Written by Ted Witlulski
Few things about Joe Warren's temperament lead people to believe he is a patient man. Warren's aggressive wrestling style seemed to be fueled by a raucous nature that left people to decide to love him or hate him quickly. The kid was in a hurry to get to the top and he wasn't willing to wait.
So, for Warren, 2001, 2002, and 2003 had to leave him with a feeling rivaling a kick to the gut with a steel-toed boot. Each year he began the season fully confident that he was the man. This was his year. So, with failure not as an option, three years running Warren finished the World Team Trials one place off of the National Team.
Every year 4th place with the same three arch rivals keeping him away from his dreams. Glen Nieradka, Dennis Hall, and Jim Gruenwald were the puzzle that couldn't be cracked for Warren, who already knew he would be a World Champion someday.
"I never doubted myself. Even when people thought I was crazy to switch from freestyle to Greco-Roman. I knew that I was meant to be the best."
Warren never patiently waited for next year. And, his dogged determination paid off last week in Guangzhou, China as Warren became the 60 kgs Greco-Roman World Champion. The odd thing was for Warren as he wrestled still wearing his flaming hot emotions on his sleeve, he showed remarkable patience and even resilience to overcome the politics of the mat.
Wrestling on the international stage can be a frustrating mix of furious desire and on the spot pragmatism. When should an athlete or coach come unglued from a muffed call or worse yet a referees' political bent to take it out on the American?
Over the years Warren had developed his answer to that question, and the answer was always. The sport of wrestling was always black and white, the best guy should always win, so if a call went against him when it shouldn't he was ready to unleash the firebrand intensity that he honed through years of fierce training on the mat.
Look the other way when a bad call happened? No way would be Warren's answer.
Joe Warren didn't face an easy draw to capture a World Title, no one will be able to look back at his bracket and say that he faced the weak-side. Warren plowed through his competition beating the Uzbek, the Iranian, the Russian, and the Romanian before facing David Bedinadze of Georgia for the gold. This was a deep weight class, and Warren faced medalist after medalist including beating past World Champion Dilshod Aripov of Uzbekistan in the first round of the tournament.
By the time Warren had reached the finals, he was wrestling with a head full of steam, he knew this was his chance. All tournament long American fans had to shake their heads and raise their eyebrows at the peculiar nature of the calls. Nothing was taken for granted, a clear throw for exposure by an American suddenly turned 3-2 in favor of the American's opponent"thus was the nature of international wrestling.
Going into his final match Warren knew that he would have to wrestle beyond any irregularity in officials' judgment. A critical moment in a Greco-Roman match occurs with the flip of the coin after one minute of wrestling from the neutral position.
The winner of the flip"the color that faces up"gets to be down in par-terre last and defend for the win. Essentially, if neither athlete turns the other in their thirty seconds of par-terre dominance, then the athlete who is on bottom last wins the period because they score a point for not being turned. The last point scored in a tie gives the wrestler the victory.
Following a minute of scoreless wrestling, the all-important first flip took place. Warren breathed a sigh of relief as he watch the disk rest on the mat blue side up; he had won the flip and he quickly looked to his coaches for orders. No sooner did he turn back to look at the ref did he realize he was being ordered to assume the down position"opposite of what the flip of the coin had foretold.
At worst this was a nefarious plot of global proportions, at best it was officiating shenanigans that had the potential to take away Joe Warren's dream of a World Title for another year. Warren didn't know what happened, and by nature he was ready to explode into an epic tirade that matched the seriousness of being cheated out of winning the first period.
After years of volatility, Joe Warren somehow accepted his fate, finding serenity enough to avoid the tirade of emotions welling inside him. Warren knew little of the circumstances of how he came to be put down first until he received a congratulations phone call from Darryl Christian a former U.S. Greco-Roman National Champ.
Christian related how he watched the referee palm the blue side of the disk. It can be easily done and if the officiating team allows it to happen it can easily change positions for the athletes. In these circumstances the referee reached down and picked up the disk with his fingertips and raised the red to the judge and chair on both sides of the mat.
