I was initially disappointed.
The Fox Searchlight release of “Win Win” wasn’t set to be in any of the major movie theaters here in Colorado Springs. I’d read the reviews, seen the trailer and knew the background of the wrestler-turned-actor Alex Shaffer.
The promotional leg of “Win Win” even got some ad space on TheMat.com and other wrestling websites. I was wondering if I’d get a chance to see it.
Sure enough, Kimball’s Twin Peak, a small independent theater in downtown Colorado Springs, was there to end my disappointment. I’d never been to one of those “indie” theaters. I’d always wanted to check out some of the lesser known independent movies. I’m a bit of a movie buff and really don’t have any sort of aversion to movies. My DVD collection validates this claim. I like stupid humor, sports comedies, drama, action and some outright horrible flicks – we can sometimes call those “cult” films.
A Netflix account is a wonderful thing, allowing me to see such gems as “My Name is Bruce,” a terrible but lovable homage to B-movie action star Bruce Campbell. You might know him from the Evil Dead movies and Army of Darkness.
Anyway, I searched out Kimball’s Twin Peak to see what upcoming movies they’d be showing, hoping “Win Win” would be one of their selections.
Sure enough, this past weekend, the Paul Giamatti movie hit Colorado Springs, so my wife and some friends set out to check it out. The Indie movie experience is a good one. While I didn’t partake, the opportunity is there to get an adult beverage and something to eat while in the theater. Things more “upscale” than my typical selection of popcorn and a large Cherry Coke. It’s one of the few times I’ll actually drink a “full flavor” soda. I don’t drink much of it anymore, but the movies are my one excuse.
As far as “Win Win” is concerned … I loved it. I loved every second of it. While we are feinding for the next “Vision Quest,” there have been few movies that put wrestling in a positive light. More and more are coming out, I have a list of things I still need to watch. Recently, I watched Legendary on Netflix. A sound effort, even though it was made by faux-wrestling WWE studios.
“Win Win” was a good story, a good plot, predictable at some points, and unpredictable at others. One thing I did like about the movie (without spoiling it for you) is our young wrestling hero didn’t come out like you might expect in the movies.
It came across as very real. Scenarios that enter the personal lives that impact performance. Life stories with sport as the backdrop. “Win Win” isn’t exactly a true “feel good” movie with the sports sequence. Wrestling scenes are truly believable, much of that coming from Shaffer, a New Jersey state wrestling champion making his acting debut.
For nearly two hours, I sat and stared at the screen in the small auditorium. “Win Win” is funnier than you’d expect. From a wrestling perspective, some of the funnier moments to me were lost on many in the audience, some of the funniest scenes drew big laughs from the crowd, but I’m sure I found things funnier for different reasons than my wife did. She’s not too knowledgeable (yet) about wrestling, but she’s been around me and the sport long enough to pick up on some things the average movie-goer wouldn’t quite pick up.
I realize this review isn’t like those in Hollywood. There won’t be any Rotten Tomatoes type of acting critiques. This was just a good movie, one I’d recommend to pretty much anyone – wrestler or non-wrestler.
Do yourself a favor. Find out where this is playing in your area and go see it. The only thing that threw me off was the R-rating. Sure, there’s a few choice words that the MPAA might deem “R,” but I’ve seen a lot more R-rated things in PG-13 movies than I did in “Win Win.”
If you can’t see this in the theaters, just hold out until the DVD is available. It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.
Basically, I loved the movie and that’s all I’m really trying to get say.
The biggest drawback to covering the sport of wrestling is the emotional toll it takes on you when you hear programs are being dropped. Ever since I started following wrestling with Mat Talk On-Line, I've had to deal first-hand with many schools cutting the sport.
For all fans, it's extremely disheartening. Then when you have to follow up and write a story and actually talk to these men and women, you just get angry when they lie to you right to your face (or in many cases, the ear).
I've had the displeasure to talk with numerous AD's and administrators who have cut wrestling for one bad reason after another. Some refused to speak with me. Probably a smart move. I'm pretty street smart and can smell out B.S. pretty good.
I came under some criticism from some wrestling-advocate A.D.'s some years ago about my comments in a W.I.N. Magazine story because my characterization (or perhaps caricaturization) of those individuals as “scum bags.” That was then, this is now. I still don’t feel any positive vibe toward any athletic department that treats kids as property and just jettisons them off, never to be seen or cared about again.
Here's a list of some of the worst AD's I've had to deal with when they dropped wrestling. I'll go in reverse order.
5. Don Lemish,
Longwood College, Farmville, Va.
Early on in my career, I was doing the boat-rocking thing with a small Divison II program in Virginia. The school was a real pipeline to the state high schools for teachers and coaches. Longwood cut wrestling in 2000 to prepare for a move to Division I (sound familiar?). In conversations with Mr. Lemish, I found there to be a gross overstatement of participation numbers, forfeits and a general skewing of the numbers. I started a petition drive on Mat Talk On-Line, and was met with a cease-and-desist from the school for unapproved use of their logo. Basically, I was using their logo on “Save Longwood Wrestling” banner ads and petitions. Mr. Lemish at one point called my writing “yellow journalism,” despite the fact my information came directly from the current head coach and a number of wrestlers on the team. Mr. Lemish took an early “retirement” from Longwood after some questionable room service bills racked up by the men’s basketball team on a road trip out west. The last straw was walking into Longwood College’s (now University) Athletic Department and delivering over 3,000 signatures from high school students who would never apply to Longwood, and another 3,000 of parents who would discourage their sons, daughters, nieces, nephews and grandchildren from applying.
