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Wrestling Organizations Grapple for Prominence in Magic Valley

August 23rd, 2011 by Tom

By Ryan Howe

Twin Falls' Tyler Lookingbill wrestles Canyon Ridge's Alex Leblanc

State champion David Borden lives a life immersed in wrestling.

When the high school season ends, the Minico High senior competes in USA Wrestling freestyle tournaments. He's been to Fargo, N.D., three times for the Junior National Championships.

But starting this fall, Borden - along with every wrestler in Idaho - will grapple with the decision whether to stick with USA Wrestling, or join a recently formed program.

A new way

Tired of hauling his boys to Idaho Falls or Boise for USA Wrestling tournaments, Rick Stimpson of Rupert found a new way.

Better said, he found NUWAY.

The National United Wrestling Association for Youth, founded in 2007, focuses on the grassroots level of amateur wrestling, ages 5 to 18.

Stimpson, a former high school wrestling commissioner, has filed paperwork and organized a board to create an Idaho chapter of NUWAY, called Idaway.

"I had to get something different because USA was killing my program, "Stimpson said. "We pay a fortune to USA Wrestling, but wasn't getting anything back. There are some clubs in Idaho that benefit from the money that is generated in USA Wrestling, but very, very few."

NUWAY participates in folkstyle wrestling, the same as high school and collegiate competition. USA Wrestling focuses more on freestyle and Greco-Roman disciplines contested in the Olympics. Stimpson said he's tried, but claims it has been nearly impossible to run a folkstyle tournament under USA Wrestling.

Above all, Stimpson said he likes NUWAY because it gives the money and power back to the state associations to run their programs how they wish, as each state has freedom to make its own rules. USA Wrestling doesn't allow such privileges, Stimpson said.

"What works in one state might not work in another, "he said. "Oklahoma and Iowa pretty much control the rules and regulations for USA Wrestling. The rest of us, if we want insurance, we have to follow."

A membership card in Idaway will cost $15 per wrestler, compared to $35 for a USA Wrestling card.

While USA Wrestling holds a variety of events in eastern and western Idaho, Stimpson claims the group's directors have largely ignored the Magic Valley, forcing area wrestlers to travel to tournaments.

Idaway will start with two districts - south-central and west - and the board expects to expand as more wrestlers join. Stimpson said Idaway will run district and state tournaments, and participate in national events starting with the NUWAY Kick-Off Classic, Oct. 29-30 in Las Vegas.

"Our goal is, eventually Idaway would pick an Idaho elite team and pay for them to go to Vegas and compete in that tournament and represent Idaho, "Stimpson said. "NUWAY wants you to generate money and spend it back by taking our kids to national tournaments where they can get bigger exposure. That's also going to build the college wrestling because kids are going to go in more prepared for that big stage."

Can Idaway and USA Wrestling co-exist?

"I don't know. I don't think so, "Stimpson said. "It's going to kill them, and I'm not very popular right now. In fact, they're doing everything they can right now to stop this."

An established brand

The formation of Idaway is causing waves throughout the state, especially with supporters of USA Wrestling.

"This isn't healthy for wrestling, "said Ned Zollinger, USA Wrestling's Idaho director. "It's detrimental to the sport if we're not all united and we're not all on the same page."

Zollinger says he has an answer for every criticism Stimpson raises.

"I don't think (Idaway organizers) have an axe to grind against me, I just don't think they understand what USA had to offer, "Zollinger said. "I think it's tragic because everything he has to offer, we have more and we have better."

The claim that USA Wrestling refuses to wrestle folkstyle?

"Totally not true, "Zollinger said. "Their assumption is USA Idaho doesn't have an interest in that form of wrestling, or we don't do enough of it, or we don't run the tournament the way they like to run them. The reality is USA Idaho in 2010-11 sanctioned more folkstyle wrestling than we did the international styles."

Zollinger acknowledged the cost difference in membership cards, but said USA Wrestling provides more insurance and perks, such as a monthly magazine. He added that USA Wrestling also offers an alternative $15 card that only allows a wrestler to compete in one style at the local level.

