The day before our dual with Bucknell, I had the privilege of attending two events sponsored by the Greater Washington Wrestlers Business Network (GWWBN). This is an exciting new organization. The group is made of mostly former wrestlers who are using this common background to do business, network and support wrestling. I attended a luncheon where Dan Gable was the featured speaker. I was able to pick up a few coaching tips from him and more importantly let the team know Coach Gable is following their progress. The evening event master of ceremony was Wade Schalles who introduced the speakers – Dan Gable and Denny Hastert. I felt pretty cool being at an event listening to these three legends.
Coach Gable mentioned a statute being built in Iowa to honor Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug. I had the honor of meeting Dr. Borlaug on several occasions. Like myself, he wrestled for the University of Minnesota and was a former assistant wrestling coach at Minnesota. On more than one occasion, he told me stories about how wrestling prepared him for fighting to save lives. He is credited with saving over a billion people from starvation. I remember him telling me how he paced before a meeting with Mohandas Gandhi. He said it was just like before a wrestling match. He got ready to make his case for India to implement his plan using the same mental preparation he used before a big match. Dr. Borlaug was a great man. He was a wrestler.
One of my cherished memories with Dr. Borlaug was sitting with him as he watched wrestling practice. He was 90 years old at the time and still wanted to watch his favorite athletes train. I sat with him talking about nothing in particular. It was just two former wrestlers enjoying being around the sport. I will never forget a joke he told me. As I get older, it becomes even funnier to me. He said, “When you get to be my age, you don’t buy green bananas.”
Denny Hastert, or Coach Hastert, as he likes to be called is known as a guy who can bring people together. He was a wrestler and a coach who became the longest sitting Speaker of the House of Representatives. I have read his book, spoken to him on a few occasions, and have certainly admired his career. Normally, I am prone to sit back, but I made sure to get my picture with him after the event. He was instrumental in getting me in the White House on a few occasions. Shortly after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, Coach Hastert was able to get the 2001 NCAA Wrestling Championship team from Minnesota some face time with the President. It was a great honor and unbelievable at the time due to the heightened security and demands of the day. Coach Hastert has long been an advocate for wrestling.
The day after the GWWBN event, we hosted Bucknell University at the RAC. We won 3 of the 10 matches contested. True Freshmen Vince Rodriguez and Zach Isenhour, along with Senior Bagna Tovuujav, all won by decision. I was also pleased with the performance of several guys on the mat. They gave good effort.
For example, Denny Herndon is definitely wrestling at a much higher pace. He is improving. We need to help him find a way to win the close match. All wrestlers need to have a shot they can score on anyone when they have to have a score – a go to shot.
Kevin Timothy scored a reversal near the end of his bout to save a team point. He was wrestling up a weight class, because our starter was out of the lineup. He could have easily put his head down, but he didn’t. He continued to compete. Wrestling for the entire 7 minutes of a match is an expectation in this program. Kevin did that and was a good example for his teammates.
Corey Smith was also wrestling up a weight class. He is certified at 174, but has wrestled in duals for us at 184 and 197. His initiation to division 1 wrestling has been difficult. What I liked from him on Friday was seeing him compete much harder than when he first stepped on a college mat this fall. He is making progress. I also liked seeing him use some of the skills he has implemented in the room. When I spoke to his father after the match, I was pleased when he said I have never seen Corey hit a knee slide stand up before. It is great seeing guys make gains.
Saturday night at 7:30pm we will host Central Michigan University at the RAC. This will be the highest ranked team we have hosted this season. Central Michigan has a very good team and they wrestle a difficult schedule. If our guys can compete with them for 7 minutes and find a way to pick up a win, it will certainly bode well for our post season aspirations.