The true beauty of the worlds greatest sport is its universality. No matter the season, the space, or the situation, there is a wrestling story or three to be told. This late Spring edition of “Hand Raised” will hop, skip and jump across a variety of news, views, and tidbits on wrestling, food, and travel. As always, officially sponsor-free, outspoken, and overladen with semi-cunning, somewhat enjoyable free-roaming verbiage scattered throughout the grappling, gastronomic, geographic, historical, political, social, and cultural landscape. Usually in smaller sentences. But not always.
TEMPES FUGIT, TIMES 2: FUTRELL AND RAMOS RETIRE
Two of Americas outstanding lightweights both felt the heavy hands of Father Time this month. The number of wins, titles, and championships at all levels earned by B.J. Futrell and Tony Ramos were much like the gladiatorial victories of Arnold Schwarzeneggers Conan in the eponymous movie. The triumphs on both lists “could not easily be counted.” It’s a double decade plus long trail of greatness achieved and goals fulfilled and forever expanded until all that could be given was. Ramos will continue to grow the sport from his assistant coaches position at North Carolina. The Scribe does not have definitive news on Futrells long term future in wrestling, but BJs impact will be felt regardless of post competition plans. For more on Ramos, catch TrackWrestlings Kyle Klingmans fine longform one on one interview with Tony(1). Thank you so much, gentlemen, for what you have done, and for the sheer enjoyment of watching you do it.
HOWDY THERE, YOUNG UNS
A belated congrats to the eye opening performances by a whole buncha youngsters at both the U.S. Mens Freestyle Open and the World Team trials. 2X Cornell National Champ Yianni Diakomihalis continued the momentum of his unbeaten Sophomore college campaign and took the 65kg Sr. U.S. Open Freestyle title in Las Vegas. Then he defeated 2018 World Silver medalist and current #1 ranked Bajrang Punia of India at the Beat the Streets Gala in New York. Rumors of a 2028 Jim Jordan/Diakomihalis G.O.P. (Grapplers Organizing Progress) ticket are strictly speculatory at this point, however. After all, Yianni hasn’t even made the U.S. Sr. World team yet. Yet. However, the 65kg challengers, both nationally and world-wide, would probably be wise to lay in a supply of Windex for the next decade or so.(2) A well done also needs to go out to Rutgers 149lb Collegiate National Champ Anthony Ashnault, who upset home gym favorite and 2x AA Hayden Hidlay of NC St on his way to a World Team Trials Finals berth. That Schnaulty lost his second straight match to multiple world medalist James Green in that Finals match up is no shame, but it was a shame he was injured in the process. The #Jerzeytough Ashnault figures to be a fixture at this weight for a while, though, once healthy. Now let’s get this wt. and about 3 more into the Olympics.
A BARGAIN BORDEAUX FROM TRADER JOES IS LIKE:
- A 50% off eye operation.
- Tasty at the proper temperature.
- A pleasant suprise.
- For the Gran Vin de Bordeaux, 2016, Chateau de Seguin, the answers would be 2 and 3. The 25 plus year gap between samplings of the famous French regional left the Scribe wondering why the wait had been so long. A solid 3 glasses rating for this one, though its ability to pair well with peanuts (3) remains unproven.
‘CUE THE LOCAL ANGLE
That hopping-holiday-busy BBQ stop on Blanco Road played host to a variety of local grappling stars in the time past since last column. One recent happy visitor was former SA Churchill star Chris Curiel, enjoying food and family fun. Chris segued from the San Antonio mat scene to College Station and then to the business world, first in medical sales and now as a rising commercial real estate star at Valcor. Also on a stop by, and easily recognizable in his Regional wrestling shirt, current L.E.E. HS head wrestling coach Jody Odom. In the first edition of a new feature for this column, Coach Odom is on point, precise, and positive about our sport here in San Antonio and beyond. Please enjoy this initial rendition of “First Hand Forum”, featuring San Antonio Lee HS Head wrestling coach Jody Odom.
FIRST HAND FORUM: GUEST, L.E.E. HEAD COACH JODY ODOM
1.Even though its the oldest sport, wrestling seems to be enjoying a revival. Do you agree, and if so, why?
I definitely agree. When I was growing up in small North Central Texas, I never heard of wrestling as a sport, only as the sports entertainment kind. I knew it was a sport in the Olympics but knew nothing about it. The growth that wrestling has experienced in Texas alone since I was a student athlete is incredible. I attribute this growth to the efforts of USA Wrestling to promote and make the sport more visible, multimedia outlets like Youtube making it possible to upload and view wrestling matches, camps, clinics, etc., and companies like TrackWrestling and FloWrestling using social media and the Internet to make the visibility of the sport increase exponentially. Lastly, I think the diligence of current wrestling coaches in posting instructional videos to be viewed for free on Youtube and other media sites has made the availability of people to coach wrestling increase. (Now) you don’t necessarily have to have a background in the sport to learn the techniques and practice models to implement. The last point, I think, is the most critical because without available coaches there can’t be an increase in participation. (S0) My hat is off to those coaches and clinicians for making those things available.
2.What did you expect when you accepted the job at L.E.E. and where are you and your program now in relation to those expectations?