"I don't believe (Idaway) is needed. Everything they do, we can do, "Zollinger said. "The reason things like this get started is people presume that we can't, or we don't, or we refuse to listen. The people who are involved in Idaway, I have never seen them at one of our state or regional meetings."

Zollinger admitted concern that USA Wrestling could lose kids to Idaway.

"USA Idaho could lose a good percentage of our grassroots athletes, but we're not going to lose the elite kids in the state of Idaho, "Zollinger said. "And the reason we're not is, any wrestler who really does well in Division I or plans on doing anything in the Olympics, they're going to be involved in the freestyle, Greco and international styles, like it or not."

As far as Stimpson's assertion of the lack of USA Wrestling in the Magic Valley, Zollinger responded by saying Stimpson - or anyone - could organize USA Wrestling clubs in the Magic Valley and schedule local events, then added, "Have we screwed up and neglected southern Idaho?

Probably. But all they had to do was call or come and I'd been there."

Potential ripples

Another local organization sure to be affected by Idaway is Magic Valley's Pee Wee program, which is for kids in kindergarten through sixth grade. Stimpson said Pee Wee was created to give families an alternative to traveling far for USA Wrestling events.

When reached by email, one of Pee Wee's organizers, Leon Madsen, said he was unaware of Idaway, but "I'm all for advancing wrestling in the Magic Valley."

Stimpson said Idaway offers better organization, insurance and competition than Pee Wee. In turn, he believes the quality of local wrestling will also improve.

"I think the Pee Wee wrestling that has been started in the Magic Valley really gives our parents and the kids who participate a real false perception of what our sport is about, "Stimpson said. "Since they've gone away from the USA program, which is a competitive league, to this Pee Wee wrestling, I really think that wrestling in the Magic Valley is horrible, probably the worst in the state.

"The talent is there. There are some dang good kids there. I wanted something different."

A few rungs up the age range, Kimberly High School wrestling coach Troy Palmer agrees that if Idaway proves to be less expensive than USA Wrestling and hosts local tournaments, it would be ideal for his wrestlers and others in the Magic Valley.

"The location of the tournaments and the expense of everything plays a big deal in the freestyle stuff, "Palmer said. "As far as USA Wrestling freestyle tournaments, the only one even close to Magic Valley is the one Minico (High School) has. Other than that, you have to go to eastern Idaho or western Idaho, and that gets to be tiresome and expensive if you're traveling every weekend. If we could get three or four of those tournaments around here, that would be ideal."

Minico coach Justin Gardner said he was hesitant when he first heard of NUWAY, but now believes, "it would be a step forward for the Magic Valley and for the state of Idaho wrestling."

Gardner points out three reasons: Idaway offers a fall season, more opportunities for kids to wrestle and gain confidence, and a year-round outlet for folkstyle.

"I enjoy both (programs) and think both have their strong points, but I like the national organization of the NUWAY. I am very excited to start this program, "Gardner said.

New decisions

Regardless of how the organizers and coaches pitch their programs, the crux of each entity's success will always rest on the decisions of young wrestlers and their parents.

"Honestly, it's mostly a personal preference of the wrestler, "Borden said. "If you have a wrestler who really likes freestyle, he's going to want USA Wrestling and go to freestyle and Greco tournaments. If you have a wrestler who likes folkstyle, he's probably going to like this NUWAY program."

Now wrestlers caught in the middle of a battle for their participation may have to choose between Idaway and USA Wrestling, or as Zollinger fears, "What it's going to do is force a lot of our Idaho kids to buy two memberships ... I think that's tragic for the wrestlers in Idaho."

It's a decision wrestlers like Borden are still grappling with.

"That's a tricky question, "he said. "The NUWAY, I like folkstyle so that would be great. But I also wouldn't want to miss out on too many freestyle tournaments. I guess I'll have to cross that bridge when I get to it, but right now I'd probably go both."

