Monday, August 30, 2010

Women, wrestling and me

Many of you know this. Nine months after we started dating my, now wife, gave us Iowa wrestling season tickets as a Christmas present. It took me a little while, but I finally came to my senses and asked her to marry me. Thankfully, she said, “yes”. This coming Saturday is our wedding anniversary.

When you hang around wrestling you hear a lot of macho guy stuff, but – some of the most interesting people I’ve met in wrestling are women.

The first 15 years that we had seats GG, 12, 1 & 2; Gretchen Goodwin sat next to my wife. When we got those seats she and her husband, Don, had already been ensconced in seats 3 & 4 for a while. Over the years we became friends and attended Big Tens in Wisconsin and Nationals in Ames together. Gretchen loved Royce Alger and swooned every time he entered the arena – as an athlete or as a coach. Sadly, a few years ago Don contracted a rare congenital liver disease and passed away after a long, painful battle. We’ve not seen Gretchen since then and I now have their old seats. I think of them every time I give those seats away.

Debbie Connell has been my good friend for 40 years and she’s been a Hawkeye wrestling season ticket holder since the Field House days. If you’ve ever attended a meet in Carver Hawkeye Arena, you’ve probably seen her. When the Hawks run out of the tunnel look in the middle of the first row just above the tunnel and the woman you see is either Deb or her sister Jody. Debbie worked with me at the Dairy Queen the Sunday morning when the state of Iowa was crushed by the Des Moines Register headline, “Gable Fails”.

When I started this blog I really had no clue about what I should write after the first couple of editions. Then, Danielle Hobeika agreed to an interview. Danielle is one of the most fascinating people around the sport. A Harvard psychology grad, Danielle wrestled in the room on the Crimson team and became a top level freestyle wrestler. She is the goddess of wrestling websites and one of the sport’s best photographers. You know that photo you love with Brent Metcalf and Bubba Jenkins “on their heads” – that’s Danielle’s. She’s still doing the photography and web development, but is now also an MMA fighter.

Sandy Stevens taught my wife as a substitute English teacher at Cedar Rapids Kennedy more than a couple of years ago. If you don’t know the name, you surely know the voice. She has been the voice of Fargo, DI Nationals, the California high school championships and the Olympics. I first met Sandy in person the night before she was announcing the Division III Championships in Cedar Rapids – her home town. I’ve met very, very few people as passionate about wrestling as Sandy.

Maggie Hendricks had been an online “friend” for at least three years when she introduced herself to me at National Duals last year. Maggie was a manager for the Missouri Tiger wrestling team and loves to write about wrestling, football and MMA. Her blog in memory of her grandfather, who taught the whole family to box, is still one of the best online pieces I’ve ever read. “Thumbs up, pointed to God” is a phrase I’ll remember the rest of my life.

One day before I met Maggie, I also met Tammy Tedesco from the National Wrestling Coaches Association. Among her many duties, Tammy is the tournament director for National Duals. This upcoming season she is planning to engage wrestling in the “Coaches Against Cancer” campaign. Please stay tuned for further details.

I met Dee Pollard in a bar in 2008. The mother of TCNJ assistant coach, Joe Pollard, she was sitting at the bar as I was hosting my first Division III Championships fan reception. We struck up a conversation and have become good friends and have met after every session of the past three NCAA DIII Championships. Every Saturday night after finals Joe has joined us. Last March the three of us made our plans to meet in La Crosse next spring. Yes – my wife and Dee’s husband know about this. After all – it’s all about the wrestling. (As an aside – one of my happiest moments as a marshal at the DIII Championships was handing one of Joe’s wrestlers his All-American trophy.)

I still haven’t yet met Julia Labua face-to-face. She’s all over the wrestling internet with at least 3 online identities and her posts are among the most intelligent you’ll ever see. Last winter she pulled off her own wrestling promotion coup when she emailed the entire staff at her place of employment, offering them free tickets, hot dogs and sodas for a Hawkeye dual meet. Eleven co-workers took her up on the offer and attended their first ever wrestling meet. When one of her friends asked about one of the finer points of wrestling Julia responded, in part, with a phrase that has become popular on the internet, “There will be answers. They may not be right answers, but there will be answers.”

There are many adjectives that would describe Gail Rush. “Dynamic” is at the top of my list. Since the flood of 2008 she has responded to several of my requests to help wrestlers and wrestling. In those years I’ve heard from several people that she and her husband, Rick, have done that for years. This past week her efforts led to the Coe College Kohawk wrestling fans taking the lead in the Tickets for Kids fan challenge.

But - it still comes back to my darling wife. I don’t know how it happened, but I won the marriage lottery. If I’d never met her there would probably be no season tickets, no blog and no Tickets for Kids. Thank you dear. I love you and may we grow old watching wrestling together. Happy anniversary.

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