Monday, January 18, 2010

You shoulda been there

You shoulda been there - Saturday night – Carver Hawkeye Arena Iowa vs. Oklahoma State.

You shoulda been there for the history. When the Cowboys come to town it’s a major event. There’s no question that these are the two greatest programs in college wrestling history. The fans of each school love to debate the significance of their respective accomplishments. Cowboy fans like to point out that Ed Gallagher practically invented college wrestling, while those in the black and gold avow that Dan Gable re-invented it with the “Iowa Style”. No matter which side you’re on there’s no denying that when OSU comes to Iowa City there’s more Olympic and World Championship hardware in the building than some countries have amassed in the modern era of freestyle wrestling.

You shoulda been there for the fashion. From John Smith’s usual sartorial splendor to a guy in a gorilla suit, singlet and headgear to Royce Alger’s boots and cowboy hat – it was all there.

You shoulda been there for the ice cream. We took out a second mortgage on our house and then stood in line for twenty minutes to buy the favorite confection in CHA.

You shoulda been there for the noise. No – not the incessant pre-recorded, overloud rock anthems that seem to now be inseparable from any athletic event – I mean the crowd noise. Say what you will about Hawkeye fans – love us or hate us – we can make a racket. It always thrills me to see a young wrestler rewarded for an outstanding performance by the roar that only ever seems to happen in Carver. Montell Marion got his first taste of an ecstatic Hawkeye crowd Saturday night.

You shoulda been there for the kids. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time you know that I am obsessed with getting more kids on the mat. Saturday, the University of Iowa did one of those little things that helps grow the sport – they held a youth clinic before the meet. I know – lots of schools do that – and lots of schools give away tee-shirts to the attendees. It’s their last experience that may stand to inspire them as they journey through their wrestling careers. Many of them got to form a golden human tunnel through which the Hawkeyes entered. Just imagine that you’re ten years old, the lights go down, the fight song comes up and 11,000 fans jump to their feet and roar as Brent Metcalf runs by you. It’s something they’ll always remember.

You shoulda been there for the wrestling. Here comes that debate again. Fans of each school look disparagingly upon the wrestling “style” of the other. To Cowboy fans, Iowa wrestlers are “thugs” who just push and bully. The Hawkeye faithful believe that “track shoes” are a more appropriate footwear for the grapplers from Stillwater than are a pair of Asics Rulons. This argument has been going on for years and will continue to do so – probably for the rest of my life. No less of an authority than Ray Brinzer (one of only two wrestlers to compete for both schools) wrote about the “style” difference in WIN Magazine in 1996 and then posted it to his blog in 2005. Depending upon your viewpoint, Saturday you got to see either the worst or the best of the other’s philosophy. Each team won five matches, but Matt McDonough, Brent Metcalf and Jay Borschel scored enough bonus points to carry the day for the Hawks.

Yesterday, as I sat on my favorite perch at my favorite watering hole, I met another wrestling fan. He lives in Marion so he asked me at great length about the performances of the hometown “boys”, McDonough and Borschel. I described the matches for him, but closed with, “You shoulda been there.”


hwkwrstler8 said...

Love the "blog"! I was fortunate enough to have wrestled for the Black and Gold in the 90's and have experienced most of what you have described. I had friends and family members that attended meets, that had never been to a wrestling meet, let alone a fan, and they were blown away with the atmosphere. Sports writers talk about "The Swamp" and the "Cameron Crazies", but most haven't seen or heard CHA during an Iowa and Iowa State, Okie St, or Minn event. There is a reason the Hawks are nearly unstoppable in CHA.
I look forward to reading many more.

Jim Brown said...

Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts.

Anonymous said...