Lessons from a legend: Cael Sanderson instructs at Keystone Wrestling Camp

July 20th, 2011 by Tom

Cael Sanderson demonstrates a wrestling technique

Daily Record/Sunday News

York, PA - The starry-eyed gazes seemed to follow him everywhere, as one of amateur wrestling's most exalted figures stalked around York College's Grumbacher Center.

These are busy times for Cael Sanderson, the Penn State wrestling coach and former Olympic champion. His Nittany Lions are barely three months removed from a national championship. And there's the matter of his own career revival: Sanderson announced this month that, at age 32, he is returning to active competition after a seven-year hiatus.

Between his own training sessions and the interminable tasks that go with being a Division I coach, empty calendar space has been hard to find.

Still, Sanderson carved out time for a trip to York College, where he served as an instructor at the Keystone Wrestling Camp on Tuesday. For a pair of two-hour sessions, Sanderson demonstrated techniques and doled out advice to some 160 wrestlers who watched his every move with eager expressions.

"It's tough, because camps tend to take quite a bit of energy, "Sanderson said of his cramped schedule. "You have to just do it. Even if you're tired from training, you just have to get at it."

Sanderson was not the only headliner at the camp, which has been held annually at York College for the last decade. Maryland head coach and former Penn State star Kerry McCoy stopped by for a pair of sessions Tuesday. The camp's director, John Fritz, is a former standout wrestler and head coach at Penn State.

"I just hope that the kids understand the greatness that is around them, "Fritz said, referring to Sanderson and McCoy. "Sometimes they might not be able to grasp that."

Of course, Sanderson was the main attraction.

The self-effacing former Iowa State star is one of the magnate's of modern wrestling. Among his docket of accomplishments: A 159-0 collegiate record, four individual national titles, a 2004 Olympic gold medal at 185 pounds and, most recently, a team national championship as the Nittany Lions' coach.

So when Sanderson said in June he was making a comeback, the news rattled the wrestling world. He had not competed since 2004.

Sanderson bulldozed to a 185-pound title at the World Team Trials in Oklahoma City earlier this month, and he will wrestle at the World Championships in Istanbul in September.

"It's just a different mentality, really, "Sanderson said. "But we're still training as a team in the summer, working out every day. It's just a matter of taking it up a couple steps, being more disciplined when I'm eating. ... August will be a big training month."

Sanderson's presence provided a significant boost to the camp, which saw its numbers double from last summer.

At one point, as Sanderson introduced himself to a dozen elementary-age campers during an afternoon session, one young wrestler in a gray, Penn State T-shirt raised his hand. "Am I dreaming? "the boy asked.

"I don't know how many camps can bring in this many guys, "York College wrestling coach Tom Kessler said. "It's great for the county. ... (Sanderson) is probably the most sought-after guy in the world right now, as far as wrestling."

After the afternoon session had ended, a group of young campers surrounded Sanderson. He spent a few minutes signing T-shirts and backpacks and wrestling shoes with a black Sharpie.

He discussed the possibly of fitting in a workout between the camp's afternoon and evening sessions.

All part of a life that seems a bit more crowded these days. A litmus test awaits him in September. If all goes well, a run at the 2012 Olympics could be a possibility.

"The window of opportunity is there, "Sanderson said.

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July 18th, 2011 by Tom
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Photo: The Wrestling Warrior

January 16th, 2011 by Tom

alemany warrior

A wrestler is a warrior. It takes concentration, dedication and a sharp mind to compete in this sport.

Why do wrestling shoes come in bright colors?

December 29th, 2010 by Tom
Bright Blue Wrestling Shoes via @KnuckleheadD24

Have you ever wondered why wrestling shoes come in such bright colors?

There are shoes in neon green, blue, yellow, red and some some rather interesting color combos on top of that.

Is it because wrestlers all wear the same singlets, so this is one of the few ways to show their uniqueness?

I've seen wrestlers wear unique socks or dye their hair too.

