UPDATED August 10: The Official Rusty Davidson Blog: Rusty's Final Tour
Read the Official Rusty Davidson blog about his final
international tour this month! John Sachs Photo.
It’s been an emotional couple of days! I guess I knew it would be, but I still wasn’t prepared for the intensity.
Some of it was just being in the same competition hall with our American kids. All of our athletes wrestled their hearts out, this week. Ending with the freestylers has been a treat. These guys are clear evidence of what we can produce with total commitment. Should we ever decide to commit equally, to all three styles, we can become the global wrestling power we’ve always wanted to be.
Add to our performance the way Eva and I have been treated, and the emotion gets overwhelming. The hospitality Zagreb has shown to the wrestling world, this week, has been incredible. But Eva and I have been treated like royalty.
Looking at the big picture, I hope we can get close to this level of hospitality when we host the Senior World Championship in Las Vegas next year. I have been taking some careful notes. I feel lucky to be one of the people who provide hospitality for referees in Vegas. I just want to make sure we’re doing everything we can with what we’ve got.
Looking at the smaller picture, my friends and colleagues have gone out of their way to allow an old guy to go out feeling like he accomplished something. Referees from several countries have thanked me, over the last month, for being what they call, “Their teacher”. My friends, it was my pleasure!
Last night, before the finals, there was an award presentation for all the locals who worked to host the Championship. Davor asked me to come up on the stage. I figured I was going to get to shake some hands and help hand out goodies, and I was flattered. Little did I know they were going to give ME an award. The tournament committee prepared a beautiful framed document, thanking me for choosing Zagreb for my last official FILA match.
Tonight was the big moment, for me. Kari, Iancho and Edisher selected me to work one last final. I’m pretty sure everyone knew I was going to do the ‘Shoes on the mat’ thing. What’s cool, to me, is that, the first time I ever got to watch a referee retire was Kari’s Dad, Lazi. That was 1992, in Barcelona. I knew, that night, when my time came, I would enjoy the drama.
And, I did! Tonight, this week, the last 41 days, have been everything I hoped and planned for… and more. I’ll never say, “Thank You”, enough. But I will keep working at it. Thank You!!!
Saturday, 9 August 2014
I’ve developed what I think is a simple, effective list of ‘rules’. Tonight, it’ll be important for us to follow one of them: “Pack before you Party”!
It doesn’t matter if you’re in Fargo, a Regional, or an overseas event. Over the course of the tournament, you just kind of move in. You put things where you can. You hang laundry you’ve washed in the sink. And, as much as you try to give away more gifts than you get, you still accumulate ‘stuff’.
I’ve never met a referee, who travels, that hasn’t at least come close to missing a bus, or a train, or a plane because they didn’t follow the rule. After the last whistle, things get really hectic. Lots of goodbyes to be said. Hurry to get to the banquet. Team outings to celebrate success.
Ground transportation leaves at some ungodly hour. You get recruited to go to someone’s room, just to sit with the guys (and girls). One bottle of homemade hooch is seen as a challenge by all the other homemade hooch distillers, who don’t want to pack the stuff back home.
Then, you catch a glimpse of someone’s watch or cell phone screen. It’s 20 minutes ‘til some ungodly hour. You have wet stuff and dry stuff scattered in every nook and cranny. Panic!
Eva and I have a plane at 6:10 Monday morning. But, that plane departs Budapest and we’re in Zagreb. That’s 220 miles. The finals are scheduled to conclude around 8:00 Sunday evening. We are fortunate to have a ride to Budapest, but I’m guessing it’ll leave right after the finals.
Over the years, I’ve acted in the Team Leader role more than a few times. That’s where I began to develop my short list of rules. Try these, for your teams, for yourself. I’ve found that these rules limit our propensity to become that stereotypic ‘Ugly American’.
Rule 1: Pack Before You Party
Rule 2: Eat What They Serve
Rule 3: Drink What They Pour
Rule 4: Clap When They Think It’s Important
Rule 5: Laugh When They Think It’s Funny
Rule 6: Only One B*#$& Per Room Per Day (and You Cannot Have Two Days in Succession)
Friday, 8 August 2014
Throughout my 39 days in Eastern Europe, it’s been no secret that Sunday night will be my last official FILA whistle. As you can picture, I’m answering a lot of questions and telling a lot of stories.
Practicing a little self-examination, I’ve been trying to figure out exactly where I am. The best I can come up with is that this is not a time for me to run my mouth about what I’ve done. The right thing is for me to make a plan about what I can do.
I think my greatest immediate challenge is to help coordinate the hospitality and protocol for referees during the 2015 World Championship we will host in Las Vegas. It seems urgent, to me, to get this right.
The issue gets cloudy because it’s Las Vegas. It’s too easy to say, “We really don’t have to plan anything. Just let ‘em go out and gamble”. With all the national, religious and ethnic diversity represented in FILA, we need to dot a lot of I’s and cross a lot of T’s!
All of wrestling, officiating included, is a very intimate experience. As I’ve said to USA Wrestling administrators and event hosts, “We don’t need to try to wow these people with how much money we can spend. We need to wow them with our sensitivity to their needs”. That’s gonna’ be my driving principle.
Over the longer haul, I hope I can stay true to my own principles. I want to be a great teacher of the relationship between coaching and officiating. I want to continue to be a risk-taker on developing styles. Both are the mainstays that brought me to this Sunday evening.
I want to give Beach Wrestling, Pankration and other FILA accepted styles a fair shot. The last long shot was Women’s Wrestling, and that one has treated me well. I can’t see closing my mind to risks the FILA leadership feel can help promote our sport.
So, that’s my deal. I just want to be one of those guys… I have a lot of guys and girls to look up to… that is willing to do what he can with what he has, when it’s necessary. I don’t know a better way to express my Thanks than through action.
