DAY 7 BEACH SOMBO BLOG Zastrow tries Turkish traditional wrestling as World Championships concludes with FestivalTournament Coverage
Sunday, November 5 - Very early this morning, a majority of the U.S. delegation, including the rest of the Sombo delegation, were taken away to the airport to return home. By morning, only a few of the Beach wrestlers remained, with a day to spend in Turkey prior to departure.
I tried to wake early to do some photo editing, but felt very sick. I have been fighting a cold all week, and it may have finally caught up with me. I stayed in bed for a few hours, but got up in time to have breakfast with some of the U.S. people. Rusty Davidson gave me some herbal cold formula, which I took and hoped for the best. I put on a sweater which I bought earlier in the week at the bazaar and tried to stay warm.
Today was the day of a "Traditional Wrestling Festival." Jeff Zastrow, our Sombo World champion, wanted to try the Turkish oil wrestling which was advertised on all the posters. Rusty Davidson also wanted to try to officiate some of these matches. We were told that the bus was leaving at 8:30 a.m. We got there and nobody was around. A few other teams started showing up, but still no buses and no drivers. Our group decided to stay in the hotel lobby where it was warm and wait things out.
Overnight, a team from the African nation of Niger had arrived, just to participate in the Festival. There were five of them, two wrestlers, a team official and a few coaches. They had special hats, and they carried a big drum with them. This group joined us waiting for the bus. They spoke English, and explained they were going to be part of the festival.
About 9:00 some of Turkish administrators showed up. At some point, the departure time changed. The buses were quickly loaded and we headed out towards where the beach competition had been the day before. We took the exit off the highway for the beach, and stopped at this outdoor arena, where some stands surrounded a grass field.
The rest of the day was rather surreal. It was very cold and windy, with a dark cloud cover. It was a day of disorganized chaos, very laid back. All along, we let people know that Jeff wanted to wrestle. The big issue was when or if he would get a pair of the special pants that were worn in the wrestling matches. We told Jeff to be ready. Before anything started, there were four Turkish men with flutes and drums playing traditional music. The team from Niger pulled out their two drums (they also had another small one) and the Turk musicians and the African team were banging away together.
Fans started to drift in, and loud Turkish music with a strong beat was played on the PA system. People were walking all around the grass field, and soon a bunch of Turkish wrestlers arrived and started putting on canvas pants (with a rope belt, and a rope around the knee). Rusty put on his red and blue referees wrist bands. We brought Jeff down onto the field and tried to line him up with the other Turkish wrestlers. Finally, they figured out that Jeff wanted to wrestle. Rusty grabbed one of the Turkish coaches, and got some instructions on how to score the wrestling we were about to see.
However, the festival did not start with Turkish wrestling. The athletes from Niger put on these colorful skirts, took off their shirts, and starting doing a dance all around the arena while the other Niger team members played the drums. Over on the other side, four members of the India team got stripped down, wearing nothing but a small pair of shorts that resembled a diaper.
After a long time for dancing, and some official ceremony, the "referee" from Niger started the match between the wrestlers in the skirts. They wrestled hard right on the grass, in a style similar to freestyle. As Zastrow pointed out, it was very much a defensive style of wrestling. One athlete got behind the other and got him into a tripod position, and then it was a game of faking and trying to turn the man. Finally, the ref blew the whistle, raised one of the wrestlers hands, and the crowd went crazy. FILA gave awards, medals and trophies, to the African wrestlers for their participation.
Immediately after, the four India athletes were on the grass and started wrestling. Two of those giving the demonstration were older men with gray hair. As they were wrestling, they would grab the opponent's small shorts and use them as part of the technique. There was both wrestling on the feet and on the grass. Soon the demonstration was over, they raised the hands of the Indian athletes, and more awards were given and pictures taken.
Pretty soon, a bunch of Turkish wrestlers in the canvas pants were on the grass, bare chested and in bare feet. They lined up, and the wrestlers who were paired off to wrestle were holding hands. A man with a microphone began screaming things out in Turkish. I thought, "here is the Michael Buffer of Turkish grass wrestling." He announced the pairings, I think, and soon four sets of wrestlers starting competing at the same time. Rusty Davidson was a referee for one of the bouts. For the third straight day (including Sombo and Beach), Rusty officiated the first bout of the day in the new style. The object was to get the opponent turned over and pinned to the ground.
Nobody would lend Zastrow a pair of pants, so Jeff got down into just his tight shorts and went out on the field. He paired up with a Turkish wrestler and started a match, even though it was without the proper pants. They went for awhile and a new set of wrestlers went out to start competing. There was a dance before each match, where the entire set of new athletes would skip across the field and bow to the crowd. What was weird was they would do it, even though the other wrestlers were still competing around them. Josh Henson was able to get a hold of a pair of the pants, and he was able to get into a short match with one of the older Turkish athletes. Both of the wrestlers from Niger were also out there wrestling athletes from Turkey, but they still had on their skirts.
One of the guys from the Turkish Wrestling Federation told one of the wrestlers who had finished to give Zastrow his pants, and they paired Jeff off with another big athlete. Jeff finally got to wear the right equipment. They introduced both Jeff and his opponent (Niyami Duglar) to the crowd, and all eyes were on that match. These two guys wrestled hard. It looked like freestyle, but the techniques were different because they could grab the rope on the waist and knee and use it with the leverage. For a long time, at least a dozen or more minutes, Jeff and the opponent went at it, doing takedowns, reversals and tilts. Finally, they stopped the match, raised both hands, and the wrestlers embraced.
Zastrow said after the match, "That is the most tiring wrestling ever." He later explained that it was a difficult battle, and that the Turkish wrestlers kept such good position. It was hard to score. He also thought that wrestling in the cold weather also tired him out. When he finished, numerous Turkish wrestlers came over to shake his hand, a sign of respect for the hard bout that he had just finished.
Pretty soon, a bunch of wrestlers wearing black leather pants, no shirt, and covered with oil came out onto the field. They started lining up, even while Zastrow's match was going on. This is a different style of wrestling, very popular in Turkey. The black pants all had writing on the rear end, with the name and city of the wrestler written on them. Soon, a bunch of the athletes, many in the first group who were just children, held hands to be paired up, and then the field broke out with more matches.
They asked Zastrow if he wanted to try the oil wrestling, but he declined. He was tired from the canvas pants match, plus he wasn't sure he wanted to get all messy now. However, when the larger wrestlers came out, the heavyweight from Japan got all oiled up and got into a match. In addition, one of the Niger wrestlers got the oil on him and got into a bout. Neither of these guys had on the leather pants however.
The bigger guys were very serious about their matches. They had like a mini-tournament, with quarterfinals, semifinals and a final match to determine a grand champion. After the wrestlers lost, they went over to an area outside the arena, and were washed off with soap, using a hose and a tub of water that had been boiling over an open fire all morning. The Americans learned about these things from a Turkish wrestler, a former World Champion in the oil wrestling, who sat in the stands and explained everything. The champion from last year, a big muscular man with a thick mustache, was beaten in the semifinals.