Anyone heard of Longwood now and their great decision to move to Division I?
4. Richard McDuffie, Eastern Illinois University,
The doomsday theory of the APR. In case you’re not familiar, the APR is the Academic Progress Rate. It measures graduation and retention rates for Division I programs receiving scholarship funds (or something close to that). I’m not an expert on the issue, but there’s a three-strikes policy of sorts. If your APR falls below 925 (50% graduation rate), then you could be subject to penalties. The first violation is usually just public notice, which amounts to nothing more than a slap on the wrist. The second and third warnings basically lose a school scholarship money, of which Eastern Illinois had little. Although I’m not 100 percent clear on how many violations it takes for a school to get to the worst penalty – revocation of NCAA membership – it hasn’t happened yet.
I called McDuffie back in 2006, shortly after Kenny Robertson was a match away from placing at 174 pounds for EIU. It’s the same school Matt Hughes of UFC fame attended.
McDuffie’s claims were the wrestling APR was so poor, it put the entire athletics program in jeopardy and had to be cut. Nevermind the fact EIU was one of the lowest-funded Division I wrestling programs and the school refused an invitation to become a charter member of the Western Wrestling Conference.
Nevermind the fact that during the two years EIU was listed in the APR reports, they were below the 925, but had improved from one year to the next. With small schools with limited scholarships, one kid who fails out and is on scholarship money can disrupt the entire ration. McDuffie didn’t care. He spilled out this doomsday scenario about EIU getting kicked out of the NCAA. About a year later, McDuffie was placed on administrative leave from EIU for accusations of sexual harassment.
What’s become of EIU’s athletics program in the meantime?
3. Thomas Boeh, California State University-Fresno, Fresno, Calif.
Probably my most public Q&A, not to mention my most spirited antagonization of an Athletic Director. I was on Boeh big time. Fresno State was a proud wrestling program and the wool he pulled over the eyes of former coach Dennis DeLiddo and then-coach Shawn Charles still makes me angry. Fresno State has been embroiled in lawsuits and Title IX problems since Boeh’s arrival. He refused to talk to me over the phone, but did answer a Q&A I’d sent to him when I was working at InterMat. He ducked the questions we most wanted answers to, changed questions to suit his answers, THEN posted an edited Q&A of my questions on the Fresno State athletics site with some shoddy “admin speak” responses. Admittedly, I wasn’t the most professional in dealing with Mr. Boeh. During our e-mail correspondence, I did fire barbs at him and his failure to run a department. Of course, that’s a matter of opinion, I’m sure people in the Fresno area still think that way. Fresno State brought in a young, eager coach in Charles and a dynamite recruiting class. Boeh decided to not answer any of my e-mails after I called him out on the plagiarism of my InterMat Q&A, not to mention failing to answer the important questions that the wrestling community wanted to know.
What’s become of Fresno State’s athletics program in the meantime?
2. Pat Kilkenny, University of Oregon, Eugene, Ore.
While my distain for Pat Kilkenny and Phil Knight circles around the poor execution of how the wrestling program was cut, the biggest issue I had with the entire situation is the fact Kilkenny, a man without a college degree or any experience as an A.D., got hired anyway. He was Oregon’s second-highest booster (behind Uncle Phil) and was instrumental in buying out the previous A.D.’s contract. An avid baseball fan, Kilkenny cut wrestling to add baseball and started pumping loads of money into the program. He wanted to keep pace with rival Oregon State, who had recently won the College World Series. The previous A.D. promised the program a new wrestling room, in return, the old wrestling room would be turned into a training room, mainly for the Ducks’ football program. A new room was never built and was one of the reasons Kilkenny sited in why the sport was cut. “Lack of a functional practice facility” was I believe the terminology. Oregon had an NCAA champion in Shane Webster in 2006. They cut the program in 2007. The most troublesome thing to me is how a man could be hired at an academic institution and have the life and legacy of athletes seeking degrees in his hands. The guy never even graduated. How can he be remotely qualified to oversee student-athletes? Then volunteer assistant Jason Powell needed a degree to even be considered for his coaching position. Nebraska was called to validate Powell graduated. Yet, the “degree requirement” for the A.D. position was notably missing. This one still stinks and is the reason I’ll never buy another Nike product again. I think Nike should get out of wrestling altogether. If “Nike U” doesn’t have wrestling, then Nike shouldn’t make money on wrestling. This one still leaves me with a bitter, bitter taste.
Of note: No one from the Oregon Athletics Department ever followed up on repeated requests for interviews.
1. Trev Alberts, Nebraska-Omaha, Omaha, Neb.
This story is being written as we speak. Much like Kilkenny, was highly under-qualified to run an athletics department. Hired on “name,” which was even a head-scratcher to begin with, Alberts has treated the wrestling program like second-class citizens since his arrival. The double speak coming from that department and the “sell out” nature of Chancellor John Christensen’s treatment of his “friend,” Mike Denney is despicable. It won’t do me or the wrestling community any good to assault Alberts, although there is no shortage of things people in the wrestling community want to say to and about the man.
