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.

Monday, June 23, 2008

If the great sports movies were about wrestling

If the great sports movies were about wrestling

It’s the twentieth anniversary of one of my favorite all-time sports movies – Bull Durham.


I’ve always loved sports movies. I suppose Brian’s Song was one of my first contemporary favorites. The sappier the ending – the better. I’ve seen the ending of Rudy at least 100 times. I know that he’s going to finally “get to dress”, that he’s going to play, that he’s going to sack the Georgia Tech quarterback and that the team is going to carry him off the field – and yet – I cry every single time.

(BTW – Does anyone know if the Ruettigers that have wrestled at Northern Illinois over the past few years are related to Rudy)?

What if some of my favorite sports movies had been about wrestling.

Pin Durham

Scene: Office of Durham University wrestling coach, “Cement Mixer” Jones. Coach Jones speaks to his assistant, Bud Cauliflower.

Jones: “Bud, we gotta do something about LaMat. He’s either scoring spectacular pins or getting pinned himself. I never know before a meet whether to expect six points for us or six point for them.”

Enter Terry “Crash” Brands.

Crash: “Cement Mixer, what in the heck am I doing back on a college campus. I’ve been working the last few years at the Olympic Training Center.”

Jones: “Have you ever heard of “suspension of disbelief?”

Crash: “What?”

Jones: “Never mind. Crash, we got this kid – Nuke LaMat – I’ve never seen anyone with more potential. He has a complete arsenal of skills and he’s as quick as all get out. He just can’t stay under control. He’s the ultimate “pin or get-pinned” wrestler. The big club (USOC) wants you to see if you can bring him along.”

Scene: Durham University student union. Nuke is the center of attention among a group of college co-eds. Crash walks up to Nuke.

Crash: “Hey – I hear you’re the wrestling stud around here. Ya wanna go?”

Nuke: “You don’t wanna go with me, Old Man.”

Crash: “Come on kid – I gotta hunch about you.”

They tie up, circle for a few seconds and Nuke tries an inside trip. Crash
counters, throws Nuke to his back and pins him.

Nuke: “Wow, that was some move. Who are you?”

Crash: “I’m your new workout partner.”

As the movie progresses Nuke gets under control and he starts beating
better and better opponents. The Olympic Trials are nearing. Crash sits down
for one last talk with Nuke.

Crash: “Nuke, at first some of these guys are going to light you up. They’ve wrestled a lot more freestyle than you have – but you’re going to be great.”

“You need to start working on your clichés.”

Nuke: “My what”

Crash: “Your clichés – for the interviews. Here – write these down.”

“I love the sport because it’s just you and your opponent. There’s no place to hide. There are no excuses.”

“I don’t worry about my opponent’s style. I just try to force my style on him.”

“I’m just focusing on the next match.”

Rams (Hoosiers)

Scene: Coach Paul Scott leads his team from Cornell College into the gym on the University of Illinois campus.

Scott: “Lowell, take this tape measure. How wide is the mat?”

Lange: “40 feet, coach.”

Scott: “How long is the mat, Lowell?”

Lange: “40 feet.”

Scott: “That’s exactly the same size as our mat at home.”

Coach Scott, Lowell Lange, Dick Hauser and the rest of his team from Cornell
College in Mount Vernon, IA would go on to become the smallest school ever
to win the NCAA wrestling championship.

Jesse (Rudy)

Scene: Hallway outside of the University of Iowa wrestling room. Kindly janitor speaks.

Janitor: “You are so fulla crap! You’re five foot nothin’ – a hundred and nothin’ – and you ain’t got a speck of athletic talent. Yet you hung in there for four years with the best wrestlers in the country. Now get out there and let’s see what you can do.”

“Strongest man in the world!”

Pac-Ten (Major League)

Scene: College dropout athletic director walks into the office of his wrestling coach.

AD: “I want a baseball team and I don’t like wrestling. You guys are gone.”

The ending of this movie is not yet written. You can help with the script. Go
to to find out how.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Wrestling with disaster

Wrestling with disaster


My friend Terrance is a Hawkeye wrestling fan. Truth be known, he’s as much a fan of the ice cream and caramel corn at Carver Hawkeye Arena as he is of the wrestling.


Terrance has no vision in his right eye and only about 20% in his left so he views the matches by using binoculars and watching on the arena big screen or by shooting 20-second videos with our digital camera and holding them up to his left eye.


Last week Terrance, his mother, two younger brothers and his little sister – like thousands of other families in Eastern Iowa – lost everything to what some are calling a “once in a millennium flood”. Here in Cedar Rapids 1300 city blocks were flooded and 24,000 people were forced from their homes.

Yes – as you may have heard – the wrestling world was directly affected. The Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum in Waterloo was flooded and much of the memorabilia damaged beyond salvation. Members of the Iowa City contingent at the Olympic Trials are coming home to circumstances that are far more dire than when they left. Some may actually not be able to get home.

Later this week the floodwaters will crest in Iowa City. Just as here in Cedar Rapids, they will reach record levels. (In Cedar Rapids the crest was OVER TEN FEET higher than ever before recorded).

So many need so much. Can you help?

You can send a check to

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

Or donate to the local Red Cross online at

Our local Salvation Army is also providing disaster assistance. You can send them a check at

Salvation Army
PO Box 8056
Cedar Rapids, IA 52406

Please, don’t put this off – donate today.

Here’s another way for wrestling fans to help. Our downtown is devastated. For many of our businesses recovery will be a struggle. Next March come to Cedar Rapids for the NCAA Division III wrestling championships. Eat at a downtown restaurant, drink at a downtown bar, stay at a downtown hotel and shop at downtown businesses. You’ll have a wonderful time, see some outstanding wrestling and help a great community bounce back.


Terrance and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Monday, June 2, 2008

It's a family dream.

It’s a family dream.

I have been blessed with two daughters. The older one has the soul of an artist. I took her to set design classes Saturday mornings at the University of Iowa when she was in elementary school and dance classes two nights a week all through middle school. In high school she was in every single school play or musical and I saw all of them.

The younger one played sports – starting with gymnastics at age six. After she broke her elbow in practice her mother encouraged her to try other sports. Eventually she settled on tennis and I took her to lessons and clinics and eventually went to all of her high school and college matches.

I’m pretty much like millions and millions of parents around the world.

When my younger daughter, Ann, was in her last year of law school my brother was coming from Seattle to Chicago for a conference. My brother and I agreed to meet with our old roommate and go to a Cubs game. Ann – also a big Cubs fan – decided to join us. As a third-year law student, she was clerking at a firm here in Cedar Rapids. Purely coincidentally the lead attorney in a case on which she was working was located in downtown Chicago. Ever conscientious, she arranged for a meeting with the lead attorney the morning after the game to go through some paperwork. The attorney’s office was 10 blocks from our hotel, so I walked her there. We hugged on the sidewalk and as she went through the revolving door, briefcase in hand – I cried. It hit me right at that moment – my daughters were adults and I was proud of them.

Can you imagine not being able to share in your child’s crowning moment?

In two weeks we’ll know who will be wrestling for the United States in the Olympics. Will it be young stars on the rise like Henry Cejudo or Jake Deitchler, or will it be past Olympians like Patricia Miranda or Joe Williams?

Here’s something we already know – it’s going to cost at least $6,500 per person for the wrestlers’ families to go to Beijing. Some parents are already talking about mortgaging their homes to be there for their kids once more. After a lifetime of sacrifice and support– of clubs and clinics and meets and tournaments – many will do what ever it takes to be there. Some may not make it.

You can help.

USA Wrestling has established the Fuel the Dream fund. When you contribute, 50% of your donation will go directly to the Olympic team members. The other half will go toward developing our future Olympic athletes. USA Wrestling is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization and your contribution is tax-deductible.

Please join me in supporting these athletes and their families. You can mail a check to

USA Wrestling’s Fuel the Dream
6155 Lehman Dr
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
or go to

and donate online.

Thank you.