One of the Turkish coaches came over and asked Rusty Davidson to officiate the finals. He went out there (in his USA warmup) and blew the whistle for the final match. The athletes tusselled for awhile, trying to get an advantage in spite of the slippery surfaces. I was watching the match, standing on the grass and talking to one of the U.S. wrestlers, when suddenly the finals match was over. The two oiled-up wrestlers lifted Rusty up off the ground, dropped him to the grass, then lifted him again in a joyous celebration. I missed the photo, but the Turkish Public Relations director promised to send us a copy via e-mail. Of course, Rusty got all covered with oil unexpectedly. Later, Rusty had to go through the protocol of getting the oil washed off him.
Pretty soon, the buses were all loaded up and everybody went back to the Champion Resort. The wrestling for the week was over. The World Beach and Sombo Championships and the Traditional Wrestling Festival had ended. All that was left was finishing off the final day, packing and departing for home. Some of the U.S. people left decided to go shopping and a few others planned to drive into Antalya for a meal and some sightseeing. I decided to finish my photo editing and writing, and hopefully will get a final chance to go in a few more shops.
I saw FILA President Raphy Martinetti, who was happy about the week. He says this event will be held here again next year, but in the second week of September. It will have both the Sombo and Beach Worlds, as well as an expanded Traditional Festival. He said it will be called the World Wrestling Games.
My ride to the airport is at 2:00 a.m., so I may choose to stay up all night. I can always sleep on the plane. I go from Antalya to Istanbul to Munich to Chicago to Colorado Springs, getting back late Monday night. This trip will be an amazing memory of a variety of experiences. It was fun sharing it with you.
Saturday, November 4 - Morning comes too quickly when you work late, but today was something special. The first Beach World Championships day. And the good news was that it was not raining when we got up… although there were threatening clouds all around.
The bus heading to the Beach competition was scheduled for 9:00 a.m., so the Beach wrestlers had time to get breakfast before leaving. We have an interesting group of people and athletes on this team. I spent some time at breakfast talking with Carlos Dolmo, Beach heavyweight, who is a coach with Yeshiva Univ. We talked a bit about where he went to college (SUNY-Oswego) because it is the next town over from where my father was from. He also told me about being a young wrestler growing up in New York City, and how important it is to bring our sport to the inner-city. Carlos believes all NYC kids who go on to college should come back and give something back in the city, serving as role models to kids who would benefit from their example.
I was going to wear pants and my U.S. warmup today, with a blue polo shirt. But I saw Coach Floyd Winter wearing shorts, even though the day started cold. So he inspired me to get into the Beach wrestling spirit. I also put on some shorts, and added one of my Hawaiian shirts. Maybe it would help encourage some sunshine.
We drove for about 25 minutes down a road that was between the Mediterranean and the mountains. It was very beautiful. Post card views. When we pulled off the road, we headed toward the sea, but we did not see anything that looked like the kind of beaches we know. It looked all rocky, and rough. The sand was very dark. The guys were a bit nervous about what things would be like.
The buses stopped in a parking lot and we walked down a pathway. There along the sea was a little wrestling venue set up, with stands and two wrestling rings. The sand was more like dirt and looked wet. However, when we got there, the guys went out and tested it, and the sand was good for wrestling. Some liked it better than the white sand on the U.S. beaches, because the action was faster on this surface.
Almost immediately when we got off the bus, the tournament officials starting calling matches. FILA President Raphy Martinetti saw dark clouds coming, and hustled the organizers to start, trying to beat the rain. The first match ever held at a World Beach Championships had a strong U.S. flavor. American wrestler Jeff Zastrow was competing in bout No. 1, and the referee was Rusty Davidson of the USA. (Rusty was two for two, also calling the first Sombo match held). Zastrow, normally a 96 kg, was a bit smaller than his rival, and he was thrown and pinned. We were off and running.
Matches in Beach wrestling go very quickly, and they just keep coming. There were no pairing sheets available, so we had to look over the shoulders of the table workers to see who was coming up. I got to know the PA announcer during the sombo meet, and he also called the Beach event. He allowed me to see his pairing sheet so I could know when U.S. people were about to wrestle. I had to be ready quickly, in order to get photos of our guys and gal. It is like being in a pinball machine.
At about 10:20 a.m., the sun suddenly appeared and it warmed up a bit. It was a blessing. For at least a good portion of the Beach World meet, we had something that resembled Beach weather. After being flooded for a week, we were able to wrestle on the beach without rain. They were playing upbeat Turkish music, and things were going great.
The U.S. team performance is now in the history books, with three medals. You can read the news on TheMat.com. However, there were some things that stand out in my mind from the U.S. effort.
Ray Downey, the inspiring guy from Long Island, was on a tear. We told Ray's story earlier this year, about how the memory of his father, a New York fire chief who passed away serving our nation on September 11, was a reason for his return to competition. Ray has so much going for him. He is a family guy, a coach, a mentor. He runs marathons. He is a diabetic who takes insulin three times a day. He is older than his Beach opponents, but one of the best conditioned and smartest beach wrestlers in the world. Ray came to wrestle and he truly did well. His only loss in the semifinals was to a 21-year-old, young enough to be Ray's son, and it took a true talent to beat Downey today. This man earned the bronze he took home and it really means something to him.
We got medals from Angelo Borzio and Leigh Jaynes, both who won medals in Sombo. Borzio had a strange deal happen. His semifinal match ended up against somebody from Azerbaijan. Angelo beat him, but all along the Indian coaches were up in arms (for a reason). They screwed up the pairings, and it was supposed to be India against Angelo. A few minutes after making the finals, Angelo had to do it all over again, and this time he lost. One of the other things to remember is an earlier match, when a referee made the wrong call against Angelo, and his wife Jennifer brought the video camera she was holding to the FILA table and they reviewed her tape and gave the points to Angelo.
The Beach World Championships whipped by quickly. There were no wrestlebacks at all. The bronze medals went to the losers of the semifinals. They also had super finals, where the winner of the big weight class wrestled the winner of the smaller weight class. The atmosphere of the tournament was great. People were very excited, especially in the men's heavyweight finals when Ali Reza Kaya, already a World-class wrestler on the mats, beat the wrestler from India for the title. Although the meet was small in scale, the potential for this is tremendous. It was a great time for everybody. We took a ton of team pictures. Lots of foreign wrestlers jumped into our pictures, just sharing the moments. And we were back on the buses heading home by 12:30 p.m., with a full day ahead of us.
Instead of putting a limit on how the athletes spent their final day, Coach Winter and I decided to have our team "banquet" at lunch instead of dinner. We put a bunch of tables together in the cafeteria, enjoyed a big meal, and shared in the joy of the week. The meal had a great spirit. I gave a little thank you speech, then passed it around to our coaches, our World medalists and our officials. This team developed strong friendships, very quickly, and everybody talked about how much the experience meant to them. It was fun and heartwarming, and a nice way to wrap up our time together.
A bunch of the coaches and referees decided to do a bunch of shopping. Also along was Ramie Mohlman, the Sombo medalist, who is quite a character. Ramie rented a driver and car and drove to central Turkey yesterday to see ancient Christian ruins. He was on the road for like 14 hours, but he had a blast. He said his driver was crazier than he is (which is quite a feat). Ramie had the most bags filled than anybody. He was shopping for Christmas, and had enough stuff for Easter and everybody's birthday too.