Thursday, 7 August 2014
I was proud of our American Girls today. Read Gary Abbot’s news release, along with his blog, to learn the details of our two Bronze medals.
I was just as proud, if not more, of FILA’s refereeing mentality. Collectively, we wished a Happy Birthday to Sweden’s Djalal Kakavand, who turned 60 today. I’m not the only Old Guy here. Djalal will celebrate his retirement in Tashkent.
What was so cool was watching the entire group of officials celebrate this wonderful man. Djalal was born and raised in Iran, but has spent his adult life as a Swedish citizen. He has held an international referee license since 1990.
We took the time to sing Happy Birthday, in our morning clinic. This evening got even better. Our Croatian hosts took us all out for a traditional dinner. The event ended with a sparkler covered cake and more singing.
For me, the coolest thing was watching FILA instructor Iancho Costandinov MC the celebration. Iantcho called upon every national delegation… every… to sing some song for Djalal. (We teamed with Canada’s Lenis Thokle to sing Yankee Doodle.)
The hero who caught my attention, the most, today is U.S. coach, Seiko Yamamoto. My opinion, shared by many, is that Coach Yamamoto could be the difference between where our women’s program is and where we want to be.
I’m fortunate in that I get a little inside track on what National Coach Terry Steiner has planned for our girls. Seiko offers so much that is positive. In a single word, though, ‘Discipline’ is her greatest contribution.
We all want to make some great mystery of how Japan keeps winning. But, when you hold any of us to the fire, we really do know what that difference is. I am extremely hopeful for what Coach Seiko can add to our program over the next 18 months. We are lucky to have this brilliant young champion coaching American girls.
Wednesday, 6 August 2014
We were all saddened, this morning, to learn of the passing of Set Agonian. Set was one of the good guys! Please read Gary Abbot’s Zagreb blog to get a better picture of this great wrestling contributor.
On the topic of ‘Contributors’, I have spent my last 37 days with some of the great ones. Today, I’m narrowing my conversation to fellow officials.
It only takes one session at an event like the Junior Worlds to realize how rich we are, as an Officials’ Organization. The United States has developed the deepest, most talented, best educated pool of referees in all of wrestling.
Since I left home, I’ve spent time with six of America’s top referees. Cody Hesser represented us well at the University Worlds, in Hungary. Jerry Kuntz and Michael Jordan were with me, in Slovakia, for the Cadet Worlds. Here, at the Juniors, Danny Blackshear, Sam Julian and Roy Scott are assigned.
Watching these guys work inspires me. There are just so many things they do well. The cool part is that they represent countless more, back home, that do the same every time they get a chance. I want to thank the six I’ve been so lucky to hang with during my little sojourn for taking such good care of me.
Here’s another ‘Thanks’. Thirty years ago, Rick Tucci set out to build the strongest, best educated national body of referees on the planet. It worked. As the program’s architect, Tucci pushed the idea, “Each one teach one”. I appreciate my teachers and those who have asked me for advice. I appreciate Rick for being the glue that has held us together.
Tonight, I appreciate Adam Coon, a young man that should be your hero! Adam won a Bronze medal today, wrestling Greco. As the rest of the Greco guys travel tomorrow, Adam will prepare to wrestle freestyle on Sunday. Adam, his family and his coaches exemplify good ole’, down-home courage. Thanks!
Tuesday, 5 August 2014
As you read in Gary’s story, the American Greco guys had a tough morning. From a purely officiating standpoint, we had a pretty strong day, though. I thought most of the guys and girls calmed down and got things right.
After sharing some insight about the referees’ clinic, yesterday, I thought I’d give you my take on the logical ‘next step’. That would be ‘Teamwork’!
Most referees from other countries get to their coaches and athletes as soon as they can, after the clinic. Sometimes it’s not easy, as referees are often in a different hotel, more than walking distance from their teams. That’s the case here.
But, there are ways. I jumped on the bus to weigh ins, along with several refs from other countries and the guys assigned to work the weigh in. We can also get to our guys just before each session. Truthfully, this is something we, as Americans, really need to work on.
It’s not like you’re changing the world. But, to an athlete preparing for a full day of battle, information is power. If we are able to reduce any distraction narrow the focus, take the officials out of their picture, we help our kids have a better chance, however slightly.
The best example, this summer, has been preparing for the way each tournament is going to orchestrate par terre starts. Preparing American kids for, what seem like, super-slow starts may save us a caution, or even gain us one. Every little bit helps.
What I see as the bigger deal goes back to the simple language: Teamwork. Sadly, in traditional American thinking, Coaches and Referees don’t share much information. Officials are not really supposed to know enough technique or tactic to understand what each kid does. Coaches, the natural enemies of narrow-minded referees, are not supposed to be interested in today’s rule interpretations.
Even a great many of our tournament organizers and hosts consider officials ‘a necessary evil’. While nothing could be further from real, the perception still haunts us. It’s on my mind because I get a little jealous, watching how important Croatia’s officials have been, and continue to be, in the planning and organizing of this World Championship.
We have gotten better, our coaches and officials behaving more as a team, over the last decade. We can still do a better job, combining roles to maximize service to athletes and hence, medal production. As I fade into the sunset, I urge those who come after to keep getting better. It’s the right thing to do.
Monday, 4 August 2014
Driving in yesterday was the deal. It made it easier for our host, Davor. It also made it much easier for us to get settled and figure out the logistics we’ll need for the next week.
This morning was the ‘Clinic’. Seems like you always hear referees talking about the ‘Clinic’. I’m not sure anyone has ever explained the ‘Clinic’, in laymen’s terms. I’ll try.
It’s a solid premise to gather all participating referees just prior to any, and every competition. We’ve always done this in the Olympic styles and I wish we would in American folkstyle. Prevention always beats cure.
Whether it’s different schools from around a state, different states from throughout a region, or different countries for a World Championship, referees always arrive with the isolated view of their own local.
The beauty of our sport depends on applying the same rules the same way, at least for today. Realizing nothing’s perfect, and we can’t make people smart, this still provides our athletes a more consistent opportunity for success.
We have 59 referees in Zagreb, representing about 30 countries. Some are seasoned, some are new. Some work a lot, some are seeing these rules for the first time… really!
Our instructors are Karri Toivola, from Finland, and Iantcho Kostadinov, from Bulgaria. Actually, Karri’s plane was delayed, so Croatia’s own Davor Petanjik stepped in. Under FILA’s new leadership, instructors are using technology to offer greater, up-to-the-minute consistency. Davor always gives an intelligent presentation.
Today’s clinic focused on three areas: Differentiating point values between Greco and Freestyle; The concept of risk, in applying ‘Slip’ calls; and Managing passivity. The differentiation issue helps everyone understand that we must clearly distinguish our two styles, if we intend to keep both in The Games.
Slipped throws and the notion of ‘Risk’ are not new. The concept is really simple, but people screw it up all the time. This new application is reminiscent of the late 80’s and early 90’s. You can’t score points without doing something, technically and offensively. Falling on top of another athlete, who DID take a risk, should not earn points.
I mentioned, in an earlier installment, we now have an entire generation of referees who have never had to figure out passivity. It’s much more art than science. As such, it’s never going to get perfect. The key… and this was presented well… is communication.
Athletes depend on quick, easy to digest information. Our coaches can provide that if referees communicate what it is they perceive. The tactical part of our practice offers athletes a chance to put themselves in adverse situations, and thrive.
Now that I’ve outlined the aim of the clinic, we all really just have to cross our fingers. Like I said, we can’t make people smart! During the first couple of days, a pecking order will emerge. There will be some intimidators and some intimidated.
Most, though, will adapt to the new paradigm of leadership in FILA. Cooperatively, we should get pretty solid and stay that way. Do I sound optimistic? I am.
Sunday, 3 August 2014
After arriving in Murska Sobota, I need to patch in some details from yesterday’s transfer. I projected the story of our visit to the vineyard, based on what I knew from my previous visit. I was close.
The place belongs to Rado and Simona Suman, and has been in his family since the 14th century. His Dad was another of Yugoslavia’s great wrestling champions, scheduled to compete in Tokyo 1964, until an injury pulled him. His replacement, Bronco Simic, became Olympic Champion.
Rado helped his Dad rebuild the wine cellar and vineyards after Slovenija gained her independence in the early 1990’s. Inheriting the property, Rado and Simona have dedicated their lives, not simply producing wines, but producing the most ecologically responsible wines on the planet.
Everything is natural! Insect pests are regulated by chickens. Bacteria pests are regulated by oils from other plant products. Weeds and competition plants are controlled by 23 sheep, who even trim excess foliage from established vines.
I mentioned that much of the Suman product is based on Slovenija’s notorious production of white grapes. True, but I had forgotten just how special Rado’s Red is. I am more of a Red guy, myself, and this wine is luscious!
I mentioned that we planned to enjoy a ‘Snack Tray’. Close! We cooked out and shared a large and wonderful meal. We talked into the evening. These are some of the finest people you ever imagined.
I mentioned that we would stay with Stane until early Monday morning. Close! At the request of Davor Petanjik, Croatia’s FILA instructor and deeply involved in the organization of the World Championship, we will drive to Zagreb this afternoon. Beating the rush of teams registering tomorrow will make life easier for all.
Saturday, 2 August 2014
Time to move, again. After a relaxing, late breakfast and a walk in the nearby botanical garden. We met Stanislav Sernek at Bar Skorpijon. Stane is Solvenija’s Olympic level official and leader of a club in Murska Sobota.
We’ll stay at Stane’s until early Monday morning, then drive a quick hour and a half to Zagreb. The referee’s clinic starts at 9:00am, so we’ll leave Murska Sobota around 7:00.
The drive from Razvanje to Murska Sobota is a short two hours. We stopped, along the way, at a family vineyard I had visited in 2010, with Petko. This young family entrepreneurship is pretty amazing. They produce a variety of wines, but stick with Slovenija’s famous white, as their mainstay.
We got to tour the cellar and taste several, one right from the cask! We finished with some conversation, over an elaborate snack tray. Off to Stane’s house.
Friday, 1 August 2014
Yesterday’s train ride brings us to Maribor, Slovenia. For me, this is a critical part of the closure process. My first big walkabout, in 1995, started in Maribor. So, I guess I’m returning to the scene of the crime.
This is my fifth trip to Slovenia. It won’t be my last. During that 1995 adventure, Sterling was with me as part of a Juniors Greco tour. One of the most wonderful families on the planet ‘adopted’ us.
That family is the Kozars: Stanko; Helena; daughter Metka; son Mitja. Both Metka and Mitja are grown and have families of their own. They’ve moved into the town Maribor. Stank and Helena still live in their beautiful country home in the nearby, tiny village of Razvanje.
That’s where Eva and I are now, Razvanje. Every deep breath, in this place, heals me. This really has become a second home. We arrived Thursday during Mitja’s lunch hour, so he and his parents were waiting on the train platform. After coffee, Mitja went back to work, while we drove to Razvanje with Stanko and Helena.
We spent the afternoon, just catching up on family stories. In the evening, Mitja and his girlfriend Katja came over, along with Metka, her boyfriend Tom, and their two sons, Klemen and David.
Today, I got up early to take advantage of the washing machine. Wringing out t-shirts, socks and underwear in the sink wears thin after awhile!
After breakfast Metka picked us up for a reunion tour of the city and surrounding area. We rode the tram up Pohorje Mountain, home of the famous Golden Fox Women’s Alpine Ski Championship.
After lunch, we strolled through Lent, Maribor’s Old town. The big deal, in Lent, is visiting the ‘Old Vine’. This 450-year-old grape vine, still producing, is the Oldest Living Thing in Europe!
