

Saturday I attended the Coe College (IA) Turkey Open wrestling tournament. You can only watch internet wrestling videos so long before withdrawal sets in. You must see live wrestling.

A small-college wrestling tournament has a different feel than a larger event like the Kaufman-Brand Open (also held Saturday). First there is the intimacy. The gyms are small and even in the balcony you feel very close to the action. Then, of course, there is the heat and the perspiration.

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Part of the crowd at the 2007 Coe College Turkey Open

The small arena and the intimate atmosphere have other benefits – one being that it is easier to meet friends and relatives of the athletes. I met members of a small entourage from Aledo, IL who had come to watch Coe’s freshman star, Clayton Rush (winner of the 125 pound championship). I was impressed by how quickly they had all become such avid Kohawk fans. Amid all of their cheering for all of the Coe wrestlers, there was no forgetting whom they really came to see.

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Generally, Division III wrestlers lack the skills of their Division I counterparts. They also typically come out of high school lacking the championship resumes possessed by large school wrestlers. There are, of course, exceptions. There are well-known cases of highly sought-after athletes recruited by major wrestling programs who, after a year or two in the big school’s wrestling room opted to transfer to smaller schools. Undefeated (155-0), four-time DIII champion Marcus Levesseur from Augsburg College is the most famous of these. What they do not lack is the same competitiveness.

You’ll see a lot of action in Division III matches – and a lot of scoring. You seem to see a lot less of the “hanging at the edge”, tactical wrestling you’ll sometimes encounter on the “big stage”. That’s what I enjoyed the most about Saturday’s meet – all of that action.

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One of my wife’s friends told us a story about her son-in-law, who was a Division III wrestling All-American. They were celebrating the fact that he had finally obtained AA status in his senior year. In the middle of the party someone noticed that he had tears in his eyes. When asked what was wrong he said, “It just hit me – I’ll never wrestle again.”

Monday, November 12, 2007

Season predictions

I’m going way out on a limb and make some predictions for the 2007-2008 wrestling season.

Jake Herbert will not win an NCAA championship in 2008. Nor will he win an Architectural Digest home decorating award.

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2. Mike Allen will have bigger biceps than all of the other officials at the NCAA tournament – and many of the wrestlers.

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3. The NCAA champion will be located within 125 miles of Interstate 35.

4. At some point during the year I will hear Sandy Stevens’ voice (so will you if you get out and attend some wrestling meets).

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5. The following things will be posted on the internet at some time during the season.

a. “If Cael Sanderson had not competed in such weak weight classes he would not have gone undefeated”, (and then someone will inevitably point out that he lost to the late Iowa Hawkeye, Paul Jenn during his redshirt year).
b. “If Dan Gable were wrestling today – he couldn’t beat (insert the name of your favorite New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania or Ohio high school wrestler here).”

6. At some time during the season a bunch of Olympic Gold Medalists will get together and exchange pleasantries.

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Hawkeye fan bonus

1. The price of ice cream cones at Carver Hawkeye Arena will go up – and just like with gas prices – we’ll pay the extra money – because they’re a necessity.

2. Fat, middle-aged men will believe that – although there is no visual evidence – 10 more steps have been added to the top of the stairs at CHA (especially if carrying a grand daughter)

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3. At least once during every match, the fan who has sat 4 rows in front of me for almost 20 years will yell out, “ankle pick”. The only exception over that time was when Eric Juergens wrestled.

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Finally – at least once before every meet the Iowa pep band will play Pinball Wizard and it will sound nothing like this.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Wrestling heroes

Tom Shanahan, a writer for the Voice of San Diego was once interviewing University of Minnesota wrestling coach J Robinson and asked him about his military service (Robinson served as an Army Ranger in Viet Nam). Shanahan said, “Army Ranger, that’s like a Navy SEAL, right?” Robinson glared at him and said, “Yeah, but tougher.”

We often speak of athletes as heroes because of their accomplishments in competition. I am as guilty of this as anyone. I frequently cite Dan Gable as one of my “heroes” (see my myspace profile). Next Sunday we honor America’s military veterans. Many wrestlers have been among them.

The National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum has honored several veterans for their service to America. Representative Carl Albert, Senator John Chaffee, Michael Collins, Dr. Kenneth Faust, General Ronald Fogleman, Admiral James Holloway, General Charles Krulak, Major General Kenneth Leuer, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, General Norman Schwartzkopf and George Washington are among the Outstanding Americans enshrined in the Hall. All served in the armed forces – most of them in combat.

