Monday, September 29, 2008

Tough AND funny

Penguin’s Comedy Club is one of the little known treasures of Cedar Rapids. The original location was destroyed by the June floods and the owners have decided to re-open at the Clarion Hotel. Saturday night my wife and I went to see “Bob and Tom” regular Costaki Economopolous, who is the significant other of Caroline Rhea. He was hilarious.

Greg Warren is a regular at Penguin’s. Greg was an All-American at Missouri in 1991. I saw him in that tournament, but – honestly – was more interested in the Pat Smith/Tom Ryan match in his weight class than in any others. Greg does several bits about wrestling in his act. One that I can’t find anywhere is about being ahead of Tim Krieger in a match. He scores a 5 point move on Krieger and Tim has to take an injury timeout. Greg’s coach comes over during the timeout and warns, “I think you pi$$ed him off. Be careful” Krieger won by fall.

Greg’s most famous wrestling “bit” is “Fluteman Greg”.

Here are a couple more of Greg’s classics.

When you come to Cedar Rapids in March for the Division III Championships, be sure to visit Penguin’s.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What fans want

I’m semi-literate when it come to the internet. Most of what I know about it I learned from Tom Terronez, owner of Terrostar , the company that created and maintains my business website. From day one Tom has preached the value of search marketing and the use of site analytics.

When I started the blog in July of ’07 it was an experiment. Did anyone really want to read the opinions of a wrestling fan in Cedar Rapids, Iowa? Well – it turns out that a few people do. Just before Fargo this year I started a research project on my readership. The first year was a little hard because myspace was the primary home for the blog and all I had were the view statistics for each edition. In early July I moved the primary home to blogger and extended my google analytics account to include the blog.


Here’s what I’ve found.

Editions with video are overwhelmingly the most popular. With over 3,200 views, by far the most popular blog was, “Banach is in trouble.” That one was written to thank Iowa Public Television for their years of supporting college wrestling. Pat Rowen of IPTV had graciously provided me with video of one of the biggest upset matches in the history of their broadcasts – Iowa State’s Dave Osenbaugh over Iowa’s Lou Banach. I agreed to leave the video posted for just one week and there was quite a clamor when I took it down (mostly from Cyclone fans).

The most visited page in my archives is “A short video history of American freestyle wrestling”. It became especially popular during the Olympics.

On average, the inclusion of a video in my blog will increase weekly visitors by 400+.

The most prevalent theme in the search phrases that drive people to the blog is “video”. There are a lot of folks out there looking for video of past wrestling greats. Since the first of July this year people have been driven to my site in their search for tape of Rick Sanders (the most popular), Wade Schalles, Doug Blubaugh, Lou Banach, Dan Hodge, Wayne Wells, Cael Sanderson and Sergei Beloglazov.

My conclusion – wrestling fans want more video. The sport lends itself to online viewing. Most match videos last around 10 minutes (so you can sneak one in at work). You can choose who you want to watch and which matches. So why isn’t their more available? In the case of the NCAA and its member institutions, it’s licensing. Last March I got press credentials for the Division II and Division III National Championships. I was classified as “new media” and admonished to read the appropriate rules carefully. Those rules clearly forbid the posting of match videos in their entirety. I can post a 3 minute “representation” (highlight clip), but not a complete match.

All governing bodies: USA Wrestling, the NCAA, the NWCA, individual colleges and tournaments, etc. are cracking down on the unauthorized shooting, copying and posting of videos. Why? If so many fans want to watch these matches, why not, “for the good of the sport”, let them? The week after Fargo the top search phrases for my blog were related to video of the Nate Moore/Eric Grajales match. Clearly, online video is a key medium for the promotion of the sport.