Miraculously up was now down, and Warren decided to just wrestle the position. Both wrestlers were unable to turn their opponent; consequently, Warren ended up losing the first period. Warren didn't leave the second period to chance, even after losing another coin flip. The second period was all Warren with a 5-1 scored that showcased Warren's bone-crushing hand-fighting dominance, including a takedown and a push-out.
The third period would determine the title and Warren knew he faced more closed and passive wrestling from David Bedinadze.
"They had me scouted pretty good. All he (Bedinadze) wanted to do was stay away from me on my feet. He didn't want to fight with me. He wanted to win the title off of the flip of the coin."
The third period Warren was countered for a takedown, and Warren defended for a point in par-terre leaving Bedinadze on bottom"after winning another coin flip"with a chance to win the World Title by defending his position.
Thirty seconds of defense and three coin flip "victories" Bedinadze would have Joe Warren's title.
Not wanting to defend on the mat Bedinadze came to his feet and freed himself from Warren's grasp. All he had to do was stay away for the remainder of the thirty seconds and he would be given the final point for the victory.
Warren felt the weight of the moment as the time raced off the clock. He says that he heard Coach Shawn Sheldon yell to be patient"that he still had time. He needed one takedown for the victory, just one score.
Scoring from the feet in Greco-Roman has become significantly harder over the last decade. Where wrestlers used to have to make chest to chest upper body contact now wrestlers shrink into a blocking stance"head down, grasping at wrists to stay clear of the opponent.
Surely, in Bedinadze's mind was the thought just stay solid. This is yours.
Warren reached down deep and faked to one side of Bedinadze's body, freezing him in his tracks. Immediately, Warren pulled off the pick-pocket technique reaching with his left hand around Bedinadze's back catching his far hip as he jumped behind him.. It was a wily technique in a fleeting moment that captured the World Title for Warren"Champion Du Monde!
Warren said that it was an unbelievable moment that he felt the joy of the American contingent in the stands.
"I could hear all of them. It was just overwhelming. Even Bill and Mike Zadick's dad came up and congratulated me"I think he said something like, Holy Catfish!, Warren said laughing, "It was great. I feel like I got the freestyle wrestlers revved up. Mike and Bill (Zadick) were awesome over there."
Warren left the venue a World Champion, and Kevin Jackson, National Freestyle coach, pulled him off the van to give him a hug and a handshake, "Welcome to the club!" he said referring to his own World Titles and the addition of another American international champ to the record books.
Times are quickly moving forward for Warren as he already is making plans to compete at the NYAC this fall and to keep building for another World Title and an Olympic Gold Medal in '08 back in China.
Joe Warren also wants to add one more title to his list of accomplishments. Real Pro Wrestling's Season 1 Title escaped Warren's grasp as he was defeated by Zach Roberson, and he plans on being back to capture the Season 2 Title.
"I didn't train for leg attacks like I needed to the last time. I don't plan on making that mistake again. RPW is great and I'm looking forward to being a part of Season 2 and to help do whatever I can to make RPW successful."
Joe Warren has been added as a guest clinician at the San Jose qualifier, and wrestling fans are encouraged to come to the October 28th qualifier and meet Joe Warren an intense wrestler and now World Champion"also known as "the baddest man on the planet." Just ask him.
RPW Regional West Qualifier, October 28th
Location: San Jose Convention & Cultural Facilities,
Parkside Hall A, 180 Park Ave. San Jose, CA 95113
Map: 180 Park Ave San Jose, CA 95113, US
8:30 a.m. - Doors open
9:00 a.m. - RPW Rules Clinic
10:00 a.m. - Quarter-Final Round (free)
11:30 a.m. - Semi-Final Round (free)
2:30 p.m. - RPW Fan Fest ($5/person, $20/family, $30/team)
5:00 p.m. - Championship Finals
6:30 p.m. - Awards Ceremony
8:00 p.m. - After Party - VooDoo Lounge (no cover with wristband) www.voodooloungesj.com
RPW Fan Fest: Includes clinics with Olympic silver medalist