SEASON 4 COLUMN 2: The I.O.C. gives an 0.0; Mucho Matmen Makin Money; All SoCon in a column; and ‘Cue the Local Angle

Months back as quietly first noted by acclaimed international news service Reuters, decision makers in the Japanese Olympic Movement were in serious doubt about the viability of the 2021 Olympics. Literally within hours of that story first screaming across the WWW, multiple sets of powerful acronyms sprang into action. First to bark was T&L, Travel and Leisure, the hoary and powerful poo-bah of worldwide vacation options, opinions, and excess. They opined with their take that “the Games will likely go on but without spectators.” Other named and “unnamed” sources repeatedly ran up the “too early to tell” flag. It was NOT widely saluted. Finally, (read; after some MAJOR, BIG @SS “Come to Jesus” Zooms, texts, phone calls, etc.) the all mighty I.O.C. verbally castigated(1) any and all who DARED question their ultimate decision making authority about the viability of said Games. ONLY THE GREAT AND POWERFUL I.O.C. SHALL DECIDE THESE MATTERS. Pay NO attention to the near THREE million dead and the 135 million who suffered behind the Chinese Virus curtain. WE, THE I.O.C., control the horizontal, the vertical, the naming rights and the media platforms. Most importantly, WE, THE I.O.C. decide whether or not we even ALLOW your pitiful land mass to apply for our massive multi week international mish mosh of sports and socio-phsycological manipulation. Not to mention…M-N-Y making. We didn’t say THAT, did we? The clock is ticking. The Chinese Virus is mutating and spreading. Already, the first country to opt out/defect/get b*tchslapped down from the games comes out. How many people picked North Korea as the 1st in the Righteous Woke Sports Decisions line? Yes, that many. The sports world holds their breath and keeps their fingers crossed. The real world works for answers and, hopefully, containment. And, in their own little world, the I.O.C. makes proclamations, pronouncements, and bank deposits.

MAKIN IT RAIN, OR MATS SLIPPERY WHEN WET

The past few months have gone from anticipatory dread to hopeful anticipation to cash registers ringing near Coast to Coast. High level matches across every style and level of competition have whetted fans appetites. In many cases these events have also put some hard earned, WELL deserved cashmoney into a number of grapplers pockets. SO many events over months of time so, just a very few of the highlights…

The RTC Cup(2) by Titan Mercury and run by Flowrestling held in December brought together 6 groups of top level wrestlers in a dual meet format, 6 matches to each contest. The athletes battled at each of the Olympic Weight classes from 57kg (125.5 lbs) to 125kg (286 lbs). The Cliff Keen Wrestling Club took the title with the SERTC taking the Silver. The CKLV, of course, is headlined by athletes associated with Michigan while the SERTC has its roots in Virginia Tech soil. America’s Freestyle 2x world senior Bronze Medalist Heavyweight, Nick Gwiazdowski (WolfPack RTC) went 2-2 over the 2 days of competition in Cincinnati. What that result actually says is NOT anything bad about @NGWIZZ. It’s really all about the great young depth the USA is developing in the top end wt class. America legitimately has 5 of the top 30 hvwts. in the WORLD, folks, across both Freestyle and Greco Roman styles. At 28, Gwiazdowski is the elder statesman. 4 of them, Gable Steveson of Minnesota, Greg Kerklviet of Penn State, Mason Parris of Michigan and Cohlton Schulz of Arizona State, have a collective 11 years of COLLEGE eligibility left. Not that it’s likely they will all be in their college uniforms for all those seasons. Add in hulking Adam Coon, our top Greco big man, and the US of A is bursting at the 125-130kg seams with talent. Even America’s “2nd tier” of big guys is filled with international age group medal winners. NICE. Also very nice, the U.S. of A.s talent level at 74KG. Add a trio of RS Sr. college athletes, Evan Wick of Wisconsin, Logan Massa of Michigan and Alex Marinelli of Iowa to the list of 74KG slayers the Scribe highlighted last column. Then theres two RS Sophomores, defending D1 NCAA 165 LB champ Mekhi Lewis of Virginia Tech (nicked up, he defaulted out of the ACC and NCAA tournament) and now 2X Big 12 champ and 2021 NCAA champ David Carr of Iowa State. They BOTH earned world wrestling titles before their 2nd years in college. There’s also been a large number of “underground” cards featuring both sexes and all styles. All ages, too, with youth stars-to-be getting a taste of big time competition and attention. One of the most intriguing and beneficial events of the season went down between the Penn Regional Training Center and the NYRTC. This was thanks in no small part to the Philadelphia chapter of the Wrestlers in Business Network. Intriguing because of the breadth of competition. Sr. Level mens and womens Freestyle matches were contested as well as U-23 (Americas rising and/or recently established stars under the age of…yeah) events and high school matches. It was beneficial, also, for both exposure (The Rokfin Channel) and financial return. What’s still being attacked from multiple angles is a sustainable compensation model for these events.

SO COOL, SO HOT, SOCON

STILL haven’t gotten a bite for that oh so smooth slogan. Ah well. The season that almost wasn’t was prepared for by all the SoCon teams and coaches, and their preparation and planning bore sweet fruit from the jump. You can’t have a season without a schedule and a tip of the keyboard must go to UTC Head Coach Kyle Ruschell. Coach “Special K”(3) put his considerable skillset to work and came up with not 1 but 2 viable options that blended out of conference competition with a full SoCon slate. Right out of the box Appalachian State wrestled Top 5 powerhouse NC State to a fare thee well, upsetting multiple ranked opponents in a 24-12 loss far closer than the score shows showdown. A far tougher result to take for BHH HC(4) John Mark Bentley’s Mountaineers was their come from ahead 17-21 defeat at the hands of defending Conference champ Campbell. Still, with another multiple shutout win season earned, 5 Conference tournament champs and just 2 senior starters App. St. looks good for now and later. One of those 2, conf. champ Codi Russell, has announced hes returning next year. Capping another bang bang season for Yosefs crew was the All American award earned by 149lb Mountaineer Jonathan Millner. Seeded 7th he finished 8th, and he returns next season as one of 3 potential AAs at this weight for the conference. Chattanooga, after an opening tune up shutout win over small school Emmanuel, got snagged by the Octopus in a tough loss to the OK St. Cowboys. Then there was only limited success against Coach Chris Pendleton’s revamped Oregon St. Beavers. The Mocs bounced back nicely, though, finishing 3rd in both the regular season and in the conference tournament. The season ending injuries of not one but two quality starters, 149LB Tanner Smith and 174LB Hunter Fortner, was definitely a no good, very bad thing. Still, for good news, SHOUT OUT to 3 FL stars, 141LB Franco Valdes (Miami S/W), along with 149LB Noah Castillo and 197LB Logan Andrew (both from Sunshine State powerhouse Lake Highland Prep). The 2 star shorthanded Mocs had eventual reg. season AND tournament champ Campbell down 15-3 in their dual. Then the Camels went all TagTeam on the Scribes beloved Mocs with a “whoop there it is” 4 match win streak to close out a 17-15 Campbell victory. OUCH. Then, UTC had a middling tournament showing. Still, 4 Mocs went to St. Louis for the NCAAs. Thats a move in the right direction! A powerful post season Mocs showing and promising off season start took a terrible turn when rising star rs freshman Zeke Washington suddenly passed away. News regarding the well thought-of Washington, a 2x state finalist from Owasso, OK, is understandably scant at this early juncture. God rest this young man, give succor to his family, and if you are so inclined, say a prayer for both Zeke and his mother. Tragically, she died not 2 weeks before Zekes passing. Back to the mat where, down on Buies Creek, Campbell took a fun cruise on the S.S. Victorious this season. That would be Scotti Sentes, 1st year Head Coach (former 4X FHSAA st champ and 2X AA for Central Michigan, just sayin). That would also be victorious in all but 1 match this season, 26-4 over the past 3. The Camels have kept the momentum generated by former Uber Coach Cary Kolat going just fine, thank you. Campbell came from 5 matches down to lock up the regular season title with a road win over UTC and a smackdown of conference newbie Bellarmine. Then Campbell placed 8 of their 10 in the finals of the SoCon Tournament. App. St. won at 125, 133, 141, 149, and 157. Then Campbell took the title clean away from the host Mountaineers with wins at 184 and 197. A big help to the humpsters has been Scribe fav and Campbell Asst. Coach Darryl Thomas(5) along with fellow assistant, former AA and USA international star Wynn Michalak. Campbells 174lb Austin Murphy made the blood round and 149lb Josh Heil was hose jobbed away from a quarter final berth. Fortunately Heil, along with 2x conference champ Kris Kober and 157lb Ben Barton, are returning for another season. Elsewhere in the SoCon it was a quality, not quantity approach for 1st year HC Ryan Leblanc and the Citadel in this pandemic punished season. Just 16 sturdy Citadel matmen were available to man all 10 wt. Classes. That number was more than adequate: a third of the team worked their way into the national rankings, and hvt. Mike MacAleavey owned the SoCon big man spot. The senior Bulldog took the conference regular season title and then did the “repitame, por favor” thing by winning the tournament 285lb crown. Even better, word broke just recently that the smooth Citadel big man is back, baby, back , to put more folks on their backs next season. Down Davidson, NC way, “CI”(6) Head Coach Andy Lausier, assistants “smooth” Joey Dance and JerzeyTough Chad Walsh battled to a respectable 3-5 record this season. With a roster of only 20 wrestlers and just 1 senior, Davidson won 2 of their last 3 before a sudden ending to their year. A positive Chinese Virus test to level 1 personnel sadly stopped Davidson in their tracks. No SoCon tournament, no chances at NCAA berths. Que lástima. One thing Coach Lausier and crew have NOT been stopped at, though, is recruiting. How does a tiny, academically challenging, very expensive school put a high quality team on the mat? Outreach, as in a full dozen states being represented on that roster. VERY impressive, Coach L. Meanwhile, the Runnin Dogs of Gardner-Webb had a “take on all comers” attitude to the confusing compilation of matches, cancellations and reschedules this year. HC Daniel Elliott just missed getting Godzilla on the schedule but settled for NC St., Virginia and North Carolina to open the dual season. Yeah. That brutal beginning begat an 0-7 start, but then the Runnin Dogs found their stride. Gardner-Webb ripped off 4 straight W’s and swaggered into the SoCon tournament like they wanted to prove something. Boy, did they. Flipping results like they were job hunting at IHOP the Runnin Dogs scrapped their way to 6 bronze medal matches. They won 5 and, in PROPER recognition of the SoCons talent at 165, 4th place finisher R.J. Mosley grabbed an at large bid to the NCAAs. So did 184lb Jah’Quan Anderson. Mosley and Anderson are two out of 25 underclassmen on the Runnin Dogs 26 man end of season roster. Perhaps the biggest hole to be filled in Boiling Springs this summer is the grad assistant position. A reachout to Roderick Davis, the former NC St/Gardner-Webb upper wt. star who ably filled that position of late, has gone so far unanswered. The answers certainly seemed in place in Lexington, VA, where Coach Jim Gibson and assistant Ty Schoffstahls Keydets were joined on staff in the off season by Ryan Hunsberger. Adding a highly thought of Club coach to your staff, especially from your schools home state, is always a good idea. The Keydets opened up with a trouncing of an undermanned and Chinese Virus riddled Sacred Heart squad. VMI pulled a trick from waaaay back, going all Groucho/Chico mirror routine(7) on Coach John Clarks Pioneers. A 30-9 loss in 2019 became a 30-9 Keydets win. Even with the graduation of All American, all EVERYTHING 174lb superstar “Nasty” Neal Richards, things were looking up in Lexington. But as it happened to so many teams, last minute schedule changes, lineup holes, and just plain bad matchups combined to kibosh the Keydets hopes for a winning season. The LAST place you’d expect to find, or look for, any excuse is from a Jim Gibson coached team. Facts remain, though, and they are this: VMI will always schedule up when they can, and it can bite you. VMI finished 4-5, 3-4 in conference, but they still took home a sweet, sweet prize. The Keydets win over the Citadel was their FOURTH in a row over their tough, talented military brethren from Charleston. That MEANS something, friend. From here it looks like VMI has a sophomore stud to be for next year in 197lb Tyler Mousaw. A 3rd place finisher at the SoCon Tournament Mousaw was one of nine freshmen and sophomores to wrestle in the post season. Just keep an eye on this weight in the SoCon. When Mousaw, equally talented Soph to be Logan Andrew from UTC and 2x conf champ Kris Kober from Campbell get a full season in, well, just watch. Its been tough to watch Presbyterian this season as Coach Mark Codys Blue Hose had to deal with coaching changes, the Chinese Virus, a reduced roster and lots of transfer rumors.Or something. You can’t put a competitive high school team on the mat with 14 wrestlers, and thats the size of PCs post season roster. The numbers were stark in 2021. 1-6 in duals, 3-16 in SoCon Tournament matches, only 2 wrestlers with winning records. One of them, rs sr. to be 125lb Bernardino Gomez, may be the kickstarter the team needs in duals and for direction. Presbyterian pushed the narrative of a D1 womens team, an integrated coaching staff, an excellent (for a brand new program) facility and strong administrative support. This in addition to a HUGELY respected Head of Wrestling in Mark Cody. THAT part remains sturdy and intact from the outside looking in. The rest of the story may be in need of a slight rewrite. The newest addition to the conference, the Bellarmine (KY) Knights, ambitiously jumped ship from a tough D2 Conference into the waters of the SoCon. To be expected of such a young school (5 years in the sport) the season was all about the experience and not the 1-9 final record. The Knights certainly made waves and turned not a few heads when they upended Presbyterian in a home dual. The changeover in competition level dictated a duals only schedule for Bellarmine, so no post season results could be celebrated. Theres 28 men on the postseason roster, and who knows how many of the Knights five seniors will take advantage of the Pandemic induced extra year of eligibility. After just one joust in the SoCon though, we know that the only D1 wrestling team in Kentucky is serious about the sport.

‘CUE THE LOCAL ANGLE

In a beautifully sad note, The Scribe tendered his move induced resignation earlier this month to that VERY special smoked smeats stop smackdab in North Central San Antonio. Fortunately, there’s a WEALTH of stories about the wrestlers, past and present, their coaches, families, friends and fans that we will continue to bring you as time and space permit. A QUICK shout out to ALL our San Antonio, Bexar County, and area stars as the top 3 in each wt class from this weekend districts head to Regionals next week. You KNOW who you all are, and you are SALUTED, one and all. With Gods grace (and those pending payments from the USG) we may yet post some fun stuff for all fans from the STATE(8) Tournament at months end.

See you sometime sooner!

Ted Carreras

(1)Or some other similar multi syllabic elimination of ability; wouldn’t steer you wrong about that.

(2)Regional Training Center, a specifically designated area where wrestlers from within a 250 mile radius of said center can work out with and learn from international level athletes WITHOUT endangering or losing their amateur status and college eligibility. BRILLIANT! Centers have 1 or more senior level resident athletes and coaches and are usually at least loosely associated with a specific nearby college.

(3)Yeah, BIAS. Sorry not sorry. Blame the team. Blame the coach. Blame the city.

(4)Bald Headed Hero Head Coach. If your teams down and/or out, get you one of these. #LookGoodWrestleGood

(5) Only a man as humble and as talented as Coach Thomas would laugh off the Scribes egregious misidentification of him in an earlier, since corrected column faux pas. Mi apologia, Coach.

(6) Certifiably Intense. In all caps would probably be more accurate.

(7) Youtube “Mirror Scene” from the 1929 Marx Brothers movie The Cocoanuts, about the land boom in FL. your grandparents really should have looked into. Yes, there were movies then.

(8) It is ONE tournament. SINGULAR in Nature. For Dan Gables sake, STOP with the s already!