I got some things I like, but I won't tell what they are, so as not to spoil the surprise. I was concerned that we might not find time for shopping, but when the Beach event ended with time to spare, we had the opportunity. There were a ton of shops running for miles down the road that led to our hotel. In the tradition here, all the prices are negotiable, and part of the fun is haggling with the shopkeepers. At one shop, an Austrian woman with great English skills, invited us to come back later to smoke the pipe and share Turkish tea. We declined.
Except for some time for dinner, and some time typing on the internet back home with Patricia, I have been doing articles and photo editing ever since. I was able to get the official Beach results as soon as they were available, and the news was good. The USA was second in the men's beach event and third in the women's. Our week ended with 12 medals, and a whole lot of good times.
While we were up getting the results, we were also able to arrange for Jeff Zastrow, our Sombo champion, to enter the Turkish Traditional Wrestling event tomorrow. He will suit up in the leather pants and compete in another style of wrestling. Expect a report tomorrow.
They are talking about doing this thing again next year, but over Labor Day weekend in early September. The weather that time of the year is reportedly amazing, real summer vacation warmth. The only big problem this week was the rain and the cold, and a few weeks earlier in the year, this place will be much more like paradise.
For Team USA, the competition is over and we all head home in a few hours. Zastrow is the last to leave on Tuesday morning. One more day for me in Turkey…
Friday, November 3 - This morning greeted us with another taste of the wet and chill that has hovered over Antalya most of the week. I got up earlier than most of the U.S. delegation.
Rusty Davidson, the official, spent some time with me this morning, talking about some of the special challenges and experiences that come with international sports. Rusty has been given the assignment of dealing with both Beach and Sombo wrestling for our U.S. officials, and he is taking his responsibility seriously. In addition to being a referee for both days of Sombo, he will attend the Beach referees clinic and competition, as well as possibly work with the Traditional Wrestling event on Sunday (men in leather pants covered with oil wrestling in the grass… really).
Faruk Sahin, our Turkish native, has promised to take me shopping, as well as many of the team members. However, the rain makes it less than desirable for most of the people, plus we had responsibility with the Beach tournament.
Beach weigh-ins was even more relaxed than the Sombo protocol. As normal, the U.S. team was on time, but not very many others were there for quite awhile. Team USA on the beach will be five men and a woman, down an athlete because Steve Forrest had dental surgery. None of the Sombo people were going to be in town long enough, or wanted to wrestle on the beach, so our final spot went empty in the under 85 kg division. Our Beach lady, Leigh Jaynes, also decided to enter the Sombo event today, so her weighin was for both tournaments. She had a Sombo match at the U.S. Sombo National in Florida against a Brazilian, and got beat pretty good, but she likes the submission stuff and wanted to give it a go.
After the weighin ended, the official meeting for Beach wrestling was held. It was conducted by Mr. Kazarian, one of the FILA officials. We knew coming in that the rules of Beach wrestling were very sketchy, and that this meeting would make a difference in how things were interpreted. We were right.
Beach wrestling is basic. You wrestle three minutes. You win if you pin the guy. You win if you score two points, either on takedowns or stepouts. You can win 1-0. If the bout ends 0-0, the refs pick the winner.
There were a few things that were different than how we run the Beach events in the USA. If you throw the guy from the feet and he rolls across his back, it is also a pin. A new way to end the match is to get a spectacular throw with high amplitude (you don't need him to fall on his back). In addition, if you get the opponent to go to his knees (such as a snapdown), that counts as a point. They also added a passivity rule, with a verbal warning, a caution, then disqualification. All of this took quite awhile to discuss, with three languages being spoken at the same time (French, English, Spanish).
Shortly after the meeting, it was off to the venue for the women's Sombo. Leigh Jaynes was excited to try the sport again. She was wrestling up at 67 kg because she didn't watch her weight. In fact, she was heavy on purpose because her beach wrestling division is 154 pounds, even though she goes at 130 in freestyle.
There was a slight hitch when we arrived at the arena, because the pairing people didn't have Leigh in the brackets. It took a little effort to get her put back in, but things worked out. This tournament went pretty quickly. David Bonner, who was a referee yesterday, was coaching Leigh, and Floyd Winter was also there to coach.
Leigh is a tough wrestler, and she got better every time. Her first match was a loss on just one move, an early two point throw from the rival. In the second match, she lost 1-0 on a passivity, although it looked like she got a throw in the final 10 seconds that the refs waived off. I got the throw on the camera, and the coaches believe it was a good one. In her final match, she dusted the opponent quickly, getting her down then doing a leg lock submission that she had learned in jiu jitsu. With a four-athlete roundrobin, this gave her the bronze medal. It was even more exciting when they announced that the USA was third in the standings, because we didn't think it was possible. We were tied with India, but the difference was Leigh's submission win, the only submission of the day.
A number of the Beach and Sombo wrestlers came up to see Leigh wrestle, then went with a friend of Faruk Sahin's family which owned a leather store. The plan was to shop a bit in the city, then return on the buses from the Sombo event. It apparently worked out, because one bus was delayed waiting for the Turkish team to take its victory photos.
Floyd Winter, Rusty Davidson, David Bonner and I were going to go shopping today, hopping off the bus a few miles earlier for some shops down the street, then taking a taxi back. However, the plan died when the skies opened up again, and shopping outside in the rain didn't seem appealing.
After writing up the Women's Sombo story, I was done in time for the Beach team meeting at 8:00 p.m. in the cafeteria. I gave the basic information that we had about the event and the rules. The athletes, many who are coaches themselves, asked some great questions. We didn't really have many complete answers, because the rules just are not that detailed. We talked about getting ready to compete in the rain, and we did everything we could to explain some strategy for the matches. Rusty and Floyd were very helpful in filling in some of the gray areas. Floyd told them just to wrestle hard and go for it. I also tried to get them focused on being a team, and working together no matter what, in order for the USA to have one of the four historic World Champions at the first Beach World tournament. I think this group is ready to go.
Jeff Zastrow, our new Sombo World Champion, is a refreshing guy who is fun to talk with and is a wrestler's wrestler. He does it all. Greco-Roman, freestyle, folkstyle, beach, sombo. And he does it with enthusiasm and commitment. After watching him win a Sombo title on less than a day's notice, he showed just how tough he is also. We should use him as a role model for kids who have dreams within wrestling, that dreams can come true.
It is back to the little café where the internet connection is, to finish this story, type up the official results from the meet, and edit some of the photos from the women's sombo. These days all mush together. Two more sombo athletes leave early in the morning while we are focusing on the beach. The rest of the delegation comes home soon after. It will be nice to go somewhere where you don't smell cigarette smoke everywhere inside.
The manager of the front desk, a real nice guy, just sent over some Turkish tea for me to try. This one is really very good. It has a little sweet tang to it. He came over to tell me it is called "Turkish Summer Delicious." I may have to try to get ahold of some of it. When I asked him where to buy it, he said he would bring me some tomorrow. I bet he does, too.