The Distinguished Members list of veterans is even longer:

Buddy Arndt Dick Hutton Alan Rice
Wayne Baughman Lloyd Keaser Port Robertson
Glen Brand Bill Koll J Robinson
Dick DiBatista Gary Kurdelmeier Gray Simons
George Dole Gerry Leeman Doc Speidel
Ross Flood Guy Lookabaugh Jack VanBebber
Sprig Gardner Joe McDaniel Richard Voliva
Greg Gibson Allie Morrison William Weick
Larry Hayes Harold Nichols among others.
Josiah Henson Grady Peninger

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2007 National Wrestling Hall of Fame Distinguished Member Inductee
Master Sgt Greg Gibson USMC (retired)

For more biographical information on the above be sure to visit

They are not alone. Greg “Pappy” Boyington (aka Greg Hallenbeck) won a Pacific middleweight wrestling title for The University of Washington. After graduation, Boyington worked for Boeing before enlisting in the Marine Corps. At the outbreak of WWII he volunteered to go to China and fight with the legendary Flying Tigers. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Boyington returned to service as a Marine fighter pilot.

In 1943 he had a desk job in the South Pacific theater when the call went out to form a new fighter squadron. “Pappy” convinced his superiors that he was just the man to form and lead the squadron. Thus, the infamous “Black Sheep Squadron” (originally called “Boyington’s Bastards) was born. Boyington shot down 28 Japanese aircraft in his tours in China, Burma and the South Pacific – a WWII Marine Corps record. On the day of his 28th kill, Boyington was shot down and captured. He spent 20 months in a Japanese prison camp and was frequently tortured. Although officially listed as “missing in action” most of the nation believed him to be deceased. When his camp was liberated in August 1945 it was as if he had risen from the dead. For his actions Greg Boyington was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

One of his friends called Tommy Noonan, “…the best wrestler Hunter College ever had.” Marine Lance Corporal Thomas Noonan Jr. Graduated from Hunter in 1966 with a degree in physical education. In 1967 he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve and was subsequently deployed to Viet Nam. L/Cpl Noonan was killed in action against the enemy on February 5th, 1969. For his valor in that action, L/Cpl Noonan was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. His citation is below.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a fire team leader with Company G, in operations against the enemy in Quang Tri Province. Company G was directed to move from a position which they had been holding southeast of the Vandergrift Combat Base to an alternate location. As the marines commenced a slow and difficult descent down the side of the hill made extremely slippery by the heavy rains, the leading element came under a heavy fire from a North Vietnamese Army unit occupying well concealed positions in the rocky terrain. 4 men were wounded, and repeated attempts to recover them failed because of the intense hostile fire. L/Cpl. Noonan moved from his position of relative security and, maneuvering down the treacherous slope to a location near the injured men, took cover behind some rocks. Shouting words of encouragement to the wounded men to restore their confidence, he dashed across the hazardous terrain and commenced dragging the most seriously wounded man away from the fire-swept area. Although wounded and knocked to the ground by an enemy round, L/Cpl. Noonan recovered rapidly and resumed dragging the man toward the marginal security of a rock. He was, however, mortally wounded before he could reach his destination. His heroic actions inspired his fellow marines to such aggressiveness that they initiated a spirited assault which forced the enemy soldiers to withdraw. L/Cpl. Noonan's indomitable courage, inspiring initiative, and selfless devotion to duty upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

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Lance Corporal Thomas Noonan Jr.

Marine PFC Christopher Adlesperger, Lance Corporal Erick Hodges and Lance Corporal Ryan Sunnerville were friends. All three had wrestled in high school and had formed a particularly close bond. L/Cpl Hodges was killed in an ambush in Fallujah. PFC Adlesperger, in an effort to recover Hodges’ body and protect wounded comrades (among them L/Cpl Sunnerville), engaged the enemy forces and single-handedly fought off a superior force. When the action was over, although wounded himself, PFC Adlesperger refused evacuation until Hodges’ body was recovered. For his gallantry, PFC Adlesperger was promoted to Lance Corporal and awarded the Navy Cross. He has also been nominated for the Congressional Medal Honor. Sadly, if it is awarded, it will be done so posthumously. Lance Corporal Adlespergaer was killed in action in Fallujah a few months later.
For a complete account of his actions go to

For the next several months we will be discussing and honoring our favorite wrestlers and coaches. For the next week, let’s thank and honor those who have stood up for their beliefs by serving their country.
By the way, here’s Sgt Arthur Brown Jr. in Korea in 1951. Thanks Dad, I miss you.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Another reason you gotta love the wrestling community

I generally consider myself to be among the more militant advocates for the growth of wrestling. Then Al Bevilacqua sent me an email, slapped me in the head and said, “Wake up!” Al was the successful, long-time wrestling coach at Massapequa High School in Long Island, New York. He was also the 2005 USA Wrestling Man of the Year, primarily because his work as Pesident of the “Beat the Streets Inc.program.