Wrestling programs at some of the above schools were issued ransom numbers. Large sums of money required to endow a program, rather than keep it moving. On Omaha sports radio last week, Alberts threw out an $8-9 million figure. But let’s be real, he never intended to help wrestling or give football or wrestling a fighting chance to still compete. He’s throwing a lot of fuzzy math our way.
I thought Pat Kilkenny was the worst AD wrestling had ever seen. Looks like we’re wrong. The way Alberts and his cronies (those who hired him after a failed attempt at a broadcasting career at ESPN) led the football and wrestling coaches along, like there never was a problem, is unconscionable.
At least with UNO, we’ve got a coach and a family that will stand up for what they believe in. Alberts has no business being an A.D., his actions have shown this already.
They’ve already changed the key codes on the wrestling room doors, not even hours after the Board of Regents meeting Friday morning in Lincoln.
Without wrestling winning national championships, do we think we’ll ever hear about Nebraska-Omaha again? I’m sure those Summit League games will rack up some serious ratings and attendance numbers.
We need more Debbie Yow’s in the world. The former Maryland A.D. who holds the same perch at N.C. State is proactive in her approach to running an athletics department.
People like Alberts and Kilkenny personify all that is wrong with college athletics.
So yesterday, Craig Sesker calls from downstairs to let me know I won the panel for the journalist predictions. Granted, it was a small pool this year, and already folks from The Open Mat and InterMat have let me know they hit more champs than I did.
All in good fun, of course, but I generally want to know how I did overall. It’s very tough making predictions, not just because of all the nuances in picking a winner, but we’re interviewing these kids. These kids read this stuff. So it’s pretty hard to walk up to someone after the tournament is said and done and congratulate them, when you know (and you’re positive they know) you didn’t pick them to win it.
One of those awkward moments when I congratulated Kyle Dake after the tournament was over. It’s never a personal thing. Sometimes you pick your favorites and sometimes you pick against your favorites for the fear of the dreaded “homerism” call.
That happened to me with Bubba Jenkins, a kid I’ve known since he was in the sixth grade. I doubted him twice this year … and he burned me bad both of those times. First in the All-Star Classic and second with my picks.
Injuries to great wrestlers like Kirk Smith and Darrion Caldwell put a damper on things, not just with picks, but with wrestling as a whole. I’m sure everyone would have loved to see Caldwell vs. Dake in the semifinals. Life isn’t always like that, unfortunately. I feel bad for those kids.
I figured I’d break down my overall picks, not just the finals picks that were posted on TheMat.com. I’m sure many of you did better than I did. I cringe when people call me an “expert,” although every now and then, my observational skills do get me a nugget of good perspective … if that makes any sense.
The picks were so prevalent, we created a sub-forum for the NCAA picks, because it was clogging up the discussion on TheMat.com’s college wrestling forum. I chose one poster, the always colorful Stephen Stonebraker, aka “JohnnyThompsonnum1” as a comparison. Why him? Well, he’s been known to go for the gusto and pick kids for the most random of reasons. When he hits, hey, there’s a talking point.
Overall, I managed to pick 58 of the 80 All-Americans correct, a 73.8 percent rate. I only hit 70 percent of the finalists (14-for-20) and only had six champions correct. While I did have the top four dead on in the team race, apparently that’s what propelled me in the media picks. I did pick 24 of the 80 placements exactly right, good for a modest 30 percent.
Against the fans, I’m sure I was just average.
At 125 pounds, I managed to get five of the eight All-Americans. My misses were Ben Kjar of Utah Valley, Ryan Mango of Stanford (I was still questioning the durability of the knee), and Oklahoma’s Jarrod Patterson. Most of Patterson’s pick against was looking at Mark Rappo as a possible unseeded wrestler making the quarters. It would have disrupted Patterson’s draw down low. Stonebraker did better, getting seven of the eight, only missing Missouri’s Alan Waters. As far as exactness went, I hit four of the eight exactly. Stonebreaker hit just Sanders at fifth.
At 133, I was going upset in the semis with Andrew Long. That cost me a finalist correct. I admittedly went homer in the consolations, hoping Old Dominion’s Kyle Hutter would break through. Unfortunately, he hit another one of my favorites, Penn’s Rollie Peterkin in the consolations and had Scotti Sentes looming. Neither Stonebraker or I had Sentes in the top eight, but I had him Top 12, as did Stonebraker. He went with a ballsy pick for a champion – Lou Ruggirello of Hofstra. I like Lou. I watched his career closely. Wouldn’t have bothered me one bit if he’d have won it. I only hit two exactly right here, and got another 5/8. Stonebraker hit 6/8 and only hit Hochstrasser exactly right. My misses: Sentes, Ruggirello and B.J. Futrell of Illinois. He missed on Peterkin and Iowa’s Tony Ramos.
At 141, two low seeds snuck in there, Missouri’s Todd Schavrien and Penn’s Zack Kemmerer. We both had VonOhlen and Alton placing, but they both didn’t. I also missed on Zack Bailey, which was disrupted because of his win over VonOhlen early. Stonebraker beats me again here, hitting 6/8, while I hit just five. I had two exact (Russell and Marion), he just had Russell.
At 149, we both had Caldwell. Only pick I nailed correctly here was Molinaro, while I missed on Andrew Nadhir and Derek Valenti. So another 5/8 here for me. Stonebraker missed on Kinser, Lopouchanski and Mason. I’m sure most everyone, other than Oklahoma State fans were rooting for “Loopy” due to the news the program was getting cut at UNC Greensboro. The kid was a locked hands call away. Stonebraker hit 4/8 and hit none exactly right. He held on to a four-pick lead heading into 157.