Answer – it just isn’t that simple. When my daughter was in law school she asked her attorney uncle for specialization suggestions. His reply, “Well, if you want to get rich – go into intellectual property law. That’s going to be in the courts for the next 20 years.” Each entity that sponsors or holds an event (i.e. invests the money) has the right to determine how that “final product” is used. In many cases this is further complicated by the web of relationships that frequently must be developed to promote or broadcast the event. Just try any kind of advertising use of that phrase that implies that only four college basketball teams remain in the tournament and see what happens.

I’m not sure that the real issue is availability. It might be cost. There are a number of places that offer match video, but some charge membership fees. Typically, the costs are quite reasonable, but wrestling fans seem to like to pinch pennies.

I also wonder this - if people can watch wrestling for free on the computer will they get off their butts and go to live matches – typically paying $6 - $10 per meet. Attendance at college dual meets is already a problem. Will greater internet exposure serve to motivate fans to attend live events – or will it keep them at home? We don’t have enough data to know yet.

Obviously, there is still a lot to be learned

Anyway, if you have the day off from work and want to watch some wrestling here are a couple of options.

Live Sports Video charges for some things and offers other things free. The 2008 NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals are in their archives.

The Wrestling Talk has an excellent collection of videos at all levels including the 2008 Olympics.

USA Wrestling has a video collection on youtube. Many are interview videos, but there are a lot of matches from 2007 Senior Nationals.

intermat has a great collection of technique videos in their premium section. As a fan, I have found them very informative.

Oh yeah – for that person looking for Sergei Beloglasov – here he is against John Smith.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Brother, can you spare a dime?

When it comes to wrestling I’m just a fan. Oh sure, I know the difference between an inside trip and a fireman’s carry – but it’s knowledge gained from watching countless matches at all levels of competition – not actual experience.

Because a few people read this blog every week, and some seem to like it, I occasionally get emails asking to support various wrestling-related causes. I’m also a denizen of several wrestling forums where I will encounter posts asking for some kind of help. (How many of us own tee shirts supporting our favorite Olympic athletes?). Clubs need mats, colleges need money to save programs or to start new ones, the Dan Gable International Wrestling Museum needs money to recover from the flood, etc. All are worthwhile causes.

I may just be a wrestling fan – but I’m a pro at asking for money. Yep, I’ve been a direct marketing consultant for almost 30 years. I’ve sold you or your friends jewelry, shoes, magazines, pizza, air conditioners, router tables, dresses, hotel rooms, etc, etc, etc – all by putting paper in your mailbox. I’ve also raised a lot of money for charities. So, this week I’m not going to talk about wrestling. Instead, I’m going to offer “Fund Raising 101”

A person gives to another person – not organizations or causes.

This is the most fundamental rule of fund raising – and the most ignored. Perhaps the most famous (and one of the most successful) of all fund raising letters is the Frank Deford “65 Roses” letter for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In that letter, Deford tells the story (legend) of how some kids came to call that awful childhood disease, “65 Roses”. He also tells you that his daughter suffers from Cystic Fibrosis and asks you to help him fight the disease.

Save Oregon Wrestling did a reasonably good job of this. Their email efforts are always personal appeals from Coach Ron Finley and do a good job of projecting a “David vs. Goliath” image. The website also makes solid use of individual wrestlers.

This rule applies to all fund raising efforts – not just direct mail. You’ll sell more candy, wash more cars and get more golf swings if you can make the event about an individual instead of the club, team, institution or sport.


A person will respond to a “face”. As you create your materials be sure that your audience can tie a face to your cause.

Make curing cancer “trivial”.

Passion, passion, passion! Your listener, reader or candy buyer has to believe at the very moment of receiving your message that those new mats for Jimmy and Susie are more important than curing cancer. Most donors make a first gift on impulse.

Al Bevilacqua is a perfect role model. His passion for Beat the Streets jumps off the page or screen at you.

Use the “motivators”. We “evil marketers” know that there are only nine prime motivators that will move a person to spend money:


The more of these you appeal to, the more successful you will be. Guilt, exclusivity, belonging and flattery work especially well in fund raising. Anger and fear can be powerful, but can also backfire.