Thursday, November 2 - The new day starts with some sunshine, and a glimpse of the natural beauty of the Mediterannean. At 7:00 a.m., nobody is up except a few hotel employees and some early birds like me. The first person I see is heavyweight Carlos Dolmo, who is seeking to get to the scale. Trying to find somebody, anybody with a key to the meeting room is a chore, something that takes time and persistence. Everybody wants to help, but nobody either understands properly or has the right key. Carlos, who is supposed to weigh in for Sombo at 9:00 a.m. will have to wait to check his weight.
Moises Hernandez is up early every day and likes to get some food into him on the day he competes. He tells some stories about what life is like on Okinawa, and how the citizens there have a love-hate relationship with Americans. This U.S. Marine is a pleasant and interesting kid, but you can sense the intensity in his spirit.
Without all the rain, it is easy to see why this is a popular resort. The sun coming up over the sea is a wonderful sight. There are pools, outdoor bars, boats to rent, beach chairs, tennis and basketball courts, everything. This morning, you can even hear the birds singing. All that is missing are the people. The scene is shadowed by some majestic mountains. But this is also a wrestling place, and you find four Sombo athletes from India doing pummeling drills next to the empty poolside before breakfast. That means that today is competition day.
We learned a communication lesson today. In advance, I called the hotel to inquire about internet access, and they said they had none. When we arrived, we asked again, and were pointed to an internet café a long way from the hotel. For a few days, I have used the phone lines and an international AOL connection to file stories. Yet Sal Princiotta, Ray Downey's cousin, is a big internet junkie. He identified a wireless hotspot and found out that they sold access right here at the resort. When we asked about the "internet," they did not understand. When Sal said "wireless," the light came on and there was communication. For only a few Turkish lira, we can now connect easily and at low cost… Amazing…
The morning included a weigh-in for the three U.S. Beach wrestlers who were added to the sombo roster, Jeff Zastrow at 96 kg, and Carlos Dolmo and Angelo Borzio at 120 kg. Dolmo had to drop some weight to get down to 120 kg, not something that most heavyweights have to do. He is that big. With these athletes added to the team, we now have 9 athletes going into today's action.
Because of the size of the tournament, the opening session was scheduled for 3:00 p.m. and was going to go straight through to conclusion. All of the wrestlers fueled up with lunch before catching a bus over to the competition venue. The buses left at 1:15 p.m. and all of the competitors jammed in to attend the first FILA World Sombo Tournament since the sport has been reinstated as a form of wrestling. Coach Floyd Winter had on his game face, trying to find out ways to win the team title. With the beautiful sunshine out today, the ride next to the mountains along the sea was especially captivating today. It was the calm before the storm.
My duties at the World Championships would be many. Besides doing what I usually do, taking pictures and covering the event as a journalist, I also had to assist with team leader duties, like watching for pairings and making sure everybody got whatever they needed to get ready to wrestle. Our group has seemed to get along very well, and we were looking forward to finally put it out on the mat.
When we arrived at the venue, things were running a little behind schedule. The organizers were able to get a clinic together, for coaches, officials and athletes to go over the rules and interpretations one more time. There was a short opening ceremony prior to the start of the event, with each nation marching in with a flag and a sign for their team. They asked that we send in three athletes and a coach, but the whole U.S. team jumped on the line and participated in the opening ceremony.
Before you knew it, just like every other tournament, wrestling began. Standing on center mat and officiating the first match at the FILA Sombo World Championships since it returned to wrestling was an American, Rusty Davidson of New Mexico. There were three U.S. referees working today, and Rusty was the newest to Sombo. Yet when it was time to go, Rusty blew the first whistle of the day.
I will not get into specifics about the U.S. performance today, as the complete story on the meet is posted on TheMat.com, and you are all encouraged to read it.
As you would see, the American team placed second in the standings, won seven medals, and crowned a new World champion, Jeff Zastrow of Wisconsin at 96 kg. Jeff was recruited off the beach team, but was a Sombo Nationals runner-up this year. He wrestles all styles of the sport, because he also went both freestyle and Greco-Roman at the U.S. Nationals this year. His story is a bit amazing. Spending a night in an airport the day before this tournament started, Zastrow was at his best the next day, using submission holds to win two of his three bouts. Things were clicking for Jeff, and the American team got a chance to celebrate a gold medalist. For those who have never seen the U.S. flag raised and the national anthem played at a World or Olympic meet, the experience is moving. For an old hack like me, it never gets tired. I still love the feeling of an American getting a gold placed on his neck, and watching him feel the pride when they fly our flag and play our national song.
The team did a great job. Although the first round was a bit rocky, we bounced back and got things under control, winning medals. Ramie Mohlman, the 44 year old wonder, had a very close loss in the finals against a tough young Turk. There were some great performances in the wrestlebacks for bronze, including Faruk Sahin and Moises Hernandez. Angelo Borzio, in his first tournament in Sombo, got a submission to win a bronze. We were very proud of the team, and after taking team pictures on the mat with our medals, we had to run back and get on the bus. Of course, the ride home was much more fun after such a good day on the mats.
Coach Winter and I scheduled a team function at the dining hall when we returned. I started on my article for the webpage, but had to stop to go spend some time celebrating with the team. Everybody had dinner, then we pulled a bunch of tables together at the outside bar. Coach Winter, myself, Josh Henson and World champion Jeff Zastrow got a chance to give little speeches.
There is a tradition in sombo at World Championships to play a game of spoons, with is kind of a little joke on some of the wrestlers. They played it twice tonight, but the second time it went a little wacky, and referee David Bonner was unexpectedly smacked hard in the mouth when it wasn't supposed to happen. Everybody had a laugh about that.
I moved into the indoor bar to finish my stories, because that is where the wireless connection for the internet is located. It was interesting writing my story with the sound of people partying behind me. I ran into some computer issues that slowed me down, but I was able to get my story posted about the tournament and complete this blog entry. The rest of the team moved into the inside bar, mostly to warm up. I am one of the last in the place, finishing my blog at 1:10 in the morning. Tomorrow will come quickly.
The final member of our delegation showed up today, Beach Wrestler Leigh Jaynes, the only woman on our team. Leigh arrived while we were stuck in the Sombo event, and was napping when we returned. She was happy to see us, and spent the rest of the evening sharing in the celebration with the Sombo men. Leigh may enter the women's sombo event tomorrow.
Next up are our Beach Wrestlers. We have five men and one woman weighing in and representing our nation in another new style of the sport. Two of the men did not choose to enter the sombo, Ray Downey and Jonathan Taylor and will go for it all in the Beach event. Zastrow, Borzio and Dolmo will weigh in again and get to test themselves in the sand on Saturday.
It is hard to explain how tired I am right now. I get this way at major events, when you just have to push through and finish up, regardless. I will post this story, then get up in a few hours to edit some photos. Then comes weighins, and perhaps a chance to get away to do some shopping. Faruk Sahin has promised to help us in our shopping activities, and as a native of Turkey, he will be a great resource. Tomorrow will be another interesting day here, and we pray for warm weather and sunshine.
later on Wednesday, November 1 - My morning was spent on getting an internet connection and updating TheMat.com. Using a phone line from the room, which has a slow connection, it took quite awhile to upload photos and copy.
The day started with news via email that one of our Beach wrestlers, Steve Forrest, would not be coming at all, because he had emergency dental surgery yesterday. We had to inform the local organizers not to set up a ride for him today at the airport.