I guess it's all a personality thing.

There are plenty of pairs of black and white wrestling shoes out there, but if you want to stand out, there are plenty of bright colored shoes as well.

Which do you prefer?

Image credit: @KnuckleheadD24

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Finding The Next Gable, Smith, or Borlaug

January 16th, 2010 by Tom

It's time to come clean. I've lied in this blog for two and a half years. I've always claimed that I never wrestled and that isn't entirely true. I did win an 8th grade intramural championship at Frank L. Smart Junior High School. In 1963 every boy in Davenport, IA (it was a sexist world) was introduced to wrestling in some way. There were instructional units in our PE classes where we were taught the basics of the single leg takedown, the sitout and the half nelson. At the end of the unit the teacher would organize an intramural tournament and we were encouraged to enter.

At about the same time that I reached the apex of my wrestling glory, 130 miles to the northwest, in Waterloo, a kid named Gable was launching his career. It's a story of 2 choices. I opted for being a really bad basketball player and he chose to become one of America's greatest wrestlers. A few years later, in Del City, OK, some brothers named Smith were exposed to wrestling and chose to pursue their dreams "with John going on to win two Olympic Gold medals and four World Championships.

Long before I, or Dan Gable or the Smiths were born a kid named Norman Borlaug stepped on the mat in Cresco, IA. After his wrestling career at the University of Minnesota, he, too, made a choice "to go an to graduate school and earn a masters degree and PHD in plant pathology. His lifetime of food production research saved millions of people around the world from starvation and in 1970 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Dr. Borlaug said of his wrestling background, "Wrestling taught me some valuable lessons. I always figured I could hold my own against the best in the world. It made me tough (my emphasis). Many times I drew on that strength."

So " what's the one common thread running threw Dr. Borlaug, Dan Gable, John Smith and me? We were all exposed to wrestling at an early age. We may have all taken divergent paths "but we all had the opportunity to learn the values of wrestling. I'm not sure that enough of today's youth gets that opportunity.

What's the answer? I don't know "but here's what I'm trying. I must begin by saying that I love NCAA Division III wrestling. Those guys really "get after it". I've attended a few NCAA Division III Championships and the Saturday morning session might be my favorite part of that event. Everyone wrestling then is already an All-American and is battling to determine his spot on the podium. I'll see more throws, reversals to pins "in general more excitement "in that one session than I might see in a whole season of Hawkeye dual meets. I know that the skill levels are different "but boy do I love watching DIII wrestlers.

What if kids who are new to wrestling got to see all of that fun and action? Would a few of them step on the mat for the first time? Would some of them get motivated enough to stick with the sport when it gets tough? I don't know "but I'm hoping to find out. I'm raising enough money ($10,000) to buy 1,000 tickets to the Saturday, March 6, 2010 morning session of the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships at the US Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, IA and giving them away to kids.

The tickets will go to a variety of kids. Many will be reserved for students at flood impacted elementary and middle schools in Cedar Rapids. Local youth organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs will also get some. Most will probably go to youth wrestling clubs. There is no geographical preference for the wrestling clubs " if you want to bring a group to Cedar Rapids, just let me know.
So far, support has been encouraging. Corporate pledges have reached over $4,000, including an extremely generous gift of $2,000 from the Cedar Rapids Marriott. When wrestling writer KJ Pilcher published an article about the project in the Cedar Rapids Gazette just before Christmas, I got another $600 in pledges in three days. Cornell College has allowed me to raise money on-site at wrestling events. To date a total of about $5,600 has come in.

Some folks have suggested that I should be happy with what has already been accomplished. That's like suggesting that Gable should have been satisfied with two NCAA titles after the loss to Owings or telling John Smith that a couple of international championships are enough for any man. I won't stop until we get 1,000 kids in that arena "and I may not stop then.

So, dear readers, I am asking you to help. Several of you already have and to those I offer my heartfelt thanks. But "there's still work to be done. Will you who haven't yet contributed join this elite group of fans?