Later, Mitja joined us and we visited his in-laws vineyard, way up in the mountains. What a view. We drove back to Razvanje in time for a reunion at Bar Skorpijon.
Bar Skorpijon is a restaurant pub, owned and operated by Jure Floriancic and his Dad, Slavko. It has become a meeting place for wrestlers, in addition to just a great place. Of wrestling interest, Slavko was Yugoslavian runner-up, in 1976, to one Momir Petkovic… Olympic Champion.
I call it a reunion because Slovenian wrestlers from my past drove from as far as Austria, just to spend a couple of hours reminiscing. Marko and Sasha competed in my first tournament, here, in 1995. They toured New Jersey and Pennsylvania, together with Mitja, in 1998.
Jure was also around in 1995, but is a couple of years younger. He was part of the
Slovenian delegation that visited New Mexico in 2000. Eva and I had just started dating when Jure visited Grants.
We laughed and talked and cut on each other for a couple of hours. What makes the biggest impression on me, though, is that on-going comradery, that brotherhood, that unconditional love, that wrestling brings out in us.
It was a lovely day.
Thursday, 31 July 2014
Today was truly a day spent in beauty! After a leisurely morning cappuccino and chocolate croissant, we walked across the street to the side entrance of Schonbrun.
Schonbrun is the palace and gardens of the Hapsburg Dynasty. The palace tour is cool and moderately priced. But the gardens… Oh! The gardens. It’s one of those royal displays that contributed to the floral designs on the backs of playing cards. There are rose gardens and labyrinth gardens, and wisteria arbors and zen gardens and more.
All of these are connected by long lanes, umbrella’d by manicured tree lines. At the far end of the main courtyard is Austria’s War Memorial, a spectacular display in the Roman tradition.
And the crowning glory: Access to the gardens is free to the public, every day, all the time. So, you see a lot of joggers and strollers and couples holding hands. People bring picnics. There are children’s gardens and even a zoo.
We walked and relaxed and enjoyed the variety of the horticultural feast. Around four o’clock, we strolled back across the street to our hotel. With a shower and a change of clothes, we were off to the Musikverein for the symphony.
We had chosen a rather small symphony; all Mozart. The hall is small and ornately decorated. The acoustics, perfect. Oh, it was fun. The group presented a dozen pieces of Wolfgang’s finest, half of them with voice accompaniment. The entire company wore period costume, complete with the white, curly wigs and knee length, white stockings.
Tomorrow morning, we have an early train from Vienna to Maribor, Slovenia. The trip through the Julian Alps will, doubtless, be another beautiful experience.
Sometime… not now… I have to tell you the story of Ossi. Ossi is a large Sulpur Crested Cockatoo that lives in the lobby of our hotel. There’s a sign next to Ossi’s perch, warning visitors, “Do Not Touch. The Bird Bites”.
If you are Sterling, or Hagerty, or Casey, you already see where this is headed. I offered Ossi the side of my hand. He hopped right on. I spent a full hour with Ossi walking back and forth, across my shoulders, stopping to nestle his head in my neck. He enjoyed the fact that he could get me to mimic his variety of sound effects, instead of pulling the old, “Polly wanna’ cracker” gig. I love this bird.
Wednesday, 30 July 2014
I’ve always had a fascination with the Danube River. It’s that History Teacher thing in me. Add to that, the three beautiful cities I mentioned earlier: Prague; Vienna; and Budapest all sit on the river.
Yesterday, I got to invest in my relationship with the Danube. Eva and I were up at dark-thirty, to catch a hydrofoil up the river, from Budapest to Vienna. Way cool boat ride!
The hydrofoil is a day-trip. There are larger ships that cruise the river, but it’s about a two-day trip to Vienna. This is a much smaller craft… probably 40 passengers… and it travels at 55km an hour. That’s slow enough to soak up the scenery, but the whole trip is six and a half hours.
It was a dream come true! The Danube Bend is definitely the most beautiful area, but the whole trip is pretty. It’s easy to see why eastern Europeans call her Duna (the Mother River).
We got to Vienna around 3:30pm. After a snack, we caught the metro for an easy ride to the area of our accommodation. We are staying only a block from the entrance to Schonbrun Palace and Gardens… Austria’s answer to Versailles.
We called the evening early, so as to sleep some of the jet lag out of Eva. Tomorrow is a day to look forward to.
Tuesday, 29 July 2014
There’s a great argument about which is Eastern Europe’s most beautiful city. Some say Prague… good choice. Some say Vienna… certainly in the top five. My choice is, has been, and will remain, Budapest!
Eva and I both made all our connections, meeting shortly after 3:00pm in the Ferihegy Airport. While shuttling into the city center, I was lucky enough to have my phone on when it rang. It was the coordinator of our housing reservation. He told me where to have the driver drop us off and that someone would come for us. Even for me, this came off a little sketchy.
Sure enough, the guy dropped us off in front of a fairly major restaurant. A few minutes later, Valeria came to retrieve us. We walked maybe five blocks, entered a heavy iron gate and found ourselves in the shell of a World War II era courthouse.
Two more iron gates and a tiny elevator ride later, Valeria led us into our apartment. Wow! We had three large rooms, an ante-room, a kitchen and separate toilet and shower closets. The whole thing was decorated, immaculately, with artifacts and photos from the late 19th, early 20th centuries.
Valeria completed our paperwork, show us the slot to drop our keys (we had one for every gate and door!), and said goodbye. Now, the kicker, we got this for substantially less than most ‘It’ll Do Inns’, back home. We were off to a good start.
We stowed our bags and walked the square block, just to get our bearings. We popped into the big, fancy hotel across the street and helped ourselves to a couple of their business cards. It’s always handy to have an address in your pocket for those late-night cab rides.