Here’s the cold water Al threw in my face, “Over 60% of the country does not have access to any form of high school or college wrestling and most of them are located in the top 50 cities in the country.” Now he had my attention – 60%?!?!?!

The genesis of Beat the Streets

In 1973 Bud Lindholm, from Pennsylvania, developed the National Urban Program to expand and grow wrestling in large urban centers. Building upon the idea, Al (as state chairman of the United States Wrestling Federation), Dr. Vince Zuaro and Dr Irwin Tobin launched wrestling as an interscholastic sport at 26 schools in New York City.

Unfortunately, these high schools were not as competitive as one would hope. From long experience Al and others knew that a key to building successful teams is developing a “feeder” program. “In 2001, under the leadership of Setrak Agonian, the MWA convinced the “NYC2012” committee (a group working to bring the 2012 Olympics to New York City) to help us (the MWA) in exchange for us managing the world championships.” Bill Crum, executive director of the MWA, began building clubs in NYC.

A major shift was made in 2004. Unlike Europe and the rest of the world, where sports are developed through clubs, in America it’s done through the schools. According to Al, “In 2004 we re-tooled the program by developing designing (sic) “feeder” middle school programs to build the base and drive the numbers up and expand the base of wrestling through the Public and Private Schools.” At the time of this initiative New York City had 23 high schools (out of 179) with wrestling teams and NO MIDDLE SCHOOL TEAMS and no wrestling in the physical education curriculum. In 2007 45 high schools will have teams, 65 middle schools, and they will have six elementary school clubs.

How it works

Al says, “Mats are the key…” “Each unit or team we open requires $15,000 for a mat, equipment and a coaching stipend.” Al calculates that over the life of every mat they purchase for a school they introduce 10,000 kids to the sport of wrestling through physical education classes, intramurals and interscholastic competition.

Beat the Streets will soon run ads in W.I.N. Magazine to attract educator/coaches to the coaching positions being created and will also launch an email recruiting campaign to colleges across the nation.

More than wrestling

Kids who participate in after-school activities do better academically. Countless academic studies prove this to be true. Of all athletic endeavors, wrestling has the potential for greater universal appeal. No specific physical trait like height, bulk or speed is required. Competition always pits opponents of similar sizes and ages against each other. It is, perhaps, the most “democratic” of all sports. The wrestler that works the hardest and learns the fastest and the most usually triumphs. It’s one of life’s great lessons.

What’s in the future?

Beat the Streets was helped by providing a $3 million Partnership Grant with the New York Department of Education. They now have a new goal of having a physical education wrestling unit in every elementary and middle school in the 5 boroughs of New York City.

Neither Al nor Beat the Streets Wrestling Inc. nor the MWA has any plans for taking Beat the Streets national. However, they have made their business model and plan available to interested parties in a number of cities. In May two New York State high school coaches who retired to Norfolk, VA launched a Beat the Streets program there. A similar program has been launched in San Francisco following the BTS model.

However, as Al relentlessly points out, there are still hundreds of thousands of kids who have no opportunities to wrestle. He cited Detroit as an example of a high need city, “I know that last year the NCAA Championships were held in Detroit hosted by the University of Michigan that resides 30 miles from Detroit. There is not 1 high school wrestling program in a city with over 2 million people. Michigan produces some of the finest wrestlers in the country and has left behind millions of kids in their large cites.”

BTS is also a leader in encouraging girls wrestling. “They represent 51% of America and women’s wrestling already is the fastest growing sport for girls now. We would like to get to the point in New York City where we have all girl teams as well as boys. The mat is there, the coach is already in place and we will place major emphasis this fiscal year to do just that. We have several women’s wrestlers helping us with the Beat the Streets already.”

You can help.

The original middle school program was started by a $4,500 gift from a single donor. Since then Al, Board Chairman Michael Novogratz and others have recruited an impressive list of supporters. They need more.

To learn how you can help expand Beat the Streets in New York or to begin a movement in your own community you can contact

Al Bevilacqua
Beat the Streets Wrestling, Inc.
194 S Bayview Ave
Amityville, NY 11701

As Al says, “…action is required, not words.”