Get the second donation.

After years of testing, the great direct mail guru, Dick Benson, found that a 2X donor is twice as likely to respond to all future efforts than is a 1X donor. That makes the second donation crucial. Here’s a pattern that works.

Get the initial donation.

Send a thank you note within a week of the first donation (do not yet ask for the second donation).

Thirty days later ask for the second donation.

Women write more checks – men write bigger checks.

This is not sexism – it’s data. Think about your particular need. If you’re asking for a one time, major donation you might consider strategies that are more appealing to men. If long term support is your goal, create a message that reaches out to women.

Tell them what you need and ask for a specific amount.

One of my most successful campaigns was for a small town youth recreation center that needed new stairs up to the gym. When I saw the construction estimate I realized that each stair was going to cost $370. I simply asked the readers to donate “a half stair, a full stair, or 2 stairs”. We still received several $25 contributions, but the overall average gift was much higher than previous appeals.

We also put a plaque in the stairwell recognizing all of the donors that gave “at least one stair”.

If you need $10,000 for new mats – tell them. If you need $1,000 per wrestler to go to Fargo – tell them. The “every little bit helps” approach is generally ineffective.

Ask more often.

Most organizations simply don’t ask for donations often enough. Why? That’s just like scoring one takedown at the beginning of a match and never taking another shot. Keep asking. Let your donors decide how frequently they’re willing to give – but they won’t give unless you ask.

Once again, I point to Save Oregon Wrestling as a positive example. If you gave to them, you know how frequently they will contact you.

I hope this helps a little. Now – go out there and raise some money.

Monday, September 8, 2008

An endangered species?

“I would have all of my offensive linemen wrestle if I could.”

John Madden
NFL Hall of Fame Coach

Back at Davenport Central High School in the late ‘60s almost all of the wrestlers played football – probably because Jim Fox (in the Iowa High School Athletic Hall of Fame as a football coach, wrestling coach and wrestling official) coached both sports.
That wasn’t all that unusual.

In the ‘70s and ‘80s it was still fairly common for college athletes to compete in both sports. Every Hawkeye fan over the age of 30 remembers Mark Sindlinger, who in December of 1987 started at center for the victorious Holiday Bowl football team and four months later was an NCAA wrestling All-American at heavyweight.

There are dozens of current and past NFL stars who come from a wrestling background. Hall of Fame coach, Joe Gibbs, was once quoted, “I draft wrestlers because they are tough. I have never had a problem with a wrestler.”

Stephen Neal has a phenomenal resume: two-time NCAA heavyweight champion, World Heavyweight Freestyle Champion and 4 Super Bowl rings as a member of the New England Patriots. Neal, however, was not a two-sport athlete in college – choosing to concentrate on wrestling. Carlton Hasselrig, the only 6X NCAA wrestling champion (3 in Division II and 3 in Division I), followed a similar path. He competed only as a wrestler at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown but went on to a career with the Steelers and Jets.

Other pro football stars excelled at both sports while in college. Curley Culp is probably the most notable. A 6X Pro Bowl nose tackle, he pinned three of four opponents to win the 1967 NCAA heavyweight title while competing for Arizona State University. He would later be named the Greatest Athlete in the History of Arizona during the state’s centennial celebration.

Pro football players, Rob Essink, Jim Nance and Lorenzo Neal were also NCAA wrestling champions.

Match forfeits have become a major problem in high school wrestling. Somewhat understandably, the 103 and 112 pound weight classes lead in the total number of forfeits. Surprisingly (at least to me), a high percentage of 215 pound matches are also forfeited. Wouldn’t this be a perfect weight class for a lot of high school football players? Why are teams finding it difficult to fill their rosters at this weight? Stephen Neal has said, “Wrestling develops skills that translate to football: leverage, balance, explosion and hand fighting?” Are young athletes specializing too early? Are they missing out on the values of wrestling because of a misguided belief that specialization is the key to success?

