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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