Monday, October 15, 2007

A conversation with Mike Duroe - part 1

A conversation with Mike Duroe – part 1

I had no idea what to expect when I sat down in Mike Duroe’s office to “chat about wrestling”. Mike is the head wrestling coach at Cornell College and has coached at all levels of the sport since 1980 - including serving on the staffs of three Olympic teams and as the national resident freestyle coach at the Olympic Training Center.

It doesn’t take long before the passion becomes evident. He just simply loves wrestling and loves teaching it. He also wants to see the sport grow and improve.

For 90 minutes we discussed everything from Joe Heskett’s heart surgery to the need to preserve the legacy of the 1947 Cornell College NCAA championship team. We covered so much ground that I’m going to share it with you in two parts. This week – Mike’s thoughts on the current state of freestyle wrestling and the recent World Championships in Baku.

“The Russians were dominant. They’ve got an arrogance – not really arrogant – but confidant. The rest of the world sometimes has a bit of a fear factor – not consciously. We have to get away from worrying so much about the tactical game that freestyle wrestling has become and dominate and score. We tell our guys, ‘one point isn’t enough. Don’t let it come down to the clinch.”

I asked Mike about the occasional internet criticism of resident freestyle coach, Terry Brands – that not all wrestlers can wrestle the aggressive “Gable style”. “Absolutely Terry has a dominant philosophy. I don’t think the criticism is warranted. He’s still a young coach – he was still competing in 2000. But he’s definitely evolving into a great coach. Take how he helped Bill Zadick (win a world freestyle gold medal) last year. Our overall performance wasn’t as bad as it may have looked on paper and we did qualify five of seven weights.”

“Part of the problem is that we only have most of our freestyle guys at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) a couple months out of the year. The (2007 world team champion) Greco guys are there year around – so are the women. It’s hard – most of our (freestyle) guys are college strength coaches or volunteer assistants. College head coaches are concerned about their own teams and winning, but we (the US freestyle team) need a little help from them. We have to have these guys more.”

This led us to another popular internet topic – the question, “Should America abandon folkstyle and switch to the international styles?”

“Absolutely not – it’s part of our heritage. Besides, which one would you switch to – Greco or freestyle? It would take us 15 – 20 years to even begin to develop enough good coaches at all levels. The NCAA could help us a little. I’d like to see the 1-point pushout rule in college. Think how much more action and scoring there would be. FILA needs to change their scoring so that you get two points for a technical takedown.”

“We need more clubs – more developmental programs. USA Wrestling does a good job, but we need more. Most of our funds come from the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) and are based on the number of medals you win. That’s why swimming and track get so much money. Plus they get so much private money. Art Martori (of Sunkist Kids) has been great for us, but we need more like him.”
When asked about the future of freestyle wrestling Mike said, “I’m not an alarmist, but I’m worried. We’re down to only seven weight classes and the IOC could decide to eliminate one of the styles in the future. Some of our athletes are going into ultimate fighting, where they can make more money. But – it’s everybody’s responsibility to make the sport better”

Next week – Mike on college wrestling.

Here’s a little video from American freestyle bronze medallist Daniel Cormier.

Monday, October 8, 2007

6 things that are good for wrestling


Martin Floreani must certainly be working harder than anyone in the country to promote wrestling. If you’re a wrestling fan and haven’t yet been to - go now. It’s a treasure trove of match videos (including the 1972 Olympics), unique interviews, photographs and articles. Martin’s series of video interviews with national team members and coaches leading up to Baku were stirring.

Here’s a sample.

The National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum

This is a “must visit” for any wrestling fan. The Hall of Fame not only recognizes the accomplishments of America’s greatest competitors, it honors great Americans for whom wrestling was an important part of their lives.

IPTV, CSTV and The Big Ten Network

Iowa Public Television has broadcast college wrestling for over 25 hours. Thanks to them tens of thousands of potential fans have been able to see John Smith, Randy Lewis, Cael Sanderson, and the Brands brothers wrestle.

College wrestling has never been primary fare on sports television. The few matches that are carried by IPTV, CSTV and The Big Ten Network (if they can stop fighting with the cable companies) are bread for the starving.

The Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum

Mike Chapman, the museum’s director and curator may well be the sport’s top historian. Like the Hall of Fame this is a “must visit”. Don’t let the name fool you. It really isn’t entirely about Dan. In fact, the area dedicated to “old time” professional wrestling is one of my favorites (my grandmother loved The Crusher).

If you’re traveling to National Duals in Cedar Falls or the Division II or Division III national tournaments in Cedar Rapids this season, be sure to include a trip to the museum.