Has the day of the multi-sport coach gone by the wayside? If so, is this also reducing the numbers of multi-sport athletes?

Lots of questions. I wish I had some answers.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Just what is opportunity?

Olympic champion, Henry Cejudo, appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno Wednesday night. Henry was funny and charming. His story is well-known to the wrestling community – the son of undocumented immigrants, his early life was filled with struggles. Henry and his six siblings were raised by his mother, who worked countless hours to keep her family fed. They moved from Los Angeles to Arizona for better opportunities. Henry and his older brother, Angel, took up wrestling – and became champions (8 state titles between them). Upon hearing about the 8 championships Leno remarked, “I’ll bet nobody ever stole your lunch money.” Henry’s reply was, “We didn’t have any.”

The desire to win Olympic gold burns intensely in Angel and Henry. They took the non-traditional path of going directly from high school to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Henry has his gold – Angel still pursues his.

(To view Henry’s appearance go to

click on August 27 and fast forward to about 32 minutes)

Randi Miller couldn’t make the basketball team at Arlington (TX) Martin High School because the coaches thought she was too short. Fortunately for her, Texas is one of the few states that sanctions girls interscholastic wrestling. Even more fortuitously she had a coach, Tony Warren, who believes, “Wrestling is a sport that no matter what your size is, it comes down to how big your heart is and how hard you’re willing to work. If you’ve got those things you can go a long way.” He saw those things in Randi.

The path for women wrestlers is more challenging than it is for men. First, in all but a handful of states, if a high school girl wants to wrestle she must do so on a boys team. Only one girl in the history of American wrestling has ever won a state championship competing against boys – Michaela Hutchison.

Randi Miller, however, had the opportunity to compete only against girls. She has credited that for her confidence. After graduating from high school Randi went to Neosho County Community College and then on to one of the few American colleges with women’s varsity wrestling, MacMurray College in Jacksonville, IL. She then went to the US Olympic Education Center at Northern Michigan University.

A couple of weeks ago Randi’s journey culminated with a Bronze medal in Beijing.

Nick Ackerman is a bilateral amputee.


In 2001, I went to Waterloo for the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships and saw Nick wrestle. In the finals he faced number-one-ranked Nick Slack of Augsburg College who had won his previous 60 matches. To say that the match was exciting is pure understatement. Ackerman won 13-11 and was named Outstanding Wrestler of the championships. Later that year he would join Cael Sanderson as co-winner of the Hodge Trophy – wrestling’s “Heisman”. Recently, his championship was named by the NCAA as one of the 25 “defining moments” of the last 100 years.

Today, Nick works as a prosthetist – helping other amputees.

Anthony Robles was born with one leg.

Undefeated as a high school senior, Anthony now wrestles at Arizona State University. Last season, as a freshman, he finished one match away from All-American status in Division I.

Michael Spriggs is blind. A recent graduate of Charles H Flowers High School in Springdale, MD, Michael has been visually impaired since birth. Born with cataracts, a series of complications and an accident eventually plunged him into total darkness. From the fifth through the tenth grade he lived and studied at the Maryland School for the Blind. He transferred to Flowers his junior year where he met geometry teacher/wrestling coach Odist Felder. An educator in every sense of the word, not only did Felder figure out methods to teach geometry to a blind student he encouraged Michael to join the wrestling team. Michael was 13-12 his first season and made the state tournament this year.

The only rule concession that is given a blind wrestler is that his opponent must always be in physical contact. The wrestlers must touch hands in the neutral position. If contact is broken they must re-start.

Here’s more of Michael’s story from ESPN.

Wrestling is the embodiment of the “American Dream”. Hard work, learning, tenacity and resilience are rewarded. Best of all - anyone can win. Race, size, gender, economic status, nationality – none of that matters. Even those with physical challenges can triumph. Now THAT’S opportunity.