At 157, I really sold Jenkins short. But with Bubba, he’s got that X-Factor. You sometimes never know what Bubba will show up. We got the ready to go Bubba in the finals. I hit 6/8 and only pegged one right – Steve Fittery. Stonebraker extended his lead, by hitting 7/8, but none exact. I held a lead in that category, but needed to make up some ground somewhere. He pegged Bryce Saddoris again to place, while I hit on Walter Peppelman. He also hit Jason Welch exactly right.
At 165, I had another 5/8 effort, missing on Hatchett, Gillespie and Onufer. Stonebraker was also 5/8, but he hit on Onufer, while missing on picks from Aaron Janssen and Kurt Swartz. I’d had Janssen and Dallas Bailey in my top eight. We each only hit one exactly right – me on Burroughs and him on Sponseller.
At 174, I thought I would make up some ground, hitting all eight All-Americans right, but only getting two exactly right. I hit perfectly on Letts and Bennett, while mixing up the top six. Stonebraker’s lead diminished, but only slightly, he hit on 7/8 and hit two right exactly – Reader and Covington. He missed on a Scott Glasser pick, with Mike Letts placing instead of Glasser for his 7/8. We both had Amuchastegui up pretty high. I was right on Amuchastegui making the semis, but I didn’t see him beating Lewnes. Considering I was one of the few who could actually say his name right out of high school, I should have known better, but the Lewnes family has been great to me over the years, so it was hard for me to pick against such a great kid like Mack. Reader was super deserving of the title, though. The kid has my respect and always has. I remember interviewing Reader in Fargo when he won Juniors and he was talking about then-unheralded Glasser. “He’s tough as …” well, you know.
I still trailed with three weights to go.
At 184, I finally took the lead. I again hit 8/8, although only hitting one exactly right – Rutt. I had both finalists correct, just not in the right order. Stonebraker hit 5/8, missing on picks from Josh Ihnen, Ryan Loder and Kirk Smith. I held a slight one pick lead at this point.
At 197, we tied it up again. While I hit for 6/8 and all six of those were exactly correct (picking 1-5, 7-8 dead on), Stonebraker managed 7/8, only missing on Logan Brown. He hit Zack Giesen of Stanford. I missed on him and Sonny Yohn.
At heavyweight, I hit the top four right and hit 5/8, which is kid of expected, since three unseeded wrestlers place here. Stonebraker hit on 4/8, which gave me a slim one pick win.
As I said earlier, there are numerous fans out there who did better than I did. I’d love to see how some of you ended up with total All-Americans, the percentage and how many you picked in the exact placement. That’s one place where I did have a significant edge over Stonebraker. I hit 24/80 while he hit on 8/80.
The last three weeks have been an absolute whirlwind of wrestling. It started with the CAA, EIWA and EWL championships, then off to La Crosse for the Division III championships, then to Philly for the Division I Championships.
There were some great matches, great friends and great times. There were also some not-so-great moments.
Let's start with renting cars.
I've had about every bad rental car in the world. I've had PT Cruisers, HHR's, Neons ... but when I was out in PA and Jersey for the trio of qualifiers, I was met with the absolute worst car I've ever encountered.
A hybrid Honda Insight. Now, picture me, a 255-pound individual cramming into a hybrid. Sure, it got 40 miles a gallon when on economy mode, but when you're driving across the Pennsylvania turnpike and navigating the New Jersey roads, being in a tiny car with horrible blind spots and negative 12 accelleration, you're in for some trouble.
It wasn't too problematic initially, with the exception there's no cruise control. I like to have cruise control in rentals because the last thing I want to get is a speeding ticket. Being out of state, it's just so easy for them not to let you off ... "them" ... yes "THEM."
Anyway, I dealt with it (parking was actually easy, the thing was slightly bigger than one of those Smart cars) until I got to Bucknell.
After crashing with Willie Saylor of The Open Mat on Saturday night after some wrestling chatter at Damon's in Lewisburg, I set out to Bloomsburg after the finals were over. I went into Sojka Pavilion under the chill of a cold Pennsylvania rain. After watching the F&M van back into a pole, then realize they weren't supposed to park in that lot, I walked in.
Then there was some wrestling.
Then as I left Bucknell, I walked out to a nice, cold, wet snowstorm. This one wasn't even expected. Now, the Insight isn't built for ... well, much of anything, and it especially couldn't handle snow too well. What's about a 25-mile drive from Bucknell to Bloomsburg took 90 minutes. I got to Bloomsburg just as the EWL Finals were starting.
Saw some wrestling.
Talked with Mark Bader and Zeb Miller from Flo. They were going to try to traverse I-80 so Zeb could teach in the morning. Yeah, not a great idea.
I was at least going to try to get closer to Harrisburg and get a room for the night. I'd initially planned on driving back to Lancaster, near my old stomping grounds to sleep for the night (and perhaps grab a Lager), but about a mile into my journey, which included sliding out of the Bloomsburg parking lot, I was on the phone (Bluetooth, people) with my wife when she said, "Babe, just turn around."
That was a battle in itself.
Did I mention the Insight isn't equipped ... for anything?
