Disturbing news from The United States Military Academy…a soldier stationed in Georgia is facing potential Court-Martial in the tragic death of West Point Cadet Christopher J. Morgan. You may remember that Morgan, an Army wrestler, was killed and 19 other Cadets and 2 soldiers were injured in a vehicular accident in June. Staff Sergeant Ladonies P. Strong has been identified as having been at the wheel of the 2.5 ton vehicle that veered off a road and went between 15-20 feet down an embankment. Among the long list of extremely serious and disturbing charges filed against Strong, an odd accusation of prevention of authorized seizure of property. What? WHAT?? On the other side of the tragedy, some 1,500 people attended Morgans funeral at the Academies cemetery in mid-June. A powerful presence and speaker there: former President Bill Clinton. Morgans father was part of the former leaders Security Detail. What to make of so many charges against 1 soldier, and what can possibly heal the loss of such a gifted young military man? For the former, who knows as yet, and for the latter, sadly, nothing.
To the positives…the Red Monster is back in Blacksburg, and just in time for Halloween! Cue the horse sound effects as former Va. Tech 3X AA and National Finalist Jared Haught is back to help the Hokies. In a grinding, painful, smashing but respectful and affectionate sort of way. Haught manhandled opponents for years as VA. Techs 197lb standout. After a year away in the non wrestling world, the engineering/supply chain standout is back supplying sweat and engineering success for Coach Robies Top Ten ranked Hokies. The dirty birds from Blacksburg may be missing 165lb National Champ Mekhi Lewis (taking an Olympic Redshirt year to try and rep the Red, White and Blue in Tokyo next year) but theres mucho established and developing AA level talent in the Hokies room.
‘CUE THE LOCAL ANGLE: PANTHERS PROWL POOLS, TOO
Established cat protocol says that water is a definite no-no. Definitely not the case for San Antonio swimming star and college freshman scholarship wunderkind Sarah Walpole. At that fun ‘n friendly BBQ stop on Blanco Road in San Antonio mom Leticia rocked the UNI Jersey with handsome hubby Mark and son in tow on Octobers first weekend. Meanwhile up in Cedar Falls, long distance scholarship daughter Sarah is probably ripping off multi thousand meter sessions and probably pushing some of Coach Schwabs matmen past even their liquid workout limits. The Walpoles seemed more than willing to spread some of their UNI enthusiasm around and embrace following Coach Schwab and crew. Cross-Fit Fandom! It’s a thing, you know.
WRESTLING FANS, STEP UP
JKMemorialFund.com is the GoFundMe site organized and being run to help the Kelly family get past the shocking post-morning run death of 48 year old Jamie Kelly. Kelly was a star husband/father/coach/athlete who wrestled at Great Bridge (VA) HS and was recruited to Old Dominion University by 2x Olympian and coaching legend Gray Simons. Based on multiple testimonials from folks in all walks of life,(1) this mans life was lived to the fullest in every positive sense except duration. Please help his wife and two young children if you can.
SMALL NOTES ON THE BIG BOYS
Penn State had only 6 All Americans coming back this season, one from 2 years back. Out of 10 starters! ¡NO ES POSIBLE! Then one more transferred in, thank goodness. Theyll be favored in every dual meet. They’ll be favored to win another National Championship. But not the Big 10 tournament. Theres Iowa and Ohio State to thank for that.
Iowa has 7 All Americans coming back. All of them are projected to be better than they were last year. Except the best one, Spencer Lee. It’s hard to be better than the best, and hes been that. Twice in college. 3 times in the World. For sure hes favored to win the National Championship. But his team, the Hawkeyes, won’t. They have Penn State to thank for that.
Ohio State has a brand new wrestling complex. It cost millions of dollars. And then some more millions after that. It’s a huge complex. Kind of like the one Ohio State probably should have after regularly finishing just behind Penn State. But not this year. They’ll have Iowa and, maybe, Oklahoma State to thank for that.
The Scribe picked Oklahoma State to finish 2nd at the National Championships last year. They didn’t. They finished 3rd. They’ll be short multiple All Americans and National Finalists. But they still have John Smith. And multiple All Americans coming back. And the countries #1 recruit. That’s all you need. To finish 4th, or 3rd, or 2nd. But probably not 1st. They might need a new decade for that.
If VA. Tech had 165lb National Champ Mekhi Lewis back they’d challenge for a team trophy. But they don’t. See an earlier paragraph in this column as to why. Why, they might not even win their conference. If they don’t, they’ll probably have NC State to thank for that.
NC State has only 1 All American returning from last season, but has a realistic shot at 4 this season. That’s because a 2018 All American, Tariq “the Freak” Wilson, is back and at a better weight class for him. The Wolfpack could AA or reach the Blood Round in 6 weight classes out of 10. Might not be quite enough for a top 4 finish. But it just might be.