Women’s Freestyle

Women’s freestyle wrestling became an Olympic medal event in 2004. Its’ success will only benefit all aspects of the sport. One more wall of prejudice is being destroyed and opportunities for girls and women to participate in the “world’s oldest and greatest sport” are growing. The pioneering Tricia Saunders is a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and wrestlers like Kristie Marano, Sara McMann and Patricia Miranda are medalling on the world stage.

Internet “Magazines” & “Newspapers”

For years local newspapers were the only source of information the casual wrestling fan had. Sadly, many of the writers didn’t know a takedown from takeout Chinese. The internet provides a medium for talented, knowledgeable writers like Jason Bryant, Mark Palmer, Stephen Stonebraker and others to “publish” interesting articles that can help bring new fans to the sport and convert casual fans into true “wrestling geeks”.

Monday, October 1, 2007

What I hope to see this season.

The first college wrestling matches are about a month away. Here are some things I hope I’ll see this year.

Record-breaking attendance nationwide

There are only two certainties – The DI Nationals will sell out and the University of Iowa will lead the nation in dual meet attendance. My first hope is for attendance at the National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star Classic to top 8,900. Have you bought your tickets yet? Go to to order. Remember that if you want to support this pivotal event in the fight to save University of Oregon wrestling, but can’t attend, we’ve set up a program to give the tickets that you buy to kids and families that can be there. For more information go to or email me at

Your favorite team or event also needs you in the stands.

Dustin Schlatter wrestling Brent Metcalf at least 3 times

Has there ever been a more anticipated collegiate match-up? With all of the side drama surrounding this and the constant internet chatter, it will be great to finally see them compete.

More pins

Ben Askren’s graduation will make this tough, but I really want to see more pinning. Where have all of the pinners gone? With today’s rules and coaching styles will we ever again see another Schalles, Gable or Hodge? Will anyone ever repeat the Kinseth feat of pinning every opponent at both the Big Ten and National tournaments?

Less stalling

Please just stay in the center of the mat and wrestle. And, also – “What’s he doin’ on top?”

More video on the internet

The Big 10 Network, CSTV and Iowa Public Television will broadcast 20 – 25 college total meets this year. Not only does this give us an opportunity to see teams we might not see until tournament time, their websites frequently post selected matches.

Even with that, there are not enough matches on the web. Potential young fans are accidentally stumbling across Tsirtsis vs Griffin when looking for the WWE. The more matches available, the more likely to eventually draw them to a college wrestling event.

Oh yeah, here’s Tsirtsis vs Griffin at the 2007 National Duals.

A Hawkeye national championship

Monday, September 24, 2007

Goals for the season

The 2007-08 college wrestling season is fast approaching. Official practices begin this weekend for many schools and the first meets are just a few weeks away. If they haven’t already done so, wrestlers and teams will soon be setting season goals for themselves.

Why shouldn’t we fans also set goals for ourselves? I have.

I will help increase attendance at college meets all over the country.
I will help reverse the trend of wrestling program elimination – not just stop the elimination – but do anything I can to help schools add wrestling.
I will bring new fans to the sport.

Right now I’ll bet you’re wondering – “How does this short, fat, middle-aged goofball in Cedar Rapids, Iowa think he can have any impact on college wrestling?” Darn good question. The first step is to stop asking myself that very question and just start doing every little thing I can think of to reach my goals. I took my first step Friday. I bought two more Hawkeye season tickets than I have in the past. I’ll give those away for some meets and take a couple of extra kids to others.

Today’s blog is the second step in reaching my goals. I’m drafting you to help. Please join me. If you’re tough enough to take on these challenges – here are some things you can do.

Buy season tickets. This seems like such a simple thing, but I know that there are some of you who don’t support your favorite team or sport by doing it. If college administrations start to see an increase in both revenue and attendance they’ll find it harder to eliminate teams so nonchalantly. If you already regularly get season tickets, get two extra this year. If you’re one of my few readers who isn’t really a wrestling fan, but you want to help me “tilt at this windmill”, buy a season ticket or two at the nearest college with a wrestling team, send it to me and I’ll see that a kid gets it.

Attend more meets. I live in a hotbed (maybe THE hotbed) of college wrestling. I can walk to Coe College meets from my house and have to drive less than 2 hours to attend events at Wartburg, UNI, Loras, Luther, William Penn, Cornell and Augustana. In addition to my normal Hawkeye schedule I have vowed to attend at least 5 more events at a variety of these schools. For my readers in the Midwest – remember – both the Division II and Division III nationals will be held in Cedar Rapids on back-to-back weekends this year.