In addition, I spent some time trying to locate missing American Beach wrestler Jeff Zastrow, who was scheduled to arrive Tuesday night around midnight. The Turkish hosts are responsible for bringing participants in the championships out to the Champion Resort, and assured me that they would have somebody at the airport looking for Jeff. However, shortly after I got my day going, I went to look for him and nobody had any record of his arrival.
The referees had a clinic scheduled for 9:00 a.m. and Coach Winter also decided to attend, in order to get the most updated rule interpretations. It was good that he did attend, because there were some detailed changes in the rules, including the shortening of a match to five minutes, and other scoring adjustments.
All of the U.S. wrestlers had their weight under control, so there was no formal morning workout. I was supposed to attend a "technical meeting" for coaches and team leaders at 1:30 p.m., but that was not held. That information was passed on during the officials meeting. Coach Winter said that FILA President Raphy Martinetti told everyone there that FILA had a strong commitment to both Beach and Sombo wrestling. We should expect the sports to be contested at the continental championships soon. He encouraged wrestlers to compete in all of the styles, and invited the nations in Antalya to have their Beach wrestlers enter the Sombo meet, and also for the Sombo athletes to enter the Beach Championships.
Coach Winter and I went to a bazaar across the street to purchase bottled water for the Sombo athletes. While there, we got involved in some "price bartering" with the vendors. I ended up buying a nice sweater for me and something pretty for my fiancée, while Floyd worked a good deal on some clothes for his family. There are a ton of other shops a few miles down the road, where Floyd had purchased some fancy plates the night before. One of these days, I plan to get a little time to go down there.
Medical check and weigh-ins were a bit less structured than at other Senior World Championships. There we learned that a second team from Turkey would be allowed to enter. Spain had a nice-sized team, and both France and Hungary entered some athletes. We were told that there were teams that had travel problems, and that they would be allowed to weigh in when they were there. Shortly after weighins, India showed up and was added to the event. Athletes from Morocco are also reportedly coming. There will be an additional opportunity for those who arrive late to weigh-in.
After weighins, FILA issued each team a number of sombo jackets for their athletes to use and to take back to their country for training purposes. Team USA was presented with four sets of Sombo gear, both red and blue, which we plan to put back into the system for use in our country once the tournament is over.
The U.S. did not have a heavyweight entered. Shortly prior to the tournament, U.S. champion Frank Workman of the U.S. Marines had to withdraw. He had a military obligation, and will ultimately be serving in Iraq. With the request by FILA to invite Beach wrestlers to enter in Sombo, the U.S. team could include three more wrestlers who arrived today for the Beach tournament, Jeff Zastrow at 96 kg and Carlos Dolmo and Angelo Borzio at 120 kg.
Shortly after the formal weighins for Sombo, Dolmo and Borzio arrived at the Champion Resort, along with the missing Zastrow. Apparently, Zastrow's plane was almost three hours late. When he discovered that there was no ride for him, he decided to stay at the airport and await the arrival of other American wrestlers. He was brought back to the hotel by the Turkish transportation volunteers. All were presented with the opportunity to also compete in Sombo, and all wanted to enter. Zastrow was second at the U.S. Sombo Nationals, losing to Moises Hernandez in the finals, so he has some solid sombo training.
Two other U.S. Beach athletes expected later in the day, but only one made it to the hotel, Ray Downey from New York, along with his friend Sal Princiotta. Wrestler Jonathan Taylor and his coach Steve Williams were supposed to be on his flights, but were apparently rerouted. We notified the Turkish hosts, and everyone is looking out for these two, hoping they will communicate with somebody to let them know about their arrival time.
There was a short time between the meetings for a workout in the small weight room that is located near the Turkish bath and sauna facility. There were two big Turkish wrestlers doing weight training. During my 40 minutes there, I got a good ride on the stationary bike and some hard situps. The powerful-looking athlete who was probably a 96 kg wrestler, gave me a high five as he left the gym.
There was a team meeting for Sombo at 7:00 p.m. and another one for Beach at 7:30 p.m. at the cafeteria, so we decided to combine them. Coach Winter gave all the rule changes for Sombo and had his final pep talk and strategy discussion. He also went over all the details of the next day regarding times and travel schedules. I took over the presentation on the Beach tournament, and shared what little information we had so far on that event. The organizers said that if there is a nice day tomorrow, they would help put together a Beach workout at the venue, which is a number of kilometers away from here.
After the meeting, the Beach athletes came to my room to get their team equipment and credentials, and we took their photos in their warmup. Now was time for those who are wrestling tomorrow to get prepared, and for those who just arrived for the Beach to get some rest and get used to the time zone change.
Ramie Mohlman, the 55 kg for Sombo, stopped by to explain the adventure he has for Friday. He has rented a car and a personal driver and will head to Cappadocia province about six hours away. He read about some amazing historic sites in a National Geographic. There are caves and cone-shaped homes, filled with ancient paintings inside. Apparently, biblical St. Paul spent time there during his journeys. Ramie will get up at the crack of dawn, drive into central Turkey, explore, then drive back that night. His plan is to watch some of the Beach wrestling on Saturday prior to returning to the USA.
Victor Kupchnshyy, the coach for Carlos Dolmo, was looking to trade wrestling pins. A native of Ukraine, he has been collecting wrestling pins since his childhood, and has about 800 pins from around the world. Mohlman was wearing two pins on his jacket, an old U.S. Wrestling Federation pin from the 1970s, and a new U.S. Sombo pin that he was given this year. In the trade, Mohlman got three old Soviet wrestling pins from Kupchnshyy for his two American wrestling pins. Both were happy with the trade.
I needed a blast of caffeine and visited referee Rusty Davidson, who has a great industrial hot water cooker/coffee post he bought in Krasnoyarsk, Russia and takes with him everywhere. We finished the day chatting with Davidson and David Bonner, comparing notes on what has gone on so far this week, and what we have to look forward to.
At about 11:00 pm, there was a knock on the door, and Jonathan Taylor and Steve Williams were here, a little ragged from a long day traveling. Their flight out of Florida had been delayed, throwing off all of their connections. They were re-routed, missing their other flights. When they arrived in Antalya, there was no ride for them, as the Turkish hosts did not have an arrival time. They hailed a cab and took the hour-long journey to the hotel. The hotel staff brought some food, as they missed the scheduled dinner. Only one more Beach wrestler is scheduled to arrive from the USA, women's athlete Leigh Jaynes tomorrow afternoon. Pray for safe travels…
Athlete Stories from Antalya - Ramie Mohlman, Moises Hernandez
While here, we will share the stories of the athletes on the U.S. Sombo and Beach teams, many who our fans may not know much about. All are talented in their own right, and come to the first World Beach and Sombo Championships from different backgrounds.
55 kg - Ramie Mohlman, Singer Island, Fla.
Mohlman blasted onto the national wrestling scene at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Indianapolis, when he competed in the Greco-Roman competition at the age of 42. Mohlman's story is a tale of dedication and perserverence, and is hard to believe.
