Monday, October 6, 2008

Brotherly love

My brother, Bruce, moved to Seattle about 35 years ago. He is a couple of years younger than me and for most of our youth we shared a room. We also argued, fought and competed – in everything from Jeopardy to Risk to whiffle ball.

When it came time to leave the nest, Bruce and I and our friend, Doug, rented a two-room apartment across the street from the Pink Poodle in Davenport (it’s a laundromat – not a strip club). Our sibling rivalry occasionally erupted there and shouting matches would ensue.

After several months of this living arrangement we all three went our separate ways – Doug back to UNI and I to a different apartment and roommate. Bruce stayed on 15th Street and took on someone else to share the rent. Not long after that Bruce moved to the Pacific Northwest.

In that 35 years we have seen each other far too rarely - the deaths of our parents, an occasional business trip – I was even his “date” for his 35th high school reunion. For a short time Bruce taught at the University of Illinois law school and we did get together a few times during his tenure in Champaign. One of those times I drug him to a Hawkeye wrestling meet. He didn’t enjoy it at all. He couldn’t tell you this – but he got to see Tom and Terry Brands wrestle that night.

Last week, in a move that has been rumored on the internet since before the Olympics, Tom hired Terry to come back to Iowa City and be a Hawkeye assistant coach. That’s right – two of the most volatile (and successful) twin brothers in the history of wrestling have reunited and will be working together. The rivalry between these two in their younger days is legendary.

Hawkeye-land is certainly abuzz and the rumors – and questions – continue to fly. Will Olympic gold medallist, Henry Cejudo, and heavyweight, Steve Mocco follow Terry from the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to train in Iowa City? Is Terry coming to Iowa City as much to restore the Hawkeye Wrestling Club to its past glory as he is to join the rebuilding of the University of Iowa’s wrestling dynasty? Will tempers ever flare?

The Hawkeye fan in me reacted like this.

The wrestling fan in me has more questions.

Most American wrestling fans were disappointed in the overall performance in Beijing – just 3 total medals. It wasn’t long before there were calls for a restructuring of the USA Wrestling coaching staff – even by national freestyle coach, Kevin Jackson, himself. In the past two weeks Jackson has resigned to become head coach at Sunkist Kids and former World Champion, Zeke Jones was hired to replace him as national freestyle coach. Then, resident development coach, Terry Brands left the OTC for Iowa City.

Are these just the natural personnel changes that inevitably follow a sub-par performance by a national sports team – or could they lead to a fundamental shift in how we train our Olympic wrestlers? Do we really need a national training center?

Do regional training opportunities make more sense? Many of our top competitors work as collegiate assistants to support themselves. For much of the year it is a conflict for them to leave their jobs behind and get to Colorado Springs for valuable freestyle coaching. Is it more logical to have top international-level coaches available at locations all over the country? The changes of the last couple of weeks have given us a de facto opportunity to find out.

Kevin Jackson moving to Arizona, Terry Brands to Iowa City and Zeke Jones to Colorado Springs certainly offers a high level of coaching at those three locations. Throw in John Smith in Stillwater, the New York Athletic Club and emerging private clubs like Sean Bormet’s Overtime and you have the potential for a network of training sites.

Is this an opportunity to create a new development model? As it always is – money will be a major factor. The United States Olympic Committee allocates funds to the governing bodies of all Olympic sports – including USA Wrestling. The level of USOC support, in large part, determines how much is invested in developing our national wrestling teams. At Sunkist Kids, Art Martori and others generously support the betterment of the sport. Are there enough other private funding sources to support the clubs in Iowa City, Stillwater and elsewhere to a level that will produce world and Olympic champions? Can a structure be created that allows the USOC to help with regional center funding?

Are these concepts worth discussing?

Come on fans – what do you think?

No comments: