Monday, March 2, 2009

Fighting of our backs

They’re almost here – the 2009 NCAA Division III Championships begin this Friday in Cedar Rapids. Almost inevitably, at some point in the tournament, some wrestler is going to fight off his back and win a match. Great comebacks are a part of any sport, but there’s something about a competitor fighting through adversity on the mat that is particularly inspiring. In my days as a Hawkeye fan I’ve been luck enough to witness some great comebacks – Lincoln McIlravy over Gerry Abbas and Terry Steiner over Troy Sunderland in the 1993 NCAA finals were back-to-back wins that raised my blood pressure to dangerous levels.

My all-time favorite such win was when Cedar Rapids native Mark Ironside mounted a furious final period comeback in the 1996 NWCA All-Star meet to defeat Cary Kolat 9-8. Kolat had been ranked number 1 in the country and was considered almost invincible. From that turnaround match Mark would go on to win two NCAA titles and The Hodge Trophy.

Last summer Cedar Rapids experienced the worst natural disaster in our history. Epic flooding left thousands homeless and closed hundreds of businesses. We’re now fighting off our backs. When you come here this weekend you’re going to find a community that loves wrestling, wrestlers and wrestling fans. Our sons and daughters have contributed to the sport’s history – Hall of Famers Jim Zalesky and Barry Davis won championships at Cedar Rapids Prairie High School. Announcer Sandy Stevens got her start calling meets when her husband, Bear, was the Cedar Rapids Kennedy wrestling coach. Television broadcaster par excellence, Tim Johnson, wrestled here at Coe College.

We’re glad you’re coming here to support these outstanding student athletes and we hope you enjoy your stay. No one welcomes you more than those businesses that are fighting to get off the mat and succeed. Almost any business that you can reach by walking from the US Cellular Center is a recovering flood victim, but here’s a partial list of those that have re-opened and are waiting to serve you.

Restaurants and Bars

DC’s River Walk (lunch, dinner and adult beverages)
Sub King (lunch)
Austin Blue’s BBQ (lunch)
The Coffee Emporium (fine coffees, breakfast and lunch)
Brick’s Bar and Grill (lunch, dinner and adult beverages)
Deb’s Ice Cream and Deli (lunch and sweet treats)
Victor’s Place (breakfast and lunch)
Blend (very fine dining and adult beverages)
Little King Deli (lunch)
The Blue Strawberry (breakfast, lunch, fine coffees and beer)
The Cedar Rapids Piano Lounge (entertainment and adult beverages)
Quiznos (lunch)
Gringo’s (lunch, dinner and adult beverages – owner is also local MMA promoter)


Downtown Drug (for that necessity you forgot at home)
Smulekoff’s Furniture

Smulekoff’s is one of the oldest businesses in Cedar Rapids. One of the most surreal TV images from the flood was of items, believed to be from their store, floating downstream in the floodwaters. Through a monumental effort they were one of the first businesses to re-open. Their spray-painted, “We’re back” sign was inspirational to many. I know you’re not coming here to buy a couch, but give them a visit and see what hard work and a sense of community can accomplish.

Other attractions

The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art

Czech Village

Cedar Rapids has a strong Czech and Slovak heritage. Czech Village is an area that celebrates this heritage. One of the hardest hit areas of the city, it is a short drive from downtown. Joens Brothers Interiors, Czech Village Antiques and Vitame Vas have re-opened for your shopping pleasure. Al’s Red Frog will gladly serve you one of the best cheeseburgers in town with a cold beer. The National Czech and Slovak Museum is closed, but has a temporary exhibit and bookstore at Lindale Mall on the northeast side of town. Just outside of Czech Village is Chappy’s Safari Lounge – another flood damaged business that just recently re-opened.

Re-located victims

The damage was so great to some downtown businesses that they chose to re-locate. One such business is Penguins Comedy Club. Penguin’s will be featuring TC Hatter and Marcianne this weekend. Now located at the Clarion Hotel, they are close to all of you staying on the southwest side. You can get there in time for the Saturday late show after finals. Have a beer and a lot of laughs.

Please enjoy Cedar Rapids. We’re glad you’re coming and we look forward to seeing you again at the 2010 Division III Championships.

No comments: