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Ray Brinzer article

How could anyone NOT like this guy!

By Andrew Hamilton, Iowa City Press Citizen:

Ray Brinzer still wants to form his own country someday.
Really, he's serious. He has the land picked out and many of the details are planned. Brinzer had been thinking about this long before his days as an Iowa wrestler when he mentioned the idea to reporters.

"I was shocked that people thought I was joking," said Brinzer, a two-time all-American at Iowa. "There are some South Pacific islands that are very much available and I think things could go well there. I think it could be a very successful venture if I ever got into it."

For now though, Brinzer has concentrated on a much smaller business enterprise. He formed the Angry Fish wrestling club for wrestlers ages 7-20. Brinzer, 29, also works as a computer programmer in Pittsburgh.

There are so many things I want to do," Brinzer said. "I want to run for office, I want to write books, I want to change the world in God knows how many ways. There's really no shortage of things for me to do."

For that matter, there's really not a shortage of tales about Ray Brinzer that still circulate through the Hawkeye wrestling room when his name is mentioned.
Growing up in Wexford, PA, Brinzer was given a Gumby doll in sixth grade. While other wrestlers would have a coach sitting in the matside chair, Brinzer would prop the rectangular green doll in his corner. He even talked to Gumby during breaks in the action.

"I was a little shocked at the reaction I got," Brinzer said. "People were amazed that I woulddo this and they started talking about it. I would be looking at the wall charts and kids would say, 'Oh God, I've got that kid who talks to his doll, I don't want to wrestle him.' What more could a junior high school kid want than to cause that much trouble? So I just kept doing it. It was just a way to rattle people's cages a little bit."

He rattled the cage of his friend and future Hawkeye teammate Rich Catalano late one night in high school, dressing up as a ninja and sneaking into Catalano's house with a sword in hand.

Shortly after transferring from Oklahoma State in 1993, Brinzer learned how to sneak into Carver-Hawkeye Arena, getting in through the building's duct system. Once when Brinzer wanted to attend a Metallica concert in the arena, he got his hands on a T-shirt with the word "Staff" printed across the chest. After getting to see the show, Brinzer went a bit too far in his attempt to get backstage by saying he "ran the grounds crew."

Brinzer's wrestling talent was never a question. Considered the top prep wrestler in the country in 1990, Brinzer was a three-time Junior National champion in high school, although he nearly missed a match once at the UNI-Dome when Pennsylvania coaches couldn't find him.

After the public address announcer paged Brinzer to the mat several times, Pennsylvania coaches found Brinzer playing video games on the arena's concourse. He insisted on breaking the high score in the game before wrestling his match, until the coaches unplugged the machine.

Brinzer's style on the mat was unique, too. A junior Olympic silver medalist in judo, Brinzer's offensive arsenal included foot-sweeps and trips. His Greco-Roman wrestling background made him dangerous with upper-body throws. Brinzer's uncanny flexibility made him a dangerous pinner who was difficult to keep in the bottom position.
Brinzer's mentality separated him from the other Iowa wrestlers, who were known for their all-out, all-the-time work ethic. Brinzer, admittedly, was always looking for the easiest, most efficient way of doing things.

"He would look at a match and say, 'OK, I'm ahead 2-0 because I know I'm going to get an escape and I know I'm going to get a riding time point, so I can stall for 45 seconds in the first period. If I can sneak one takedown in,' that's how he would think," said Hawkeye assistant Lincoln McIlravy, a teammate of Brinzer's at Iowa.
A philosophy major, Brinzer wouldn't warm up before a match. He viewed wrestling as a martial art and told McIlravy if someone jumped him in a dark alley, he wouldn't have time to warm up. Before weigh-ins, Brinzer would stand on his head for nearly five minutes. He said it made him lighter.

"He was into some bizarre things," said Iowa coach Jim Zalesky, an assistant when Brinzer was at the school.

"He had different goals. He wanted to graduate last in his class. Instead of being first, which he had the ability to be, he wanted to graduate last."

Brinzer ran into academic problems near the end of this stint at Iowa. He said the athletic board in control forbade Brinzer from dropping classes and finishing incomplete work.

"They put restrictions on my academic career that no normal student would ever have," Brinzer said.

Eligible by Big Ten and NCAA standards, Brinzer was ruled ineligible by Iowa for the first semester of this senior season. He said the athletic board in control used that to take away his scholarship money.

He spent the fall semester of 1994 living under the topper in the bed of his pickup, sleeping under as many as six blankets during the winter.
"Without my scholarship. I was forced to spend what little I had on my tuition and I wound up without enough money to live on and have a normal room," Brinzer said.
"There was no place to park and I just got an enormous amount of tickets parking here and there. It was very hard to manage."

Brinzer returned to the team in January 1995 and placed third at the NCAA meet as a senior, the second time he had finished one rung below making the finals.
Those who wrestled with Brinzer say his mind was razor sharp in certain areas. But being on time was not one of Brinzer's best qualities.

"He'd be on his way to class, he'd have 10 minutes to get there and all of a sudden, he'd start talking to somebody about a nuclear warhead and spend an hour doing it and forget all about class," McIlravy said.

Brinzer once missed the team bus to Minnesota. He found a truck driver heading to the Twin Cities and caught a ride, arriving to the team hotel at 3 a.m. For a home meet, Brinzer once forgot his singlet and briefs. He borrowed both items that McIlravy had worn in his match earlier in the night. McIlravy insisted that Brinzer keep the briefs.

"Normal people wouldn't do that," said McIlravy, who was Brinzer's write-in candidate for Johnson County Auditor last November. "Normal people wouldn't borrow a pair of soaked out briefs."

But nobody ever accused Ray Brinzer of being normal.

Posted April 23rd, 2005. Filed under Amateur Wrestling

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