A high school wrestler in Michigan, Mohlman wrestled for Eastern Michigan Univ in 1980-81 as a freshman, going 20-7, with a win over All-American John Hartupee during the season. Mohlman had a heart condition, and could no longer pass his team's physical, and was medically forced to quit the sport. He stuck around college and got his degree, however. Seven years later, he had open heart surgery.
He started coaching wrestling in 1983 in Michigan, and soon moved to Florida, where he became a lifeguard, started a family and returned to get a graduate degree in graphic design. He did jobs such as cartoonist and graphic designer. He received a teaching certificate and has been a teacher and coach at Palm Beach Lakes High School for seven years. Mohlman decided all of his coaching and fitness would allow his return to the mat, and he started wrestling again on the Veterans circuit. He earned his dream of making the Olympic Trials with a victory at the 2004 South Olympic Regional. Although he did not win in Indianapolis, he was a media darling for wrestling at such an advanced age.
Mohlman's story didn't end there. In 2005, he lost his home completely to Hurricane Wilma. He has since moved to Singer Island, where USA Wrestling hosted the Beach and Sombo Nationals this year. Mohlman entered both tournaments, going 1-1 on the beach, but taking the gold in Sombo. Now, at the age of 44, he will be competing for the United States for the first time at the World level, a long journey since he was forced out of the sport with a heart condition 25 years ago.
96 kg/211.5 lbs. - Moises Hernandez, Quantico, Va.
Hernandez was a high school wrestler from Vineland, N.J., who did not qualify for the state meet. He only started wrestling as a junior in high school. He spent a year at Hunter College in New York City on academic and financial aid and decided that college was not for him. He found a U.S. Marine Corps recruiter and signed up, not for wrestling but for a military career.
His journey in the U.S. Marines started in basic training at Paris Island, S.C. then went on to Camp LeJeune, N.C. and on to the Redstone Arsenal, Ala., and he did no wrestling there. It was when he was stationed in Okinawa, Japan that wrestling got back in his blood. He ran into Jake Clark, a legend on the U.S. Marine Corps team, who was currently stationed there. Clark, an Olympic Trials runner-up in Greco-Roman, got Hernandez onto the mat as a regular training partner. Hernandez also entered wrestling tournaments in Japan. With Clark's encouragement, attended a number of wrestling clinics from U.S. Marines Corps coach Dan Hicks. He also filled out an application for the all-Marines team, and ultimately was assigned to Quantico, Va. for a spot on the squad to wrestle Greco-Roman.
Hernandez, 23, has been soaking up as much wrestling as he can, learning from Clark, Hicks and U.S. Marines heavyweight Frank Workman. He says they teach him by "survival," making him learn from his mistakes. Hernandez and Workman entered the U.S. Sombo Nationals, and both were able to earn a team spot. Workman had to pull out last minute because of military commitments. Hernandez will wrestle in Antalya, then returns for another assignment in Okinawa for the next few months. His goal is to continue to pursue his Greco-Roman and Sombo careers.
Wednesday, November 1 - A new morning, and the sun is up. The warmth has not come yet. Today is the beginning of the sombo experience, with officials clinics, team leader meetings, weighins and the draw. In addition, the majority of the beach wrestling team members arrive today. It should be a busy day, and hopefully one that goes smoothly. My first order of business this morning is getting an internet connection, sending this update and forwarding some photos.
Alas, the sunshine was an illusion, a quick flirt of nature. After breakfast, the rains came down again. As we have learned this week, it seems to come down heaviest exactly at the times we must venture out for meetings or other activities. I am convinced I will spend my entire time in Turkey soaking wet. We learned at breakfast that many of the rules of sombo will be changed, making it similar to all other forms of wrestling. The referees clinic will be important, so the officials can learn the changes and pass them on to the coaches, who will pass them on to the athletes, hopefully in time for them to be ready when the competition begins tomorrow. (More to come later).
Success!!! I got AOL to work from the hotel room. At least today, we can post directly!!!
Later on Tuesday, October 31 - We spent an interesting hour at the internet café. There were difficulties sending e-mails because the Turkish keyboard would not allow certain functions, or the machines were blocking some of our transmissions. I could not post directly on TheMat.com, then I could not even get e-mails through to my office. Ray White, who works on the internet for his job, did his best to help. I think by sending a return e-mail to my fiancée, and sending multiple times to my office, I may have gotten one through.
The ride to the training site was scheduled to leave around 3:00 p.m., and the American delegation crammed into a mini-bus with the Turkish women's sombo team. There was not an empty seat in this crammed vehicle. It was very hot on the bus, causing all of the windows to steam up. Even the lens of the digital camera was steamed. It was like a moving sauna and we sweated together for over an hour on the ride.
One of the women sombo coaches from Turkey grabbed the microphone, trying to get people to sing, to no avail. The bus driver actually gave us a poem in Turkish, which everybody cheered, even those who didn't understand it. When we wiped off the windows, the drive was beautiful, on a winding road alongside the ocean next to some dramatic mountains. It should be wonderful to view if the rain ever stops.
The facility is rather old looking, and had room for three mats. When we entered, there were just two lights on in the place. One of the Turkish coaches was able to get a few more put on. The venue has a metal roof, which caused constant racket throughout the practice.
The U.S. men's team started on one end of the gym, doing some soccer as a warmup, while the Turkish women's team were on the other end, doing calesthentics in unison. Soon, both teams were down on the mat, drilling their wrestling moves. Coach Winter broke the team up into pairs by size, with Ramie Mohlman working with Matt Morkel, Ray White wrestling with referee David Bonner (who is an experienced sombo athlete) and Juan Ramos training with Moises Hernandez.
The wrestlers did some situational live wrestling, then went through some specific technical training. In addition to coach Winter, referees Bonner and Curt Shearer explained some of the fine points of the sombo rules and interpretations. There was considerable discussion on which of the submission holds were legal, and how the arm bars could be locked within the rules. While the U.S. team was talking wrestling, the Turkish women broke out into a game of team handball on the other two mats. Once, while he was down on the mat working on an arm lock, Ray White got hit in the head by the basketball tossed by one of the Turkish women. Ouch.
The bus ride back was in the dark and rain, but was a bit more spirited. A number of the Turkish coaches and athletes sang songs, the bus driver did another poem, and the head coach of the Turkish team gave a motivational speech. None of this we understood, but it was quite interesting. None of the American volunteered to sing this time. The wrestlers from both teams were laughing and communicating pretty well, even though there was little language in common. It was too hot on the bus once again, and we were pleased when we arrived at the hotel.
Coach Winter called a team meeting for 8:00 p.m. just to go over weigh-in information and other details for the next day. Everybody seemed to have their weight well managed. On every team, there is usually one athlete who isn't "exactly" on time, and when the person (to remain nameless) on this team made his entrance the entire team gave him an ovation. After dinner, I returned to my room and discovered that there was finally some warm water, and took my first real shower since we arrived. That shower felt marvelous.
The Champion Resort is apparently owned by a Turkish wrestler who was an Olympic champion, Mr. Ayik. At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, according to the media guide, Turkey had a freestyle champion at 97 kg named Ahmet Ayik. I will have to ask him if that is when he won his gold. He is assisting the local organizers in many of the arrangements for the week.
