Monday, August 16, 2010

Still living the dream

Shawn Johnson, Michael Phelps and Shaun White are all millionaires. Mike Zadick, Dremiel Byers and Kristie Davis are not. All six have worked tirelessly to be the best America has to offer in their respective sports and all have won medals in world championship competition. There’s really only one difference – Johnson, Phelps and White excel at sports embraced by the American television viewing public. Zadick, Byers and Davis wrestle.

No American wrestling in the three international styles is doing so to get rich. They are driven by the competition – by the quest for excellence. To be able to continue their careers they become assistant collegiate coaches, run camps or take on other jobs. The best of the best receive small stipends from USA Wrestling. For many of our wrestlers the lure of potential big earnings in the Mixed Martial Arts octagon is too great and they forego world level freestyle and Greco Roman careers.

Last year USA Wrestling and a small group of wrestling’s biggest supporters – people like Michael Novogratz, Dave Barry, Art Martori and Al Bevilacqua – created the Living the Dream Fund. The concept behind the fund is simple – it’s only right that we financially reward these hard working athletes for success on the world and Olympic stage. Under the plan, world champions will receive a check for $50,000. Silver medallists earn $25,000 and bronze winners receive $15,000. The stakes are higher in the London Olympics in 2012, where a Gold Medal will be worth $250,000, a silver will bring $50,000 and a bronze $25,000. In the program’s first year freestylers Jake Herbert and Tervel Dlagnev, and Greco Roman wrestler, Dremiel Byers, all received checks from the Living the Dream Fund.

It’s wrestling supporting wrestling. We’re not waiting for help from the government or anyone else – you and I and our friends in the wrestling community are doing it. Olympic heroes like Gable, Smith, Sanderson and Baumgartner have donated to the fund. Coaches, wrestlers, wrestling business owners, wrestling media and – yes - you “nameless” denizens of the internet have given to the fund. We’ve made progress, but there is much more to do.

This Friday, August 20th you’ll have the chance to join an elite group – those who step up and act to support the “world’s oldest and greatest sport”. The leaders of the Living the Dream Fund will be holding an online telethon and benefit. You’ll be able to call in your pledges or bid on several auction items including 2 tickets to that big football game in Dallas next February whose name I can’t mention without fear of lawsuit (hint – it will have XLV after the name). Air fare and hotel room are included in that package. The telethon will run from 7:00 to 9:00 PM Mountain Time and will originate from the USOC in Colorado Springs. You can watch on either www.themat.com or www.flowrestling.com.

Special guest will be former University of Missouri All-American wrestler, Greg Warren. Greg is one of the funniest stand up comedians working today and several of his routines feature his days as a Tiger wrestler and being the son of a high school wrestling coach. If you’ve never seen Greg, be prepared to laugh.

If for some reason you have to miss the webcast, just go right now to the Living the Dream site and make your contribution.