Back at the apartment, we grabbed our swimming attire and headed off to Budapest’s famous Szechenyi Bath. This gorgeous spa covers a square block, is completely fed by natural, geothermal springs, and is housed in the architecture of the ancient Roman baths.
We caught the metro, wet hair and all, and hurried to the city center for a late night dinner with friends. Peter Bacsa and Laszi Peteri are Hungary’s two Olympic officials. They, along with girlfriends Rita and Katelina, planned this outing weeks ago.
What is extraordinary is that Bacsa had just flown in from refereeing the Golden Grand Prix, in Baku. Rita picked him up at the airport and whisked him straight to dinner. Laszi was teaching a Combative Arts class that ended at 9:00pm. Katelina picked him up so they could meet us at the restaurant. Rita has to fly to Shanghai tomorrow morning.
The place was nice. It’s one of a flock of new-age establishments, taking over abandoned courtyards and dilapidated buildings in urban centers. Great food, easy ambience.
The punch line came after dinner, when Bacsa said, “Laszi, give him his present”. I knew I was about to get ripped on for being ‘The Old Guy’. First, though, the girls gave Eva a beautiful set, including hand-made, traditional, Hungarian earrings and necklace.
I did get cut on, but my present is awesome. It’s one of the Hungarian Federation’s domestic Referee polos. But, the guys had taken it to the printer and had my name added to the front. On the back, they had screened a giant number ‘60’ (for the FILA retirement age). Now that I’m an honorary member of the Hungarian Federation, I can still blow a whistle here for as long as I want. I have to admit, I cried.
Monday, 28 July 2014
I get to see my beautiful Eva today! No, I’m not going home yet. Eva’s flying in. I told you, we’ve been saving for a couple of years to do this ‘Last Walkabout’, and we’re doin’ it up.
Can you believe this brave and gentle woman is willing to fly half way around the planet to be with me while I thank my friends? The coolest part is, “They love her as much as I do… well almost!”
So, Eva left early Sunday morning. Fingers crossed, she connected in Atlanta, hopefully missing the weather. I left Bucharest Monday morning, dark-thirty.
Eva will have her morning coffee in Paris while I have mine in Riga, Latvia. We both have six-hour layovers. If everything’s on time, I get to Budapest at 2:35pm and Eva gets in at 2:55.
I’m hoping Eva can get a nap. We’re only in Budapest one night. The plan is to check into our small apartment, then spend late afternoon and early evening at the famous Szechenyi Bath and Spa.
After that, two friends are picking us up for a late dinner. Laszlo Peteri and Peter Bacsa are names familiar to wrestling referees who travel. Laszi and Bacsa are the guys that invented hospitality. Bacsa is flying in from Baku, himself, at 7:15 tonight. He’s just in from the Golden Grand Prix.
Tomorrow morning, early, we’ll make our way down to the Danube and catch a hydrofoil for a trip up the river, to Vienna.
Sunday, 27 July 2014
This is one of those weekends when I’m really glad to be American. I’m thinking of all those mat officials who just left Fargo, exhausted yet enthused. As you process all the feedback you gave or received, celebrate the way we educate.
When we go overseas, to World or Continental Championships, we get to see the tip of the iceberg, in the way the rest of the world teaches our craft. At a National, invitational event, like the Cornianu / Simon Memorial, most Americans would be shocked and awed.
‘Intimidation’ is the only word that fits the interaction between the perceived ‘Big Dogs’ and those looking for promotion. When I was first exposed to this pecking order mentality, it assaulted my American sensibilities and sensitivities. The way I fit in, here in Bucharest, I spent two days being entertained. More of that story, along the way.
Here’s some advice I’m comfortable offering, publicly. We, as Americans, have the tools to really get ahead right now. With the rules advances that are going on, there exists a very steep learning curve. It’s not just in the United States. It’s global!
I’ve mentioned this in Coach Education clinics, and I mean no disrespect. But, the yucky rules were in place long enough to produce an entire generation of referees. We spent over a decade standing around, waiting to flip a disc, draw a ball, and make a match winning decision on some kind of clinch.
Suddenly, we find ourselves back in a mode that lets up be PART OF the flow of the match. The tighter the bout, the more imperative it is that we play our role effectively.
Theses rules and, actually, the future of our sport depend on action. As much as we wish action could be constant, it’s impossible. Hence, we deal with passivity. Having never dealt with this issue before, many of our top, up-and-coming referees don’t have the tools or practice to diagnose passivity.
I watched countless matches, the last two days, whose outcomes were questionable, simply because the crew could not manage passivity. Many of these guys are stuck in that mind-set that, once any point has been scored, we’re supposed to stand around and watch… no matter how ugly it gets. Error!
You know this is one of my crusades, so it won’t come a surprise. I believe that, for us to speed our own learning curve, referees and coaches need to be in the room with kids, at the same time. Passivity has method, sometimes by accident, sometimes quite intentional. It’s got a certain feel to it. That said, there are certain key indicators your local coach can teach you. I’m going out on a limb, but I believe most will be happy to.
With some of the shakes going on in officiating… and, believe me, there are some… I just want to see Americans get their due. We are known for being ethical and fair-minded. If we can become more well versed in evolving technical and tactical coaching strategies, we can put a lot of our referees on the world stage.
Saturday, 26 July 2014
There are 17 countries competing in the Cornianu & Simon Memorial Tournament in Bucharest. I haven’t seen any defending Olympic Champions. The caliber is definitely developmental, while at the Senior level.
There are, however, a couple of notable personalities present… two guys on my ‘Thank You’ list. Gui Vasile is another Romanian referee I grew up with. George Kalchev, from Bulgaria, is here recruiting his famous George-Tours.
George has made the trip to Fargo the last several years. This time around, his camp schedule, covering five countries, was simply too demanding. Some of the best Mike Hagerty stories I know were born in Bulgaria, thanks to George and his wife, Virginia. I’ll probably end up telling all those stories, because Hags is too cheap to bribe me not to!