Well, after the GPS took me up a big hill, where I was going no faster than SEVEN miles an hour, I had to turn around and go back down the hill.
I eventually settled on the Hampton Inn. I checked in and moments afterwards, so did the West Virginia team. Greg Jones said his brother Vertus was trying to make it back to Pittsburgh, but made it as far as Bellefonte, which is just outside of State College.
Talked to Greg for a bit on a variety of topics, then I set out for Harrisburg, normally a 90-minute drive, to catch my 10 a.m. flight. I left at 6 a.m.
Even if it took twice as long, I'd still have time, right?
Have I told you about the Insight?
Well the roads leading out of town were bad. I-80 wasn't too bad, but US 11/15 was just atrocious. It took me 4 1/2 hours to get to Harrisburg. I'd called United prior to change my flight and bellyached enough to get them to waive the change fee. I'd already paid for a room that I wasn't anticipating, so I'm trying to save some funds here.
Well, nature called just outside of Selinsgrove (home of Maryland's All-American Spencer Myers) and I stopped at a Denny's ... I didn't leave for 30 minutes. Not for what you might be thinking, but the power (or lack thereof) of the Insight struck. I had to get pulled out of the snow by a local with a tow line.
Anyway, with time to kill, I get some work done at the NWCA offices then set back out to Colorado Springs. I turn around and leave two days later to head to Minneapolis for a drive to La Crosse.
Renting a car in Minneapolis is the most expensive in the nation, and if it's not, it's right up there. This time, I get offered a Hyundai Accent -- NOT going to happen. I get the Kia Optima. Now, if you don't know, Kia apparently has upped its game and has a nice car. The guy in the McDonalds drive-thru even told me such as I was picking up my less than savory lunch.
I make it to La Crosse and check in at the Brookstone Inn, just in time to go on Takedown Radio's Bracket Buster Special.
Joe Miller and I do the webcast for all four sessions of the Division III tournament on NCAA.com. Shout out to Turner Sports' Katy Sullivan and Web Stream Productions' Adam Coppinger -- they were awesome to work with. Coppinger, though, went to Butler. I went to Old Dominion. Actually most of WSP's folk I've worked with (like John Fritz ... not THAT John Fritz) went to Butler. So last week in Philly, I had to see that tip-in replay over and over.
Anyway, La Crosse is an awesome place. Rich Bender told me to stay off Third Street ... Easier said than done. The tournament went great, Wartburg won, some great individual performances. Minga Batsukh from St. John's is a stud.
My wife joined me in La Crosse and we drove back to "The Cities" and then spent a day with the in-laws up in Princeton. We flew out Monday morning early. Abby flew to Memphis at 6 a.m., I went back on a direct flight -- a DIRECT flight to Colorado Springs.
My bag, on the other hand, had other ideas. It apparently booked a ticket to Minot ... like Minot in North Dakota.
After going through a few less than fun conversations with Delta (the broke a one-legged man's wheelchair, too), the bag would end up in Denver and I would have to get it. I flew out on Tuesday, so this being Monday evening and all my dress clothes were in the bag, I needed that bag.
I bought it two weeks earlier and already it's got more frequent flyer miles than I do. The last flight into Colorado was at 10:51. So I made the 75-minute drive to Denver. Then about the time I get on the E-470 tollway (which is the devil, by the way), I use FlightTracker on my iPhone (Great app, by the way) and check the status.
So I sit at a Boston's and have a Diet Coke for about 90 minutes, then head to DIA. I wait, and wait. It's 1:15 a.m. and my bag FINALLY gets here. Then I drive BACK to Colorado Springs. Unpack, repack, wash clothes and get to bed around 4 a.m.
I'm supposed to meet Craig Sesker at the USA Wrestling office at 8 a.m.
We get that done, then head to Philly ....
I'll post a Philly follow-up soon.
USA Wrestling has three Fortune 500 Companies among its family of corporate partners. In fact, two of those companies are Fortune 100 companies! (Liberty Mutual Insurance (Responsible Sports) #71 and Merck (Lotrimin) #85) The third sponsor, American Airlines, is just out of the Fortune 100 at #120. These very large companies have joined USA Wrestling’s other corporate sponsors, ASICS, Body Bar Systems, Maximized Living, Dollamur Sport Surfaces, The U.S. Marines and USA Wrestling’s newest sponsor, Hibiclens.
Each of our corporate partners are just that…partners, said Larry Nugent, USA Wrestling’s Director of Development. “Each brings assets to USA Wrestling that go beyond just financial considerations and in turn, USA Wrestling leverages its marketing platforms and good will to help those companies grow”.
Liberty Mutual Insurance is one of USA Wrestling’s largest sponsors. Their Responsible Sports Program supports volunteer youth coaches and parents who help our youth athletes succeed both on the mat and off. (responsiblesports.com)
Nugent credits his department’s success to hard work and USA Wrestling’s investment in developing and maintaining strong communication platforms. He said, “through a sports sponsorship, a company wants to create brand awareness, advertise one's products and services, as well as reaffirm the company's reputation as a responsible corporate citizen in the business world. Because USA Wrestling has stayed current with cutting edge communication technologies, companies like Liberty Mutual can leverage those technologies to get their message out. One of our business principals is to network the wrestling community and the communication vehicles we developed to accomplish that helped attract Liberty Mutual to USA Wrestling”.
