Saturday, March 6, 2010

What's that on your sleeve?

Wrestling fans wear their emotions on their sleeves. You don’t have to be a psychologist to know how they’re feeling. Last night’s NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships quarterfinal and All-American rounds – and afterwards – were no different.

Those kids from Luther – the student cheering session, that is- are shall we say – boisterous? They’re proud of their school and proud of their team. It goes even beyond the US Cellular Center. They were out en masse at the Crowne Plaza Thursday night when Luther coach Dave Mitchell was inducted into the Division III Wrestling Hall of Fame.

I’ve not noticed it in past years, so it may be a tradition, but the University of Dubuque fans celebrate every individual win with a victory lap around the arena. One fan carries a placard-sized photo of the victorious wrestler and another carries a hand-drawn poster with his name and some words of encouragement and the two of them jog around the concourse.

Have you ever heard the air rush out of a blown tire? That was the sound from the Coe delegation when Brennan Ward from Johnson and Wales hit a headlock and pinned the Kohawks’ top seeded Tyler Burkle at 184. Somber would be the word to describe them as they left the Cellular Center.

That sound you hear from the northwest corner is the Augsburg freight train. In years past Auggie fans have become known for the creativity of their cheers. This year is pretty basic – cheer loudly while your wrestler is in action and then jump up and roar when he gets his hand raised. No coach will ever say he has things well in hand, but coach Mark Matzek’s charges have so far done everything needed to win this championship.

But – speaking of trains – last night I stood next to a group of UW La Crosse fans at the Cedar Rapids Marriott and they sounded like “The Little Engine That Could” – playing out hypothetical scenarios and adding up points and figuring out just how they could get over the hill and pass Augsburg. So far coach Dave Malacek’s wrestlers have come through. Don’t worry – the fans will let you know how they’re doing.