Gui Vasile is a gentle man and a fair-minded referee. Funny how often those two attributes combine. Gui and I started working together sometime in the early 1990’s.
If you know me, you know I enjoy sending a lot of Christmas cards. It gives me a chance, annually, to remind myself how lucky my life has been. The folks at my small-town post office get a big chuckle at the quantity of stamps I go through, not to mention the number of countries I get reciprocating cards from.
Every year, for as long as I can remember, I get a card from Gui Vasile. Sometimes I get it in late November, early December. More often, it arrives in late January, early February. But… it arrives.
The last several years, Gui has started using the cards, with the little trigger inside, that sing when you open them. They always have beautiful art that shows off Romanian culture. They are always signed in the simplest, most meaningful way. The handwriting says, simply, “From your friend”. Yes, you are!
So, on the domestic front, Fargo ends today. From everything I’ve read, it went well. I know there have been some great matches among our magic young studs and stud-ettes. The notes I’m getting are all complimenting the officiating. From a distance, please accept my congratulations and thanks, to all the athletes, coaches, referees and volunteers that feed the beast.
Friday, 25 July 2014
The teams arrive today for the Cornianu and Simon Memorial event, in Bucharest. Lazar has responsibilities, working for the Federation. I’ll help where I can. We have our clinic tonight at five.
All this meant that, for me to have the one wish I had emailed Lazar about, we could not go home from Costani’s. We drove three and a half hours, directly to Dracula’s Castle!
Most everyone knows, the real name is Castle Bran. When you put together Vlad the Impaler’s life and Bram Stocker’s Count Dracula, set in Transylania, the legend has grown.
Truthfully, I’m not a big Vampire fan. Still, the history and the architecture make this a place everyone ought to visit.
On the way back to Bucharest, we stopped in a beautiful mountain resort town. There, I was able to taste Romania’s traditional soup, made with beef tripe. Ironically, it’s a lot like our Menudo, a famous New Mexican new year’s tradition.
Yesterday was one of those days to be thankful for. This Wrestling lifestyle gives us so much depth of existence. Things like this just make me say, “Wow”.
Thursday, 24 July 2014
I’m back tacking, just a little. Knowing I would be in an internet drought, for a couple of days, I spent my downtime in Vienna writing ahead. I needed to explain the deal between me and Lazar. Now, I’m glad I did.
My short flight from Vienna to Bucharest turned out to be anything but. We left Vienna a few minutes late, accommodating a thunderstorm. We were scheduled to land in Bucharest at six o’clock. The captain informed us Bucharest was seeing more severe storms. We circled Bucharest until fuel told us not to.
Landing in Constanta, on the Black Sea coast, Austrian Air unloaded us. After about 45 minutes, they offered us our alternatives: Take the bus they would provide to Bucharest; hire a taxi, or built a hut in Constanta. I was first on the bus.
A Romanian girl helped me phone Lazar. The bus pulled into the DEPARTURE terminal, in Bucharest, just before midnight. All of us commenced dragging luggage the half mile to the ARRIVAL hall, where any chance of a ride might logically wait.
I got to Lazar’s homestead around three o’clock, to officially clock a 24 hour day. After a bite to eat and a shot of Palenka, I slept ‘til 10:30.
The next 24 hours justified Forrest Griffin’s quote, “The juice is worth the squeeze”! I fought off the constant urge to snap a bazillion pictures on my phone, forcing myself to record the memories the old-fashioned way… paying attention.
I believe I’m going to be capable of relating the story, in words. That’s the goal. I can outline and highlight, here in the blog. But, fair warning, to learn the sordid details, you’re gonna’ have to buy the book. (How many of you saw that coming?)
After a pretty complete guided tour of Bucharest, in Lazar’s car, we came home, changed clothes and packed an overnight bag. All I knew was we were going to the country, to a friend’s, for a barbeque and some drinking. That ought to explain the overnight bag.
The guy’s name is Costani (short for Constantine) and he has the most ultimate party-house set up, and the most gorgeous garden, I’ve ever seen. He picked a tomato the size of a small pumpkin and sliced it for dinner!
A former restaurateur, Costani has set up his country home with a small party-hut about every 50 meters. We sat in all of them, toasted, tried various wines and told stories.
Around ten o’clock, joined by the Vice-Mayor of the village, we began the well-known, male-bonding ritual of building the fire in the grill. Each of us contributed our own nugget of time-tested expertise. The fire started, anyway.
The meat cooked, the wine flowed and the stories grew in the magnitude of their conquest. After some sleep, we had coffee in the largest outdoor cubicle. By ten in the morning, Lazar and I were on the road.
Wednesday, 23 July 2014
I promised you the story of me and Lazar. Buckle up.
Ovidiu Lazar is a Romanian referee who lives in Bucharest. We met in 1993 at the European Junior Championship in Gotzis, Austria. Both of us were “on the way up”.
If you’re associated with wrestling, in any capacity, you’ll know this: T-Shirts and Lapel Pins are the equivalent of currency. Every tournament, every country, every year… the big deal is handing out T-Shirts and Pins to friends you work with.
Most people, it’s fair to say, kinda’ hang and wait, confident that the real friends won’t forget them. There are others that, for their own reasons, push and pester and beg for a knick-knack. My friend Lazar is one of those.
The other Europeans say (and I believe) Ovidiu comes from Gypsy heritage. This, they say, makes coveting and hoarding an innate component of his being. I guess choosing to believe this makes it easier for me to look past it. I have learned to tolerate what many Americans cannot, in Lazar’s social deportment.
I’ve also learned that, in most countries, it is natural, polite and acceptable for one referee to “put in a good word” for the athletes of his/her country with the other referees. I can’t tell you how often it actually pays off. I can tell you it happens quite often. I can tell you the notion simply does not fit the American way of thinking.