I expected the program to be small and not all that competitive because of what I had heard about the demographics and socio-economics of the school and the overall buy into the program. I was a football coach that had a minimal experience in wrestling and remembered enjoying it so (I) thought “why not? I can use this position to leverage my way up in football because I will have managed my own program.” Now, I am a wrestling coach that coaches football and cannot see myself stepping away from the sport anytime soon. The program has grown in both size and competitiveness. My first year we had 4 girls and about 6 boys on the varsity roster and about 8 boys on the JV roster at the end of the year. We won zero individual medals, finished last as a team at the district tournament, with 2 boys and 2 girls qualifying for regionals, all of which were eliminated on the first day. This year the varsity boys and girls brought home a total of 28 medals and brought home 3 team awards(.) The girls team finished 3d in district with 15 girls total on the roster(,) 5 advanced to the regionals. While the boys finished 9th at district as a team, We had 2 district champions and a 4th place finisher. All 3 of those boys went on to qualify for the state tournament 2 being regional champions and one finishing in 3rd place. My 220 pounder made it to the round of 8 at the district tournament as a junior. (He) was brand new to the sport his freshman year. The program met my expectations my first year and and now has grown to be 3 times the size that it was and is now looked at as a program to be respected and prepared for.
3.Is wrestling a tough “sell” to your administration and/or student body, and if you see it that way, why?
For the administration, it was a very obscure program that they didn’t know anything about. At first, students were a tough sell because of the singlet, but with the approval of the two piece uniform (that) has been negated. this was the first year we had the two piece option, and it made it easier for kids to join. (The) funny thing is that some of them were asking to wear a singlet by the end of the season. Another reason students can be a tough sell is because wrestling is not seen on mainstream networks, so it is still obscure to them, making it scary because none of them want to be bad at something.
4.How does wrestling help your student athletes?
Wrestling allows our students to grow in athleticism, physical conditioning and mental toughness at a much faster rate than any other sport. I see a huge increase in confidence from year to year as the athletes achieve goals and improve performance as an individual. I think that is one of the most valuable parts of wrestling (;) the self-confidence and self-reliance it fosters in young people. Athletes are able to see the fruit of their hard work as they win their first match or successfully execute a technique or win a position they had previously struggled in. I had wrestlers on JV this year win a medal at a tournament that responded with “This is the first medal I have ever won!” That, to me, is priceless. That proves to those kids that hard work, dedication and toughness are the true ways to success.
5. San Antonio is the 7th biggest city in the country in an athletics-centric state. How can we leverage our size and status to grow wrestling in the city/county/region/state?
The largest obstacle the growth of wrestling faces in San Antonio and the state of Texas is the number of coaches. That is the reason my wrestling program was shut down when I was in high school and why many high schools and/or school districts don’t adopt the sport. Scarcity of coaches. I think that will change as more wrestlers graduate from high school with a good experience in the sport and return as coaches. The best way we can leverage our size is to continue to grow the sport here at home. As of now, there are still school districts in our area that do not have a program at the high school level, or at all. We are continually hosting large tournaments and continually sending more and more kids to state. We as coaches need to publicize our successes more, need to get results out more with news outlets to get the word out to the public.
RANDOM NEWS AND NOTES…………
Shout out to Lock Haven, setting up a Womens team for the 2019-2020 season.
#Dragonsrbebiggerbadderandsmarter…. Drexel wrestling posted the highest GPA in the nation for wrestling this past season, a fire breathing 3.63. Bet THEY could have come up with a better Game of Thrones conclusion.
Javier Maldonado is movin on up. The former Southeastern (FL) Head Coach is taking a D1 Assistants position. How cool would assistant Brandon Jorge, a 3x FL st champ from perennial power Lake Gibson, getting the top job, be? Cool, dude, cool.
Nick Heflin and Pat Downey had an epic series at the World Team Trials, 86kg, with Downey winning and advancing. Probably safe to say they’re off each others Christmas card list. They’re on Dana Whites list, though.
DOUBLE shout out to former UTC star Scotty Boykin, repping the Mocs, the RTC South, and TMWC. He won the last chance qualifier and made the field @ the World Team Trials. AND the Mocs turned in a super team GPA for the Spring Semester. “The K R Initiative” is a thing. A good, growing thing.
STOPPIN FOR SMILES, SOUTH MISSISSIPPI STYLE
Coastal Mississippi has quite the history. Native Americans, French and Spanish explorers, pirates, English lords and ladies, etc., etc. Jimmy Buffett has written multiple songs about the area(4) (exponential value increase in the Scribes eyes). The military saw its importance and has had a presence there for decades. And now the Scribe will reveal a favorite hot spot on the long drive to FL (for whatever your reasons) on the I-10 corridor. Talking Ocean Springs(5) here, folks, a gorgeous small Southern town smack dab on the Gulf Coast just a 3 mile south detour off I 10. Founded by pirates (probably) in 1699 (about) Ocean Springs is a just right sized compendium of places to eat, sleep, and enjoy the simple and quiet comforts of the laid back Gulf Lifestyle. There are franchises for both rest and replenishment, to be sure, but Ocean Springs real charm is in its local places to stay, shop, and eat. Try Hillyer House for a wide range of unique Gulf Coast based art and collectibles, Vestige restaurant for a fine dining experience, and any number of fine coffee shops for a get you road ready caffeine and food blast. Favorite here? Hands down, the Greenhouse on Porter. Catch the review on TripAdvisor, @784tedc. Grab a box of biscuits and a big pour over for the road and you’ll be smiling all the way past Pensacola.
See you next Month!
- Author T.C. Lifontis book on Ramos, “Behind the Stare”, is available on Amazon.
- The miracle cure-all from the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”
- If you haven’t made it to the Seguin (TX) Peanut Festival yet, well, son, you’re just missing out. Probably haven’t hit the Luling Watermelon Thump, either, have you? For shame.
- Biloxi, The Pascagoula Run, Life is just a Tire Swing, and Victrola are all Buffett tunes paying homage to his youth in S. Mississippi, and barely doing it justice.
- The Scribe and bride have enjoyed this halfway from SA to Tampa stop for about 15 years now, and we knew it had wrestling before Andy Hamilton and Kyle Klingman pubbed it up. Just sayin.