Buy tickets or attend the NWCA All-Star meet. The National Wrestling Coaches Association is using their annual all-star meet as a tool to fight the elimination of wrestling at the University of Oregon. The event will be Monday, November 19th at McArthur Court in Eugene, OR. You can order your tickets by calling (541)346-4461. If you cannot attend, but still want to support the meet – just order the tickets (2 reserved seats will only cost you $30), send them to me and I’ll get them into the hands of someone that can go.

Send this blog to a friend. I currently have about 400 regular readers (the issue about Danielle Hobeika drew 650 views). Copy the link to that got you here and email it to a friend – or five.

Give to Save Oregon Wrestling. A group of dedicated enthusiasts are working hard to save the University of Oregon wrestling team. Go to and find out how you can help.

Support Eastern Illinois Wrestling. William Perry, the new president at Eastern Illinois University has agreed to consider a proposal to reinstate the wrestling team. You can email your support for this proposal to

Support Grandview College Wrestling. Last week Grandview College in Des Moines announced the likely addition of a wrestling team in the 2008-09 season. Email your support of this action to athletic director Troy Plummer at

Support “Giving Nationwide”. While not specific to college wrestling, The Oregon Wrestling Forum has developed “Giving Nationwide”. The concept is simple – any wrestling organization can post its’ specific needs (money, mats, headgear, etc) on the site. Current listings range from kids’ clubs to a university that is trying to start a club team. Check it out at

Come on folks – let’s all work to make this the most successful college wrestling season ever.

By the way – if, as I have suggested above, you need my help in distributing tickets, email me at and I’ll send you my address.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Past world championships

The world championships begin today in Baku. Let’s just watch and celebrate some American gold medal wins from the ‘90s.

1991 Zeke Jones vs. Valentin Jordanov

1993 Tom Brands vs. Reynoso

1998 Sammie Henson vs. Namik Abdullaev

1999 Stephen Neal vs. Andrei Shumilin

Monday, September 10, 2007

Someone you should know

Wrestler, photographer, web designer, activist – meet Danielle Hobeika.

I “met” Danielle while searching the internet for a way to join the fight against the planned elimination of the University of Oregon wrestling team. Sure enough, I found I clicked on the webmaster link to see who had gotten a website that good up that quickly – and found Danielle. Since then we’ve communicated online a few times and I asked if I might feature her on my wrestling blog.

Her interest in photography began early. “I was obsessed with (the) camera and photography ever since I was a little girl. I would always steal my grandfather’s Polaroid and snap away”. She developed her photographic skills at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School in Massachusetts and then while working on the Harvard Crimson in college. Her photographs range from beautiful landscapes to some of the most thrilling wrestling action shots I’ve seen.

An athlete herself (swimming and tennis), she was introduced to wrestling her junior year in high school when a friend invited her to attend one of his meets. Says Danielle, “… after witnessing the intensity of my friend’s wrestling meet, I was immediately drawn to the sport and decided that I would join the (boys) team my senior year in high school.” Three other girls decided to join the wrestling team with her.

“We were fortunate that neighboring Brookline had an all-girls team made up of about twenty (members). Brookline hosted a lot of girls wrestling events – from actual tournaments to informal “wrestle-arounds” where they invited girls from all over New England and paired them up according to experience level so that girls could get several matches every couple of weeks against other girls.” She and her teammates were successful that first year and the sport was growing on Danielle, “… my spring season of tennis I found myself doing push-ups on the tennis court all the time because it lacked intensity to me compared to wrestling.”

After being accepted at Harvard she learned that they had a female, Lauralee Summer, on their wrestling team. According to Danielle, “(Lauralee) has been one of the most influential people I have met in my life.” They started training together the summer before Danielle entered college and Lauralee convinced her to join the team at Harvard. “I was hesitant to walk into a Division I men’s program with only a few months of wrestling under my belt, but with Lauralee’s support, I did it.” She received tremendous support from the Harvard coaches and team and has had a successful career in women’s freestyle. Her most successful year was in 2002, when she won the 112-pound University National Championship, placed first at the NYAC International Open, finished second at the US Senior Nationals, and third at the World Team Trials.

Danielle started photographing wrestling while still in high school and covered wrestling for The Crimson. In 2002 she began taking her wrestling photography to a national level. At the US Nationals that year she met Al Elrefai and a business relationship began that eventually became I asked her if there have ever been conflicts between the two careers. “There have been times that I have been at competitions where I have been warming up for a match, and people come up to me and ask me if I can take photos of their next match for them. It’s difficult because as much as I would like to do both at the same time, I need to focus on one or the other.”