In 1997, I paid my own way to work the African Juniors in Durban, South Africa. I managed my travel so that I could go directly to the World Cadets in Maribor, Slovenia. Being the ‘extra’ referee, I got permission to stay with a family, just outside Maribor. This saved me a bunch of money. (Eva and I will stay with the same family, next week!)
The two assigned Americans were Tom Clark and Tom Siar. We were all growing into success, along with guys like Lazar. That generation of referees remain close, to this day.
During a medal session, one afternoon, I was just getting focused to go on the mat for a match between Romania and somebody. Seconds before I went up on the platform, Lazar approached me, gave me the wink-wink, and suggested the Romanian kid could ‘use a little help’. I was torched!
It was a pretty good match. The Romanian won. It was not close. Still, I felt tarnished because everyone had seen the request. The last thing any of us need, especially when we’re just getting close to promotion, is for others to think we might be on the take.
Right after the session, I stopped by Tom and Tom’s room for a soda pop and some story telling (OK… maybe it wasn’t soda-pop). A knock on the door, and it’s Lazar and the President of the Romanian Federation. They came by to “Thank Me”.
That’s when I lost it! I jumped up, screaming obscenities, poking fingers in chests (both of these were BIG guys). I made it abundantly clear that, “I do not cheat! Americans do not cheat! And, if you ever approach me again, alone or in public, I will $&*@#ing %#*& you!!!
I know he rubs a lot of people the wrong way, but Ovidiu Lazar has respected my integrity. He has never even come close to putting either of us in a rough situation. WE had a drink that night in Slovenia and have been friends ever since.
Tuesday, 22 July 2014
I always hate the three o’clock in the morning starts. There are a lot of them in this lifestyle. This alarm went off in a hotel room near the airport in Kosice, Slovakia. One eye open, I mumbled enough to wake my roommate, Mark Hall.
Our ticketing had come through, last night, and I was successful checking us in online. We went out to eat. The lady at the desk recommended a place called Jazz Klub… she was right.
The restaurant was half a block off Hlavna Ulica, the Old Town of Kosice. From what our best friend, Google, had to say, it’s a great place to sightsee, pick up some history, and take a few pictures wearing something besides a singlet.
Our dinner was great, but our walk was brief. Kosice got more rain, last night, than Grants, New Mexico has had this decade! Mark and I toughed it out, for at least the first few blocks, and did get a couple of pics. Make sure you get Mark to tell you the story of me and my brand new umbrella. You’ll get a chuckle.
Rain and all, our flights were on time. We had a nap, and then coffee, in Vienna. Mark’s now safely on a flight to Chicago O’Hare. He knows exactly where his passport and boarding pass are. He’s got a handwritten script of what to do to catch his Lansing flight. His phone is charged, so he can call his parents, text me, and set his alarm for four o’clock!
I’m off to another gate, for another nap. I, too, will set an alarm. My flight to Bucharest leaves at 3:20. I’m staying a few days with Ovidiu Lazar. Many of the older guys in Fargo will recognize Lazar’s name. No doubt, stories will be told.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell my version.
Monday, 21 July 2014
Things are good. Life’s working. And one very tired Slovakian goat tinkled through the night. Mark Hall’s passport arrived at Hotel Alibaba just before noon. The timing allowed us to catch the last team bus from Hummene to the airport in Kosice.
We found the hotel Mitch Hull has suggested, which is right across the street from a huge, new mall. Mark and I could not resist a Mickey D’s run.
We’re gonna’ hang for a while, so I can work on getting airline confirmation. Cody Bickley is working on that, first thing this morning. Looks like things are getting easier.
Mark and I are planning to Kosice’s Hlavna Ulica this evening. This Main Street is a renovated walking street on the original medieval town center. We both agree that, if we’re gonna’ be stuck here an extra day, we should see something extraordinary.
Mark Hall is a cool kid. He’s pretty much a beast, on the mat… very slick hips! Off the mat, he’s a little reserved… doesn’t make a lot of noise. He’s a very deep person. I have enjoyed building conversation with a young man that can think deeply, and does. We have shared some travel stories and laughed a lot.
Mark Hall is a cool kid!
Sunday, 20 July 2014
Sometimes, plans change. This is one of those times. Our most recent World Champion, Mark Hall, is not getting on the bus with the team at one o’clock tomorrow morning. Mark has no passport.
The good news is that the passport is found. The bad is that it was found in the locker room of a sauna in Vienna, Austria. Our freestyle guys had an extended layover, on the way in, so they found a hotel with a sauna. Mark’s passport fell out of his bag.
Upon arrival in Hummene, all athletes were asked for passports to complete hotel registration. You can picture the exponential growth of panic, as Mark searched. Fortunately, someone has turned it in to the desk in Austria.
Team Leader Mitch Hull had hard copies of everyone’s inside page. The FILA leadership was gracious and trusting, in letting Mark weigh in with the copy. So, the last remaining problem was getting the passport from Vienna to Hummene.
Kosice, Slovakia’s second largest city is about a two-hour drive. FedEx was able to get the passport that far. From there to Hummene, seems like, is going to involve bicycles, ox carts, and maybe a small goat with a bell around its neck. FedEx doesn’t do Hummene.
Everyone in the American delegation is scheduled on a five o’clock plane to Vienna, tomorrow morning. The bus, as I mentioned, leaves at one. Mark is staying behind, waiting to hear the bell on the goat. Somebody, over 18 if not mature, has to stay with him. Any ideas?
Mitch knew, when he got here, that I would not go home with the team. I was supposed to drive, with a Romanian referee, from here to Bucharest. He left immediately after the finals. I didn’t.
We are told that, if it doesn’t stop to eat, the goat with the bell, may deliver Mark’s passport by six o’clock tomorrow night. If that’s true we can hitch a ride into Kosice in time to catch Tuesday’s 5:00am to Vienna. After I watch Mark walk down the jet-way, passport in hand, I’ll go catch a flight into Bucharest. I have a friend there that will pick me up.
