Monday, March 23, 2009

The Second Annual View from Section GG College Wrestling Awards

The championships have all been won and all of the awards except the Hodge Trophy have been handed out. Its time for the second annual View from Section GG college wrestling awards.

The Ron Santo “Heart on Your Sleeve Award”

The longtime Cubs radio announcer (and “should be” Hall of Fame third baseman) has long been known for his emotional eruptions during his broadcasts. We present a Santo award to former Hawkeye wrestler, Mark Ironside, who is the color commentator for KXIC-AM’s University of Iowa wrestling coverage. Iowa All-Access streams the audio for KXIC so fans across the country can now hear Mark. If you wanted to get a feel for the emotional roller coaster that was this year’s NCAA Division I Championship you just had to listen to Ironside, “Gol dang it, (fill in wrestler’s full name), what are you doin’? Attack!” His eruption after Dan Erekson pinned David Zabriskie rattled my windows.

The “We Really Care” Award

This goes to all of the Division III wrestlers, coaches and fans who came to Cedar Rapids this year for the DIII Championships. In the past two weeks I have heard a number of stories about your generosity – from holding receptions at flood recovering businesses to making donations to recovery funds. Thank you. I look forward to seeing you all again next year.

Rookies of the year

The women’s award goes to Jamestown College of North Dakota. In their first year of competition they finished fourth in the Women’s College Wrestling Association national championships and had an individual title winner (Tani Adler).

Another first year program, Grand View University (Des Moines, IA), takes the men’s award with an eighth place finish at the NAIA Championships. They also had an individual titleist in Matt Burns.

The “Stuff it” Award

There’s a tie here. We have 15,955 winners – all of the fans who packed Carver Hawkeye Arena for the Iowa/Iowa State contest and broke the dual meet attendance record.

The “Real Opportunity” Award

Longtime readers know that I believe wrestling to be the most democratic of sports. You don’t need to win some kind of genetic lottery (great height, a large body mass or blazing speed) to become a champion. The athlete that works the hardest and learns the most almost always triumphs. It goes beyond that – wrestling offers real opportunity for excellence not always presented by other sports. This year I’ve chosen to name a runner-up and a grand prize winner.

Michaela Hutchison is already a wrestling pioneer. In 2006 she became the first girl in America to win a boys state wrestling championship when she won the Alaskan 103 pound title. Now wrestling at Oklahoma City University, Michaela won the 55kg class at this year’s Women’s College Wrestling Association Championships and was named Outstanding Wrestler. In February she broke more ground. When the 125 pounder on the Oklahoma City men’s team went down to injury, Michaela stepped in to fill the spot. She took a lot of lumps but did win at least one match.

There can be no question, however, about the grand prize winner of this award – Anthony Robles of Arizona State University. As most know by now, Anthony was born with just one leg. After an amazing high school career that included an undefeated senior season, an Arizona state championship and a National High School championship, he chose to become a Sun Devil. Last year, as a freshman, he reached the round of 12 at the Division I championships. In May it seemed as if he was going to face even more adversity when ASU announced the elimination of the wrestling program. Anthony became an active spokesperson, helping to raise awareness about the plight of the program. Fortunately for him and all involved, major alumni donors stepped up and gave the program the necessary financial backing to save the team.

Saturday in Saint Louis Anthony Robles became an All-American – finishing fourth in this year’s tournament. In past interviews he has acknowledged that he is aware that others look to him as a role model – and he accepts the role with grace. In an Associated Press interview after his semi-final loss to Paul Donahoe of Edinboro Anthony said, “He didn’t beat me because I was born with one leg. He beat me because he was just the better wrestler tonight. Its that simple.”

Congratulations, Anthony. I’m glad you chose wrestling.

No comments: