Monday, June 30, 2008

What's in a name?

What’s in a name?

For about 50 years I have heard the same jokes about my name. It’s not that I have an odd one – in fact – it is one of the most common in America. No – the jokes come because I bear absolutely no physical resemblance to the greatest lacrosse player in the history of Syracuse University (you have to be a middle-aged sports geek to get that one) nor do I look like the “hardest working man in show business”.

Then around 1970 Jim Croce had a hit song with a title that included my middle and last names.

All my friends had fun with that one.

The City of Five Seasons

When I moved to Cedar Rapids in 1987 I learned that it was called “The City of Five Seasons”. After a little digging, I discovered that the phrase was coined by a local ad agency as a marketing tool and that the fifth season is “time to enjoy the other four”.

After I had lived here for a couple of years I decided that, really, the fifth season might well be “wrestling season”. With the possible exceptions of Stillwater, Waterloo and Iowa City, there are darn few towns in America that love wrestling as much as we do in Cedar Rapids. At least eleven NCAA championships have been won by wrestlers from Cedar Rapids high schools:

Gary Bentrim won 3 DII titles at UNI.

Hall-of-Famers Barry Davis and Jim Zalesky each won 3 DI championships at Iowa and Mark Ironside won another 2 (and The Hodge Trophy) as a Hawkeye.

There aren’t many other places where you can attend a high school wrestling dual meet and watch two future 2X NCAA champs (Ironside and Jeff McGinniss) go against each other.

And the beat goes on – last season’s Midlands champion and NCAA finalist, Joe Slaton is from here.

It’s not just the wrestlers. Hall of Fame coach Gary Kurdelmeier coached here for a short time. One of the most famous voices in wrestling, Sandy Stevens, got her start announcing here. Her husband, Bear, was the first wrestling coach at Kennedy High School and he needed someone to announce a dual meet. Sandy was pressed into service and the rest – as they say – is history

Our newspaper covers the sport – regularly. Our TV sportscasters respect the sport as much as they do any other. If you’re a wrestling fan – there’s no better place to be.

A little over 2 weeks ago, this city that loves wrestling so much, was devastated by the worst flooding in history. The Cedar River crested over TEN FEET higher than had ever been recorded.

We need a name.

The problem with flooding is that the sun comes out, the waters recede and, unless you’re one of the thousands of families putting your lifetime out on the curb, all appears normal.

It’s far from normal – over a billion dollars in damage, thousands still homeless and/or unemployed, businesses that will not recover…

Hurricanes have names. When you hear “Andrew” or “Katrina” images of devastation come to mind. Our flood needs a name. I’m willing to consider all suggestions, but I have one of my own – Ashraliev.

Huh? It’s hard to spell, hard to pronounce, almost impossible to remember and – seemingly – meaningless.

After Dan Gable won the World Championship in 1971 the mighty Russian sports machine vowed to search the country to find and train THE wrestler that would defeat Gable. Ruslan Ashraliev was that man – the best the Russians had – and Gable won. The Cedar River threw everything at us it could just like the Russians and Ashraliev – and this is the image I choose to represent Cedar Rapids in 2009:


Gable – battered, tested, victorious.

You can help.

Even Gable had help - coaches, family and workout partners.

Here are some ways you can help Cedar Rapids.

Both our local Red Cross and Salvation Army desperately need funds. To help the local Red Cross you can send a check to

American Red Cross
PO Box 10375
Cedar Rapids, IA 52410-0375

Or donate online at

The address for the local Salvation Army is

PO Box 8056
Cedar Rapids, IA 52406

Eat more Cap’n Crunch or oatmeal – seriously. Quaker Oats is a Cedar Rapids fixture and the largest employer impacted by the flood. Buy Quaker products and you help get people back to work.

Attend the 2009 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships and spend money here. You’ll have great time.

If you’re a business owner – give a Cedar Rapids business a shot at meeting some of your needs. Just give us a fair look – you’ll be very pleasantly surprised. It could very well end up the classic “win, win” opportunity. (If you’re interested in exploring this option, email me at and I’ll try to steer you in the right direction.)

This city that loves wrestling will get off its’ back and win.

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