This place is a resort, with an "all exclusive" package for its customers, much like a cruise ship. Those who stay here get all their food and drinks (including alcohol) as part of their fee, along with access to a number of swimming pools, the small beach on the sea, as well as workout rooms and entertainment areas. With the weather, there has not been any time to spend on these things, along with visiting the many small stores that are on the long road that runs next to the seaside hotels in this community. A few of our group ventured out for some shopping this evening. Coach Winter, along with Ray White and Curt Shearer, took a cab a few miles down the road and bought some things in the stores there. The two Marine wrestlers, Moises Hernandez and Juan Ramos, with ref David Bonner, checked out a bazaar across the road from the hotel. I will get an update in the morning and see how that works out.
Athlete Stories from Antalya - Ray White, Juan Ramos, Matt Morkel
While here, we will share the stories of the athletes on the U.S. Sombo and Beach teams, many who our fans may not know much about. All are talented in their own right, and come to the first World Beach and Sombo Championships from different backgrounds.
66 kg/174 lbs. - Ray White, Clearwater, Fla.
White comes to Antalya out of Florida, where he works in the computer security industry. He learned to wrestle in New Jersey, learning the sport in the strong youth programs in the Garden State. He moved to Florida in high school, and was a state placewinner a couple of times. He is from the same hometown as U.S. freestyle star Jared Frayer. He also developed a passion for Greco-Roman wrestling, and was an All-American in Greco as a Cadet and Junior competing in Fargo, N.D. White wears a USA Wrestling logo tattoo in the center of his back.
White was a youth whiz in computers and the internet, and was hired immediately out of high school by AOL because of his mastery of security skills. He was discovered because he was able to do things that he wasn't supposed to be able to. Rather than going into college, he went right into the workforce with his skill. He continues to compete in Greco-Roman on the Senior level, and also got involved with training in jiu-jitsu.
Since winning the U.S. Sombo Nationals, Ray entered a "freestyle" sombo tournament run by another organization, which is not the same rules as "sport sombo," which is recognized by FILA. This other style has more submission holds and allows chokes. He won that tournament, taking four matches and beating a top foreign opponent in the finals. He comes into the World meet with more martial arts background than some of his teammates.
84 kg - Juan Ramos, Jacksonville, N.C.
Ramos has an extensive wrestling background. He was a state qualifier for Monterrey High School in California, wrestling for Bill Grant, the well-known coach who publishes the California Wrestler newspaper and website. Ramos had high goals for college, and was a walk-on athlete at the Univ. of Oklahoma, competing for coach Jack Spates. He trained with and competed behind some very talented athletes, Rod Jones and Byron Tucker, and did not regularly crack the strong Sooner lineup.
Ramos continued to wrestle after joining the U.S. Marine Corps, where he is stationed at Camp LeJeune, N.C.. Ramos is a lieutenant. He is not on the All-Marine team, stationed in Quantico, Va., like many of the Marines wrestling on a national level. He trained with the Onslaw County WC in his community, working often with youth wrestlers, prior to attending the Sombo Nationals. Because of his military duties, Ramos indicated that he would not have been able to come to the Worlds without the support of one of his commanding officers at his base.
60 kg - Matt Morkel, Washington, D.C.
Morkel comes to sombo wrestling after a Div. I wrestling career at two colleges. He was a star high school wrestler in Omaha, Neb. and was recruited to compete for the Univ. of Iowa and wrestle for coach Jim Zalesky. Morkel wrestled for the Hawkeyes at 125 pounds, behind NCAA runner-up Luke Eustice throughout much of his time in Iowa City.
Morkel completed his undergraduate degree in math, and still had another year of wrestling eligibility. Last year, he transferred to American University to complete his career for coach Mark Cody and attend graduate school. As a senior, Morkel had a strong 17-6 record, but was unable to qualify for the NCAA Tournament through the rugged EIWA Championships.
This year, Morkel is serving as a graduate assistant for American, finishing up his grad degree. He always has had an interest in martial arts and submission wrestling, but did not pursue it as an athlete until USA Wrestling held a Pan Am qualifying event on his campus in May, which he won. Morkel is now 2-0 in the Sombo tournaments he has entered, also adding a gold medal at the U.S. Sombo Nationals in Florida.
Tuesday, October 31 - This morning, it rained harder than I have ever seen in my life. Imagine what it might have been to be on Noah's Ark, and that was the downpour here in Antalya. My alarm didn't go off this morning, or I didn't hear it, but I woke up in time to get dressed, get a quick breakfast and go to a 9 a.m. meeting. We all had to "be men" this morning when we went into the shower and discovered there was no hot water. The electricity kept blinking on and off all morning.
After breakfast, Coach Floyd Winter and referee Rusty Davidson joined me to go to the lobby of the hotel complex, so we could check in, pay our room bills for the entire delegation, and get details about the competition. We ran through a heavy downpour to get to the lobby, and nobody showed up. After 40 minutes, we set out again in the rain, to check to see if the meeting had been moved to the rooms near the cafeteria. Again, no tournament officials. At this time, we were stuck there, because the monsoon rains got to its heaviest. There was literally a few inches of water on the ground in the area we were waiting, so much that we had to sit on the bar chairs to keep our feet out of the water. We talked about how we have to be flexible at these events. Rusty Davidson quipped that it gave the term "going with the flow" a whole new meaning. All we know is we got drenched, head to foot, just going a few feet between buildings.
Finally, after the storm settled a little bit, the tournament staff set up in the lobby and we had to negotiate the payments. The U.S. delegation of 21 people, both Sombo and Beach, was a bit of an interesting challenge for the hosts. The athletes are all coming on different days and staying here different times, so figuring out the bill was some work. Coach Winter had to leave for his 11:00 a.m. meeting with the team while I was getting everything settled. The rest of the delegation met at the dining hall. I was able to get everybody's credential, and after the meeting, we issued the athletes their warm-ups and took individual headshots. There are no mats here at the hotel, so the hosts will take the team to a workout at 3:00 p.m. at the sports venue, where they can get on the mats and check their weight. A number of the athletes and coaches are going to go to the sauna and Turkish bath area prior to our departure for the arena. My quest, which I plan to take with one of the wrestlers, Ray White, is to find an internet connection so we can post this story. Wish me luck. I hear there is an internet café somewhere nearby, if the rain will let up enough for us to leave here. If you are reading this on Tuesday, that means we have gotten a connection.
Monday, October 30 - Since I left the States late in the day, it was Monday when I awoke on the flight from Chicago to Munich. I must have gotten about five hours of sleep, because there was only a little over an hour left on the flight when I woke. The flight attendants were serving a small breakfast, and people were stirring around. Pretty soon, we had landed in Germany.
The layover in Munich was about four hours, and I had time for some breakfast, a long walk to the other terminal, and even a half an hour in an internet café. I also read a bunch on the book I traveled with, Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown. Somehow, I got put into business class on the plane to Turkey, and I spent the time going over all of the details of my first day here.
My arrival in Antalya went as well as I could expect. I bought my visa right inside the terminal for $20 and passed through passport control quickly. It took quite awhile for the bags to come, and I was worried mine did not make it, because of my flight changes all the way back in Colorado Springs. When the two big bags with the Olympic rings came down the chute, almost the last off the plane, I was quite happy. Even better, when I walked out into the lobby, there was a guy standing there with a poster that had the FILA logo and a bunch of wrestling images on it. I said, USA Wrestling, and the man was waiting there for me. He also indicated that the four U.S. people who were traveling ahead of me had arrived and were taken to the hotel already.