Danielle earned a degree in psychology at Harvard. I asked her about the evolution of her interest in web design. “I started becoming interested in graphic design in college. My mother is a graphic designer (print) so that influenced me a bit. I started taking on projects doing some design work for guidebooks. I also had a friend who was a computer science major teach me some html. So I started putting the two together, reading web design tutorials, and teaching myself the basics. My first projects were designing a personal website for myself and the Harvard wrestling team website.”

One rule for budding entrepreneurs is to take something you know and love and build a business on it. Danielle has been able to do that. While she has created websites for many businesses and artists, wrestling-related sites comprise the bulk of her portfolio. Says Danielle, “I started doing websites for some of the other athletes on the freestyle and Greco circuit, and they would refer me to other people they knew who wanted sites. After I started doing more photography and becoming more involved with the NCAA community, I made even more connections and it kept growing.” Her sites include, the Overtime School of Wrestling, and the Brands-Gable University of Iowa Wrestling camp.

Danielle is an activist. She fights for the betterment of her sport and she fights for kids. In addition to the Save Oregon Wrestling site, Danielle has designed a site for Pinning Down Autism, an organization made up of members of the wrestling community who are dedicated to defeating autism. She is also active with Beat the Streets, a program that teaches wrestling to inner city kids in New York City. On August 26, Danielle launched the new Beat the Streets site ( She recently began work on Project Torch, an organization whose goal is funding wrestlers at all level of competition – from underprivileged kids to elite Olympic athletes. I asked her what drove her to do so much non-profit work. “I am a person who highly values reciprocity. The wrestling community has done a lot of good for me, so it’s only natural that I would want to give back to it as much as possible.”

What’s in the future for Danielle? For one thing she’s considering retiring from competition. It’s a difficult decision, but Danielle feels she can help wrestling more by focusing on her creative and promotional talents. She believes that the internet can be invaluable in both promoting the sport and attracting new participants. “I see it as a tool to inspire kids to participate in the sport and keep them involved in wrestling.”

Wrestling attracts a variety of fascinating people. We fans are glad to have someone like Danielle Hobeika fighting for our sport. To get to know Danielle better visit her website at

Monday, September 3, 2007

Favorite wrestling moments

There have been a lot of memorable moments in the 30+ years that I've been going to wrestling meets. Here's a short list of my favorites.

The first time I saw Dan Gable

In 1969 I rode with a friend to see Gable wrestle in a dual meet. I can't recall the opponent, but I do remember the double arm bars - and the pin.

Watching an acquaintance

Virginia Wohlers was a classmate of mine from the third grade until we graduated from high school. Her brother David, two years our junior, had lost his sight as a young boy and until high school had attended the Iowa Sight-Saving School (such an ironic name). He learned to wrestle there. When time to go to high school, David went to Davenport (IA) Central, went out for the wrestling team and essentially became a workout partner. One night he got a chance to wrestle in a JV meet. The only allowance made for his blindness was that both wrestlers had to always be touching. In the neutral position the wrestlers just had to touch each others' fingers. It would be heart-warming to say that David won - but he didn't. He fought hard and was tough to ride - but way too easy to take down. He asked for no quarter and competed as an equal.

Gable wins Olympic gold

I watched it on television - enough said.

Randy Lewis wrestles with one arm

Like virtually every long-time Hawkeye fan, I loved watching Randy Lewis. But - watching him wrestle in the NCAA tournament his senior year with that horribly injured elbow was one of the most courageous things I've ever seen.

Jeff McGinnis wins 4th

We're lucky in Iowa. The high school wrestling finals are broadcast live every year so I've seen every four-time Iowa state champion since Mark Schwab, either in person or on TV. I just happened to be in "The Barn" (Veterans Memorial Auditorium) the night Jeff McGinnis won his fourth. It was typical McGinnis - he totally dominated the guy. The ovation when he got his medal was unforgettable.

Travis Fiser beats Randy Couture

Oklahoma State came into Carver Hawkeye Arena rated number one in the country. It was a very close meet. When Travis Fiser upset the number-one rated Couture it sealed the win for Iowa. With 14,000+ people in the stands it was one of those moments in wrestling that only happen in Iowa City (and maybe rarely in Minneapolis or Stillwater).