If you want to make a pledge today email me at [email protected]. I'll collect on your pledge in a couple of weeks when tickets actually go on sale. If you want to just write a check now, please make it to, "Tickets for Kids" and send it to:

"Tickets for Kids"
c/o Jim Brown
130 24th St NE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402-4936.

Your donation may just be the one that puts the next Gable or Smith or Borlaug on the mat.

Thank you,


PS If you have a group of kids that would like tickets, please email me.


Wrestler With Down Syndrome Inspires Others

January 14th, 2010 by Tom

ST. CROIX, Minn. - A little boy from Stillwater is inspiring hundreds of wrestlers in his community. The boy with special needs hasn't let his disability slow him down or keep him from wrestling the best.

Dillon Hill, a 9-year-old with Down syndrome, started wrestling at St. Croix Valley Athletic Association a year ago.

Hill started working with the Coach Chris Bahl's to learn the ins and outs of the sport.

A Detour Home: Ryland Geiger Leaves Gophers for Community Col in Oregon

October 31st, 2009 by Tom

When news surfaced in September that Ryland Geiger was leaving the University of Minnesota, it was more than just a small blip on the radar for the Gopher faithful.

The 19-year-old Geiger, who was one of the nation's top recruits from the Class of 2008, was expected to make an immediate impact at 197 pounds for a young and talented Gopher team looking to get back to the top of the college wrestling world after coming off its worst NCAA finish (14th) since 1996.

Great expectations had been placed on the broad shoulders of Geiger after a prep career that saw him capture two Oregon (OSAA) state titles and win titles at prestigious high school events such as NHSCA Nationals, Cadet Nationals, and Junior Nationals. He was ranked No. 1 in the country at 189 pounds by InterMat.

Last season, as a redshirt for the Gophers, Geiger compiled a 19-3 record while competing in open tournaments. In the spring, Geiger won both the FILA Junior Nationals and FILA World Team Trials in freestyle to earn a spot on the Junior World Team. Geiger, though, chose not to compete at the Junior World Championships in Ankara, Turkey in August, and instead opted to stay in Minneapolis and focus on his summer term courses at Minnesota.

Toward the end of summer, Geiger made the decision to leave Minnesota and head back home to wrestle at Clackamas Community College in Oregon. He says it was "a little bit of everything "that caused him to leave Minnesota, but "mostly academics."

"Everybody is going to be a little bitter that I left Minnesota, "said Geiger. "I'm bitter. They're bitter. It sucks that I had to leave, but I'm pretty sure we ended things on a good note."

Geiger's journey over the past 10 years could be best described as nomadic. His father, David, is in the military. Geiger grew up in Virginia, moved to Korea in middle school, spent his freshman year in the Philippines, moved back to the U.S. for his sophomore year and attended Blair Academy in New Jersey, and then moved to Oregon for his final two years of high school.

In high school, Geiger was recruited by many of the nation's top college wrestling programs. He chose Minnesota over Lehigh, Arizona State, and Oregon State because of the combination of coaches, workout partners, facilities, and the fact that his best friend from his days at Blair Academy, Mario Mason, was also going to be wrestling for the Gophers.

Then-Minnesota head assistant coach Marty Morgan played a key role in recruiting Geiger to Minnesota. Geiger expected Morgan to not only be one of his coaches, but also serve as a key training partner throughout his college wrestling career. But shortly before the college wrestling season began, Morgan resigned as the head assistant coach of the Gophers to train current UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.

"I was pretty shocked, "said Geiger of Morgan's resignation. "We all had no idea that he was leaving. It was our understanding that he was going to be the coach. It was kind of terrible because he left and he has all that knowledge. It's good for him. I can't be mad at the guy. He's helping out probably the baddest man alive right now."

Continue Reading at InterMat

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J Robinson Goes To Iraq To Train, Thank Troops

October 31st, 2009 by WrestlingPod

Coach J Robinson teaching troops wrestling moves.