His English was good, and he told me that he was a wrestler. In fact, he said that he was good friends with Mark Schultz, our 1984 Olympic champion. His job was to find people at the airport, and help them get back to the hotel. It was raining hard, kind of ironic for the weather in the city that will host the first Beach World tournament. I was told that it was sunny yesterday, though. He put me in a car with a nice gentleman who spoke no English, and sent me on our way. The defroster in the car did not work very well, so my driver had to wipe the windshield often on our drive through the wet, dark night. Along the way, we stopped to pick up another person, who was at what I believe is the venue for the Sombo competition, a building called the Antalya Sport Salon. Then we took off for the hotel, which is not in Antalya, but is in the city of Kemer. (I read on the internet that Kemer is one of the top beach locations in the area).
It was more than an hour getting to the hotel, and we came down out of the mountains on some very windy roads. It was a bit scary, because of the wet roads and the speed that our driver was going. Finally, we took a turn off the main road, and after a few blocks, we came to the Champion Hotel. (The FILA literature said the name of the hotel is Sampiyon, so it was surprising to see the spelling in English). In fact, the hotel has the Olympic rings as part of its logo. This is a resort village, a place for tourists.
I checked in and the hotel manager gave me a room key. He also had good English, and was quite polite. He said I can take care of paying for the entire U.S. delegation in the morning at 9 a.m. They had already assigned the rooms, so I have a single as of now. The young women told me that the manager's name meant "powerful" in English, and they showed me their muscles. He gave me his card, Mr. Bayttekin Guclu.
On the way to the room, I ran into the four Americans. Sombo team coach Floyd Winter, Sombo 55 kg wrestler Ramie Mohlman, and the two officials, Rusty Davidson and David Bonner. They had come looking for me. After I got my bags put away, we went down to the dining hall. There was a big spread for food, and I filled up my plate with salad and two different kinds of chicken. All of the meals are included in the fee for the resort. We caught up on all of our travels, and Floyd gave me an update about how training camp went at Fort Dix in New Jersey.
There are a number of swimming pools around the property, and there are many different buildings where the guests stay. It reminds me of the place where FILA housed the teams during the 2002 Women's World Championships in Halkida, Greece, which was a resort village out on one of the Greek isles. When the rain slowed down a bit, Rusty and David went with me down to the shore to see the beach. Obviously, this is not where they will do the beach wrestling competition, as there was hardly any sand, and what was there was hard. However, the water came up to the shore with some nice waves, and you could see city lights out there across the bay. I am certain it will be pretty, once the sun comes out.
Ramie Mohlman gave me a T-shirt he had designed, as a fundraiser for his trip here. It has his signature on it and "2006 U.S. World Team - Sombo Wrestling" with the city and date listed. On the back, is the following saying from the legendary Bruce Lee: "Ultimately, Martial Art is an expression of oneself." It will be fun to see him get his chance at a World level for the first time in his long career. (More to come on the team members).
I asked about the internet, which they said is not available here. There is an internet café a short walk away, I was told, but it is raining way too hard to check it out. Local calls cost about 1 Euro for 15 minutes, so if I do have to use my AOL account or Compuserve, I can't spend much time on the line. Some day, I will get a chance to post this blog… I hope.
The last four Sombo wrestlers showed up around 10:15 p.m - Matt Morkel (60 kg), Ray White (66 kg), Juan Ramos (84 kg) and Moises Hernandez (96 kg). White had to change rooms, because the one he was given was never cleaned up from the previous customer. The hotel kept the food open for them, so the guys who could eat went down for a last minute bite before bed. Coach Winter planned an 11 a.m. meeting with the team and wanted them to get a morning run in.
Sunday, October 29 - Travel day from the USA started with a scare. The AC adapter on my computer did not work properly, so I had to run into the office and try to find a replacement. IT Director Meredith Wilson helped me find something to bring along, and I went off to Colorado Springs airport for an early afternoon flight to Chicago. My travel was messed up, right off the bat. My flight was almost two hours late, which would have made me miss my connection to Europe. Luckily, there was an earlier flight to Chicago which was also delayed, and they were able to get me on the last seat on that flight, in time to make that connection. The only question I had was whether or not my bags get onto that earlier flight and travel along with me. Once I got to Chicago, the next flight was on time, and I was off to Munich, Germany. My plan was to sleep on the flight across the ocean, and try to stay up all day when I arrived, getting onto the correct time zone as soon as I could.
Friday, October 27, 2006 - I am in the USA Wrestling offices, making final preparations for the first World Beach and Sombo Championships in Antalya, Turkey. I have attended a number of international wrestling events during my career as Communications Director for USA Wrestling, but this will be something different for me. I am serving as the USA Wrestling staff member who is functioning as Team Leader for the trip. I will be responsible for looking out for the athletes, coaches, officials and delegation on the trip. (In addition, while I am there, I will report on the results and take photos of the U.S. wrestlers at the competition).
Normally, the final details for a trip should not be difficult, but we have a strange deal going on. On Thursday, Colorado Springs got slammed with a blizzard, and more than 18 inches of wet, heavy snow hit our city in a very short time. The USA Wrestling offices were officially closed on Thursday. Since we follow the District 11 school closures as our guide for when our office closes, our offices were also closed today. That is problematic, as I needed to get some financial and organizational things in order for the trip, and this is the last work day I can get it done.
Mitch Hull, our National Teams Director, has done the organization for this tour, and it will be my job to execute things in Turkey. I came into the office early today (about 6 a.m. to beat the bad conditions on the roads), and Mitch was not long behind me. We packed up a large suitcase with athlete warm-ups and some running shoes for me to take along to Turkey. We also went over some of the organization details, including athlete arrival schedules,
In addition, I needed to get the proper funding for the team worked out. Sonja Johnson from our Finance Department came in today with her daughter, even though we are closed, to get the final details worked out for me on the trip funds.
Faruk Sahin, the U.S. Army Greco-Roman wrestler who will be competing in Sombo at the World meet, stopped by the office to see Mitch and I. He is a native of Turkey, before moving the United States and getting citizenship here. Faruk will be a great resource for me and the entire team while we are in his native land. He explained to me that it should be in the 80's in Antalya when we arrive (glad I packed some shorts). That will be quite a contrast to the severe blizzard we had to go through this week here in Colorado.
Faruk was going to fly to Turkey today, and stopped in to get his uniform and wrestling shoes. He also said that he would meet me at the airport when I arrived. He also promised to give me some good advice about shopping and cultural things to do when we are there.
The roads got a bit better today, and a number of staff members came in to do various work things that they would have done if the weather had not closed things down.
Faruk called me back about an hour after he left us, to let me know that his travel plans had changed. He is not going to be in Turkey until Oct. 31, one day after I arrive. He said he was going to try to arrange to have one of his friends meet me at the airport, and that he would call me with information as soon as he had it arranged. I didn't hear from Faruk again, so I guess I will have to catch up with him when he gets into Turkey himself.