USA Wrestling’s Development Department is a two person show. Joining Nugent is Manager of Development, Harry Kalofonos. “It isn’t easy to get the attention of a large company like Liberty Mutual”, said Nugent. He continued, “Once I brought them to the table, Harry and I put together a presentation that they couldn’t walk away from. Harry really hit it out of the Park at their Boston corporate offices”!
Corporate sponsorships are only one of the ventures USA Wrestling’s Development Department has successfully taken on. Producing special events and fundraising initiatives are another way that the Development Department has raised resources for the USA Wrestling mission. “In 2008 we conceived and executed Fuel the Dream a program designed to raise funds to assist our Olympians with their expenses leading up to the Olympic Games. In 2009, in the run up to the Winter Olympic Games, we collaborated with a winter sport, USA Hockey and staged The Night of Champions. Both of these events were recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee as “Most Unique and Creative Marketing Initiatives of the Year!”
Last August, USA Wrestling’s Development Department challenged itself to support the “Living The Dream Medal Fund” with a Benefit Telethon. “I was a little nervous attempting to do something no one in the Olympic Family here in Colorado Springs had ever tried”, said Nugent. “I’m lucky our own Jason Bryant was a great host and that Al Bevilacqua and Greg Warren brought passion and humor to the program. Their talented efforts inspired our World Team Athletes to do a really great job on the telephones!” he said.
Big things are in store for the Development Department moving forward. Nugent explained, “We are planning another Night of Champions in April and this time we are partnering with the U.S. Soccer Foundation. With London 2012 rapidly approaching we are putting the finishing touches on a slate of London hospitality packages that will result in unforgettable memories for Olympic Games fans of all sports and economic levels. Our plate is nearly full but we are always ready to create additional partnerships and I encourage those with questions or ideas to contact us”, said Nugent.
For more information on USA Wrestling’s Corporate Partnership opportunities go to:
When I look back on events like the Junior Nationals, I talk about evolution. I wrote in WIN Magazine a few months back about how Fargo used to be a wrestling purgatory, a strange place where we waited and waited for results.
Now, with Trackwrestling on the scene, results are updated quickly following the completion of bouts. Fans back home don’t have to wait hours to get the results they want.
Recently, USA Wrestling released information about the 2009-10 webcast schedule and all the players who made it possible. Well, not all the players. One major player in the entire success of USAW’s webcast initiative was a company called NewTek. They provided us with the Tricaster technology that took normal, one camera webcasts to another level. This past year in Fargo, we had three camera angles on our featured mat, and integrated another NewTek add-on, TimeWarp, to add replays.
They weren’t mentioned in the release, and they should have. Some of you who dabble in webcasting might know about the Tricaster. It’s been widely used in college athletics for the past few years – so much so that CoSIDA, the national organization of Sports Information Directors has sessions about using NewTek’s products to provide a cost-efficient alternative to buying TV time. I first heard about the Tricaster at the CoSIDA convention (I’m an affiliate member) back in Tampa, shortly before I left the NWCA.
While USA Wrestling did have a position open where my technical knowledge and broadcast abilities benefit our events, NewTek has been there since before my arrival. Before I was even hired, NewTek was at the World Team Trials. In the past 10 months, I’ve had the opportunity to learn and evolve with the technology. When I spoke about integrating Trackwrestling into our webcasts, NewTek’s DataLink provided the engine.
Websites I frequent, like Takedown Radio and Swimming World Magazine, use the Tricaster for their daily and weekly shows. It’s not new, but something we’ve hit the ground running with. I sometimes wonder if we’d have had the technology last year at Wrestling 411, would the show have taken off.
But it’s all hindsight.
The reality is NewTek and Ustream are now pivotal players in our promotion and presentation of wrestling. Their work is not overlooked and it’s used heavily during the season.
Even when play-by-play resources are at a minimum or being saved for finals, the on screen graphics and steady stream is a direct result of NewTek and Ustream’s ability to provide groups like USA Wrestling the resources to give the fans a better user experience.
I didn’t personally webcast anything but the finals in Fargo, but as a fan, you really didn’t need it, because there was an on-screen scoreboard, updated live, as well as a clock. You knew who was wrestling, what mat (well, the only mat in this case), what round and bout number everything was on. It made our lives that much easier.
This year, we’ll be adding more feeds. We will have a featured mat at each event (at least each event I’ll be traveling to) with all the Tricaster/Trackwrestling add ons when available. Since Track is what we use for all our USAW events, it’s safe to say when a Track scoreboard is available, you’ll have those graphics. Supplementary events will be a different story, but with Tricaster, we’ll still be able to do the on-screen scoreboards, but manually.
We look to have at least 20 events covered this year live, and at the lion’s share of those events, will have more than one feed. Ideally, we’d love to have a feed of every mat, but manpower and managing that will still be evolving.
In the time being, I want to thank NewTek, Ustream, Trackwrestling and all our events staff for being able to facilitate this very important aspect of USA Wrestling – free live webcasts of our events.
At my second World Championships, Craig Sesker, Travis Shives and I walked around a market area in Baku in search of something, anything, to get our minds away from the Heydar Aliyev Sports Complex. What we found, was McDonalds.
In Baku, it was a welcome sight. Something that we longed for -- something uniquely American in size and stature. Something that gave us thoughts of home. In Moscow, it's very much the opposite.
While we search high and low for anything American, or even something British or an avatar of something from any English speaking country, we're stuck with those Golden Arches.