COB BASRA, Iraq - Who is Coach J Robinson?

Robinson has had an illustrious career as an Army Ranger during the Vietnam War, an Olympic wrestler and one of the greatest coaches in University of Minnesota history.

Robinson demonstrated his bravery by telling a roomful of military policemen how he listens to Britney Spears and Lady Gaga to get motivated.

Robinson is also caring. He flew to Iraq recently to motivate the troops and when he learned the government wasn't going to pay his way, he was perfectly willing to fly halfway around world on his own dime.

All to offer a simple "Thank you."

"When the chaplain called and asked if I could come, I thought it was the least I could do, "said Robinson, who was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2005. "I was sitting at home, and you know what that's like. It's pretty good. Sometimes you don't realize that until you leave."

Robinson visited troops all over Contingency Operating Base Basra, at each stop encouraging Soldiers and telling them to embrace their deployment as a learning experience.

"The lessons you learn in Iraq will follow you for the rest of your lives, "said Robinson, who attended Airborne, Jungle Warfare and Ranger school before deploying to Vietnam. "I'm more proud to be a Ranger than I am being an Olympian, because the lessons I learned there I've used for the rest of life."

Robinson, a member of the 1972 Olympic wrestling team, addressed Soldiers on the importance of perspective, concentration, and the power of choice and striving for excellence in everything they do.

In addition, Robinson told the Soldiers that someday they would be able to look back at their time in Iraq and be proud of the people they had helped, even those they had not known they helped.

"One thing you learn as a coach, you do a lot of stuff and you touch a lot of people, and you might never see it, "said Robinson. "You're not always going to get that pat on the back."

Robinson's busy schedule included wrestling classes with the 34th Military Police Company. The coach of three team national titles instructed the MP's on hand placement and balance; "the fundamentals, "said the seven-time Big Ten Coach of the Year.

"It's part of his striving for excellence, "said Lt. Col. Jeffery Johnson, Inspector General for the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division and an alumnus of the U of M. "A, giving thanks from the state of Minnesota, and B, helping the MP's strive for excellence."

While Robinson could only visit for a few days, his visit was appreciated up to the highest levels.

"Soldiers want to know three things: to know that their folks back home are alright, that life back home is going normally, and that folks back home are thinking of them, "said Brig. Gen. David Eliciero, deputy commanding general of the 34th Inf. Div., and U of M Class of 1980. "I think this accomplishes that."

So who is Coach J Robinson? A Ranger? An Olympian? A Hall of Fame wrestling coach?

For a while in COB Basra, the answer was simple: a legend, an old Soldier, a man willing to come back out to the front to show his gratitude to the Soldiers personally.

"For me, I have to come out here to say thanks, "said Robinson.

Pictures and video here.

Roger Kish named assistant coach at North Dakota State

September 20th, 2009 by WrestlingPod

Jenny Beam NDSU

FARGO, N.D. "North Dakota State head wrestling coach Bucky Maughan has announced the hiring of Roger Kish as an assistant coach. Kish joins the NDSU program after a successful wrestling career at the University of Minnesota.

"We're excited to have a wrestler with such an outstanding background joining our coaching staff," said Maughan. "Roger will be a tremendous help with our upper weights both on the mat and from a recruiting aspect."

Kish was a graduate assistant for the Gophers last year. Kish, a LaPeer, Mich. native, was a two-time All-American and two-time NCAA runner-up for the Gophers at 184 pounds.

He had a career record of 117-27 for the Gophers. As a sophomore, he went 35-7 en route to a Big Ten title and an NCAA runner-up finish. In his junior season, Kish was 37-3 and was the Big Ten and national runner-up. He was also a team captain.

Kish graduated from Minnesota in May 2008 with a BS in business and marketing education.

He was also a two-time cadet national champion and also captured a USA Wrestling junior national title.

At LaPeer West High School (Mich.), he was a four-time Michigan state champion. Kish is the son of Roger and Brenda Kish. His older brother, James, wrestled at North Carolina.

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