Missouri has a new conference. Sort of. Their old conference, the MAC, merged with the EWL. The Tigers have trampled both conferences they’ve been part of for most of this decade. This decade will end with another conference title in Columbia. But it’ll be close, and messy. A little like the Tigers coaching changes this past off season. It’s OK, though. Brian Smith is still there. And so is #TigerStyle. That’s a top 10 formula every year.
Michigan has applied to the U.S. State Department for most favored Nation Status. As an international trade partner the Wolverines can benefit by both exporting and importing wrestlers. Even without 3XAA Stefan Micic (Serbia) 3XAA Myles Amine (San Marino) 2017 AA Logan Massa & Kanen Storr (both attempting to make Team USA) and Regional Training Center athletes Malik Amine (San Marino) and Dominic Abounader (Lebanon, until recently) Michigan will be a top 10 team. Season after next, the Wolverines might need a new trophy case. And a new wardrobe closet for all those different uniforms.
Cornell….see the opening paragraph of last week’s column. The Big Red will be there at the end of the season, also, the 15th straight finish in the Top 10. Then, in 2021…?…
UNI will have a great season. Last year it ended up being about the Panthers 1st individual National titleist in 20 years, 184lb Champ Drew Foster. No champions this year. But 4 All Americans and 1 or 2 round of 12 athletes is the prediction here. 4+2+12 will probably equal 10, as in Top Ten, in Minneapolis(2). And in New Math. Dated numerical reference. Broke up after a co-sine on a lease. Sorry, off on a tangent.
TROJANS MARCH ON CHATTOWN
Hector(3) himself would be proud of the ambitions of the newest D1 program in mens wrestling. The Little Rock Trojans are taking their talents to Tennessee come January 1st and 2nd as Coach Neil Erisman and crew will compete at the 2020 Southern Scuffle. Diving headfirst into what is annually one of the nations toughest tournament in your 1st year of competition is, at the very least, very ambitious. It is most definitely the type of bold statement former Little Rock Trojans AD Chase Conque and Trojans idea man Greg Hatcher had in mind to make when they started down this path. Coach Erisman, a former Oklahoma State star, and assistant Javier Maldonado have 26 athletes from 11 states to mold. And, as always, SHOUT OUT to the young men repping the Scribes home states, NJ and FL (none yet, ¿por que?) and 4 from his adopted land love, TX. Tyler Brennan, Frisco HS, Trent Dooley and Braeden Redlin, Allen HS, and Tristan Tadeo, Plano, Arlington Martin HS.
ADDENDUM: 6 DEGREES OF COMMUNICATION
In a long ago life as a radio producer/reporter/talk show host, the Scribe was made aware of the maddeningly consistent efforts of owners, operators, administrators, faculty, coaches, athletes, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends to say anything but the truth to those tasked to tell their stories. And boy, do we mean ANYTHING. The scale can best be broken down like this, from worst to best….
6. Silence. Because if you hear nothing, you generally know nothing, or very little, and can imply less.
5. Lies. These you can work with because, once identified as such, they are usually tools for information.
4. Obfuscation. Again sometimes usable, if only to remove by process of elimination those people, places, and things that don’t add up.
3. Off the record. FABULOUS!! That happened/didn’t happen/will happen/won’t happen. Glad to tell you you cant tell anyone, by the way. And, if you’re lucky, or good, or both, there’ll be corroborating info to return to the OTR source with. Maybe.
2. “Yeah, you got me on that one.” The end result of this is tricky at best, and dangerous in the extreme at worst. And finally, there is that rarest of rare-bits of tastiness:
1 THE UNVARNISHED TRUTH
Its such a rarity in reporting that it, when encountered, needs not only announcing but applauding. This rarest type of verbiage occurred when multiple email messages were sent to Princeton University coaches, administrators, media relations staff and marketing folks. The email consisted of 3 simple questions regarding 3X All American Matt Kolodzik, who is interestingly absent from the Tigers news releases, twitter feed, and team roster. it may generally be known, but please let it be said, The Tigers know just one way to go. UNIMPEACHABLE program sources informed the Scribe that Kolodzik is out of school and on his way to a spot on the 2020 USA Olympic Team. He will return to Princeton for the 2020-2021 season, quite possibly to help lead the Tigers to a top 4 team trophy. As to this season, a proper preview of Princeton will follow in a later column. Thank you, Princeton, all of you, and yes, the Scribe has mostly gotten over the 1976 letter suggesting perhaps a different place of matriculation. It was both honest and understandable. One might say Unvarnished.
1 The ODU Monarch Matcast #65 eloquently provides a life and times look at Kelly. Thank you, Jason Bryant.
2 The site of this seasons NCAA Division 1 Wrestling Championships, first time ever at a modern football stadium. Yes, it has a roof. Its Minnesota!
3 Son of Priam, supreme warrior of Troy, master of horses, doomed hero of Homer’s The Iliad. Way better than that Harry Potter drivel.
See you later this month!