For the fifth straight day, I've eaten McDonalds for lunch. It's not sitting well with Craig, who left the Friday tournament after the first session concluded with some stomach issues. He alluded to such in his blog.
I've been ducking the breakfast at the Hotel Cosmos, so by the time the day rolls around to near completion, the only thing I've swallowed has been greasy Russian McDonalds. I'm eating a Royal with Cheese (insert Pulp Fiction line) and some soggy fries. The Mountain Dew I bought from the concession stand is anything but as tasty as the beverage state-side.
Joe Williamson from Flo and I walked over there -- both feeling rather worried about what this would do to us. I won't spare you any details about how my "system" works, but let's just say I might be living on borrowed time.
Here's the biggest problem I have with it. It's not the fact that I hate McDonalds, I hate fast food, pretty much in its entrity. Chick-Fil-A is the only real exception. Culvers, at times, also hits the spot. White Castle ... not so much any more now that I'm married. I used to come in with White Castle after I had bad dates in Minnesota. When the roommates saw me with a bag of sliders, they knew I wasn't going to see that person again.
Anyway, you guys don't care about my date life, but back in 2003, I was a very unhealthy guy. I smoked a pack of cigs a day, did the "college lifestyle" with what I'd consume and working at a newspaper, I ate a lot of fast food. I was standing next to Jeff Rusak in the ODU wrestling room one day in January of 2003 and stepped on the scale. I jumped off of it as soon as I saw the "3" in front of the first three digit digital readout. Ultimately, I was 325 pounds.
I then didn't eat fast food or drink a single drop of "regular" soda for the next four months. And I lost 70 pounds. So I'm personally a believer in the fact fast food erodes your health and has ZERO benefits. The only benefit is right now is to cure hunger, but I'd probably be better for my body to just drink water and nothing else than consume the amount of grease and fat and calories a Royal and Fries will put into my system.
I equate this to my distain for Buffalo Wilds Wings the three days after Fargo. I don't want to see a B-Dubs for at least a week (because we have one in the Springs) ... thankfully, I don't frequent McDonalds anyway.
So when I get back to the states, I think I'll re-enlist myself into the no fast food, no soda thing. I'm about 255 now, but I'm curious to what this trip has done to my immune system, voice and overall cholesterol level. I'm going to go on a detox when I get home with fresh food, tons of veggies and fruits and a mountain stream of water.
Макдоналдс can be gone!
Blogs are a funny thing sometimes. I've written short ones, I've written long ones, I've written ones I didn't want to deal with and I've written ones that no one wanted to read.
But from the 2010 World Championships, blogging has become a way for the U.S. contingent to get exactly what's going on across in a less than sterile format. Basically, we write how we feel.
That can affect how one writes ... how you feel, that is. Right now, it's Wednesday, September 8 around 6:20. We're just over an hour from the start of the medal rounds and it's not one I'm looking forward to. The U.S. got blanked today, and in Greco overall. It really sucks right now. I feel really bad for our team, especially Alyssa Lampe. She was tooling the Polish wrestler before getting taken right over to her back with a 5-0 lead. Since it was just minutes after Greco-Roman wrestler Jake Fisher lost, it took all the wind out of the proverbial sails.
My tone and inflection changed on the webcast and generally, the rest of the first session stunk. I tried to keep people up to date, then the chat room crapped out, so I was really in a lurch.
Now, we're three days in, about 20 hours into the live webcast and my throat is outright shot. I'm trying to not talk at all and tonight, I'm just going to go to sleep right away rather than stay up and mingle.
Last night, Gary and Craig and I took the metro back. I took a few pictures from my phone and posted them here on the Nation and its photo gallery. Here's some notes from yesterday and the tournament as a whole ... in pictures.
We took the shuttle bus in the morning on Tuesday. There was the head of a stuffed cat on the wall. I mean, I'm all for honoring the memory of ones passed, but this was either a really, really close cat or it was a scrumptuous dinner that the bus driver wanted to remember. Either way, it was creepy.
I have no idea what this is, but it's cool. Hammer and sickle
Here's the outside of the Olympskiiiiiiiy (however you spell it) Sports Center. It was built for the 1980 Olympics. It's gigantic really.
I haven't decided whether or not this is Cyrillic for something or just a normal translation. Crapdogs? Really? Nice.
McDonalds ... I hate fast food, but this place has been the savior from a world of "the trots." That's all I'll say about that.
This is a VERY long escalator. Good practice for the incline, I guess. That is, if it didn't work.
This one's for DF.
I'm not one for public transit. I didn't grow up in a big city and I sure as heck don't like dealing with subways and trains in New York or Philadelphia. But on Saturday, Moscow celebrated its City Day, and I navigated the Metro with extreme ease.
Craig Sesker and I had the chance to zip down to Red Square on Saturday afternoon. With the tournament not starting for another two days, this was really the only chance we could possibly get to see the Kremlin and all the history surrounding the capital of our former Cold War rival.
Moscow is a huge city, with over 10 million people and a cramped network of roads make nagivating the Metro a must. I didn't care for this initially, but with some questions answered from the concierge up front at the Hotel Cosmos, we were on our way.
We took the #6 down five stops, then got on the #1. Two stops later, we were walking around amidst a sea of Moscovites. The drawback -- Red Square itself was closed, but everything else around it was open. So after we strolled through the smelly, but drafty Metro station, we were staring right at the Kremlin.
Many people seem to confuse the spinning blooms of St. Basil's Cathedral with that of the Kremlin. And if you've enjoyed any video games from the 80's and 90's ... the theme from Tetris was stuck in my head all day.
We saw it from the far side of Red Square, then started to walk around the entire structure. I stopped to walk around the park and take some photos of some fountains, while Craig checked out what the price of a Big Mac was in Moscow. Actually, a #1 was about six bucks ... so that wasn't too bad at all. I snagged a few of his fries. Not exactly the same kinda taste.
There's just something to be said about good ol' American grease. You can't duplicate it. I've eaten at McDonalds in Amsterdam, London, Baku and a few fries in Moscow. None of those places can equate the taste of salty McDonalds fries because their grease just ain't up to snuff.
As we were about to leave, we ran into the U.S. crew of officials, Tom Clark, Rick Tucci, Zach Errett and Ardeshir Asgari, an Iranian-American who wrestled at Cal State-Fullerton and is coaching the one Nicaraguan entry.
Our day then got extended a few more hours, which included picking up some Russian nesting dolls, called Matruskha's. My former boss, Pat Tocci, has been bugging me about picking him up one (as has Tammy Tedesco) ... I added another to my collection, bartering down to a reasonable price for three dolls. So note to Pat and Tammy - you're taken care of.
Coming back, we run into some Canadian coaches, the same ones I was talking shop with the night prior, then Tech-Fall.com's Tony Rotundo. In this crowded Metro in the middle of one of the world's biggest cities, I see a short bald man with thick-framed glasses -- "Hey Rotundo!"
Sure enough, it's him. I mean, this guy is unmistakably easy to spot in any crowd, even if he is in a sea of very tall Russian women. Yes, they are tall here.
I snapped nearly 150 photos that I posted on my facebook site, I tried to add a few here to the Nation, but only about 40 showed up. We'll post some on our facebook site soon, too.
I've also found a small grocery store near the hotel. So buying $5 quarter-liters of Pepsi Light (they don't call it diet over here), is over. Now, I can get four liter-and-a-half bottles of water, two powerades, an iced tea and a Coke Light for 10 bucks.
Oh, for those wondering how the room assignment is, I'm with our Polish everyman, Paulie Kieblesz (Kee-blitz). This guy can speak several languages and is as good of a negotiator as I've ever seen. This guy can literally get anything, anywhere.
I never get nervous to travel. I love seeing different parts of the country, blogging and talking about my experiences and I really enjoy taking pictures. I depart from Colorado on Thursday for the 2010 World Championships, and I can't help but feel a bit anxious.
It's been a busy month for me here at USA Wrestling. We hosted a successful telethon with the Living The Dream Medal Fund and hosted the State Leaders Summit at Cheyenne Mountain Conference Center. This month just flew by.
This will be my fourth World Championships. I first covered the Worlds in 2003 in New York City, then traveled to Azerbaijan in 2007 and Denmark in 2009, but there's something about Russia that really gets me going. I haven't quite figured out what it is yet.
Elena Pirozhkova was born in Russia, so she's got a natural want to go back. I don't have that type of Russian tie, but my grandmother was born and raised in the Ukraine, which for a very long time was a part of the USSR. I don't have to tell you that, most of you already know. With German and Ukranian heritage, there's a small tie to Russia, but more of it is my own curiosity.
Before going to Baku in 2007, I'd only left the U.S. once, and that was Canada, which really doesn't count. It's like leaving a cool party to go upstairs to see what the neighbors are up to, chatting for a while, then going back. I've been to Canada twice. I'd like to go to Vancouver or Edmonton or Saskatoon, but right now, I have to settle for Niagara Falls and Fort Frances (across from International Falls, Minn.).
Since then, I've been to Azerbaijan, Germany, Denmark, South Africa, Aruba and England. Russia, though, is one of those places that is full of intrigue. I remember growing up in the 80's reading "Scholastic News," a little newspaper distributed to elementary school students to help them get up on current events. I remember seeing one edition with Reagan and Gorbachev staring face to face. I didn't know that the red spot on Gorby's head was a birthmark. We thought it was just a printing press error.
Anyway, it's Tuesday before I leave and I still have a ton of stuff to do. We've got a membership renewal blast to send out, Craig Sesker, Gary Abbott and I have to coordinate who is blogging for us from an athlete perspective and then there's the packing.
I know I'll be bringing a slew of t-shirts to give away and trade from my personal collection. I'm not getting rid of everything, but some shirts that I've collected over the years no longer find themselves in my regular wardrobe. You can chalk that up from having to go into an office each day, rather than doing a Wayne's World wrestling show from my basement, but I digress.
I'll be sure to pack a bunch of throat lozenges as well. We're planning on doing 63 hours of live audio from the World Championships -- and I'll be handling those duties. It's like seven major tournaments in as many days. I hope I have a voice left as we get to men's freestyle.
Athletes and USAW staff will be blogging throughout the trip and posting photos and having fun while bringing you the information. We're 8 hours ahead for you in the Eastern Time Zone ... so while you guys are discussing the days happenings, we'll be getting some much-needed sleep.
I know two Russian words as of now. I should have used Terry Steiner's Rosetta Stone while I had the chance!
Jason Bryant talks about things related to wrestling on all levels.