1997 NCAA Division I tournament

Oklahoma State came into the 1997 tournament the prohibitive favorite. From day 1 the Hawkeyes got on an unstoppable roll. The memorable events in that tournament are numerous - Gillis throwing and pinning Maldonado, Jesse Whitmer, Lincoln Mac over Bono in OT. However my favorite moment is Sandy Stevens introducing Dan Gable's high school coach, Bob Siddens, to present Dan with his 15th - and last - NCAA championship trophy.

Nick Ackerman wins the NCAA Division III championship

Nick Ackerman had his legs amputated just below the knees when he was 18 months old due to meningitis. I went to Waterloo for the 2001 DIII tournament specifically to see him wrestle. In the early rounds I was amazed by how solid his cradle was. I wish I had kept track of how many back points he scored in that tournament. No one, however, gave him a chance in the finals. He was going up against Nick Slack of Augsburg who was the defending national champion and was riding a 60-match winning streak. Ackerman hit a roll early in the match for a 5-point move and from there it just went back anf forth. He held on to win 13-11. The place went nuts! His mom came down out of the stands - there wasn't a dry eye in the place. I've read that the ovation lasted two minutes. It seemed like twenty.

This truly is the greatest sport.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A video history of modern freestyle wrestling

Growing up in Davenport, Iowa in 1960 I had never heard of Olympic wrestling – heck - I’d never even heard of the Olympics. I was ten years old and on every Monday in the summer, because the Davenport Times-Democrat published baseball statistics every Sunday, I could tell you the batting averages of Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews and the ERAs of Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette.

When school began we started reading about the Olympics in our Weekly Readers. I still remember how impressed I was reading about Wilma Rudolph. In those days we still all new kids who were crippled by childhood diseases that have long since been defeated – like polio. Then one day this wrestler did a Wheaties commercial on TV - we’d all been so used to seeing the Reverend Bob Richards that it was a shock to see someone else. Our gym teacher made a point to tell us that this man was Terry McCann and that he had wrestled at the University of Iowa, won an Olympic gold medal and that the two of them had been classmates. At ten, in 1960, that was just like living right next door to greatness.

If you have read my previous blogs, you know that it was watching Dan Gable that really built my interest in wrestling – but I never forgot about Terry McCann and the 1960 Olympics. Recently, there has been a lot of online discussion about how much freestyle wrestling has changed over the past several years. For Pete’s sake – the sport is at least 2,500 years old – some change was bound to happen! The United States had been winning freestyle wrestling Olympic gold medals since the twenties. Since “seeing is believing”, I’ve created a short video history of modern American freestyle wrestling.

To no avail, I’ve looked everywhere for footage of Terry McCann. Here’s the next best thing – the end of the finals match in Rome, 1960, of McCann’s teammate – fellow gold medallist Doug Blubaugh.

For many, the 1972 Olympics was a watershed for American freestyle wrestling – gold medals by Gable, Wayne Wells and Ben Peterson, silver by “funk-master” Rick Sanders and John Peterson and a bronze by Chris Taylor.

Thanks to Martin Floreani at we can see much of the action from 1972.

Rick Sanders

Wayne Wells

Dan Gable

Ben Peterson

In 1978 Lee Kemp began his extraordinary freestyle career by winning his first world championship. He would go on to win seven national freestyle titles, two more world championships, four consecutive world cups and two Pan Am Games championships. The only thing that kept him from an Olympic gold medal was the 1980 boycott.

Here is Lee winning his 1979 world championship. Please note – Ed Aliverti is the announcer.

1984 to 1992 was my personal favorite era. It wasn’t just that John Smith, Bruce Baumgartner, Dave Schultz, Kenny Monday, Nate Carr, et al, were winning all of those medals – it was the way they were doing it.

John Smith vs. Sergei Beloglasov 1989

Kenny Monday 1988 Olympic gold medal match

In 1996 the US won 3 Olympic freestyle gold medals or more for the fifth time in the post-war era.

Tom Brands vs. Jang Jae-Sung (1996 Olympic gold medal match)

Then along came Cael. Winner of 159 matches without a loss in college, America fully expected him to come home with gold in 2004. No one was disappointed.

Around since the 1990s, women’s freestyle became an Olympic sport in 2004. Unfortunately, I can find no video of the US women’s medal matches. Here are Tela O’Donnell and Sally Roberts from the 2005 Schultz International.

FILA rule changes have stirred a lot of controversy in the last couple of years.

Bill Zadick vs. Otari Tushisvili (2006 World Championships gold medal match)

Henry Cejudo vs. Nick Simmons 2007 National Championships

Now – if you haven’t already lost your job – go back to work.