I have the luxury of not being in a hurry. Yes, I’m anxious to spend a couple of days exploring Romania. But, I’ve got plenty of time to get someone else’s kid safely on a plane. Others have done the same for me. Another chance to say, ”Thank You”.
Saturday, 19 July 2014
Fargo starts today, and I want to wish everybody well. I’m not gonna’ make it this year, and I hope you’ll understand.
It’s funny. We all wonder, sometimes, if we’re the only one who has this crazy addiction. Not by a long shot!
My roommate, here in Hummene, is Jerry Kuntz. He paid his own way to get in a clinic to maintain his category. Jerry will leave here Monday morning at one o’clock. He’ll fly out of Kosice at 5:00, change planes in Vienna and Chicago, and get to Fargo Monday night around 6:00. He packed two bags last week and sent one, with the Oklahoma guys, to Fargo.
Cody Hesser might hold the record, though. Cody left Louisiana in early June. He did the Schoolboy/girl Duals in Indiana and visited family. From there, Cody went directly to Florida for the Cadet Duals. After a quick stop at home, to unpack and pack, he was off to Oklahoma for the Junior Duals.
Next, for Cody, were the University Worlds, then from Hungary directly to Mexico City for the Pan American Championship. He left Mexico City Friday to be in the clinic in Fargo today. Road Warrior!!!
There are so many folks in our organization that put in that kind of mileage. With me being on the road to thank so many foreigners, it seems only fair that I should extend my heartfelt gratitude to all the American coaches and referees that have made my life so rich.
Friday, 18 July 2014
I first worked with Gregorz Brudzinski at the Rockford International Tournament, in Illinois, in 1987. Gregory is an Instructor for FILA and is one of the delegates here in Hummene.
At the time, Gregory was in the U.S. on a temporary work visa. He was driving a truck in Chicago. He brought his refereeing hobby with him to the States, but left a young wife and two kids in Poland.
After two years of paperwork, he got word that he would, in fact be able to gain American citizenship, and then bring his family over. Problem was, it would take another three years. Greg thanked his sponsor, quit his job and went home to his family. Good choice!
Gregory was always a prankster… still is. I’ve been fortunate to be around him in several tournament climates, in several countries. He takes care of business, but always keeps the mood light hearted.
One of my favorite memories was a tour of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Gregory and his wife walked along with Eva and me. He wore one of the traditional Mongolian hats… the one with the spire on top… through the whole tour. I can only imagine what the Chinese must have thought.
Gregory’s been messing with me, pretty hard, here. I’m getting a lot of “Old Guy” grief. He told some of those Rockford stories, one morning, in our clinic. “Thirty years we’ve been together,” he said. Gregorz Brudzinski is my friend.
Thursday, 17 July 2014
I am fortunate to find myself in a lot of situations to speak with, counsel, and guide some very talented, up-and-coming referees. Some continue the dialogue forever. Some drift away as they become successful. I encourage all to choose and maintain a handful of mentors.
Some of those guys are here, at the Cadet Worlds. They have reached the top category in FILA and are being evaluated for Olympic consideration. Most handle their success very humbly, and they just keep getting better. A few start believing they’re bulletproof and become real jerks. They not only stop getting better, they get instantly worse. Ironically, they fade from the scene pretty quickly.
I worked, the last few days, with a couple of guys that fall into that category. One good thing about being the old guy is that I’ve learned to kinda’ lay back and be entertained. Mama always said, “Don’t wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty and the pig likes it”.
I work hard at trying to keep the younger guys from getting rattled by the intimidation. As an assistant mat leader, I get the freedom to spend a few extra minutes patting backs, squeezing shoulders, making eye contact, nodding and saying thank you.
It has given me another opportunity to be thankful for my teachers. Beyond mechanics and positioning, the guys that mentored me really pushed the ego management. Don’t get me wrong; you have to have an ego to wrestle, coach or referee. But our sport has a way of dealing with those that get their priorities out of whack.
I’ve learned to think of performance and work ethic in the analogy of an eighteen-wheeler truck and trailer. Your ability is the tractor that pulls the load, while your ego is the trailer. If your trailer gets out in front of your truck, there’s gonna’ be a wreck.
Keep your truck in front of your trailer!
Wednesday, 16 July 2014
Day sixteen, and I gotta’ get to forty-two. Now, wait, I’m not whining. I planned this trip for two years and I’m exactly where I want to be. That still doesn’t prevent me from getting a little homesick.
I had my first big walk-about in 1995, when I spent forty-five days back-packing my way from tournament to tournament, all over Europe. The guys I consider my teachers had been pushing me, real hard, to pay my own way and work some key European events.
I had been pretty successful, climbing my way up the American ladder. In those days, it was a lot more ‘pay to play’. The organization was not going to spend money, assigning someone to a lot of trips, until they saw that individual invest in their own future.
I had gotten a really cool assignment in January of 1995. I got to do the Ivan Podubny tournament, arguably the finest Greco championship on the planet. So, it was time for me to show a commitment to my own success.
I was fortunate enough to be assigned as a Coach / Team Leader for a Juniors tour to Slovenia, in June. Upon sending that group home with Coach Todd Rosenthal, I stayed behind.
After a brief stay in Austria, I spent the Fourth of July in Zurich. From Switzerland I caught a series of trains to end up in Witten, Germany. This was the site of the 1995 European Junior Men’s Championship.
After Witten, I spent some days in Paris and went on to Lyon. Then, after a quick stop in Geneva, I caught a night train to Gothenburg, Sweden. I made my way, by bus, down the coast to Klippan for the first ever European Junior Women’s Championship.
Another night train got me back to Vienna to catch my flight to the States. I got home Monday night, after forty-five days, unpacked, packed and left Wednesday to teach a session in the Silver Coaches’ College in Atlanta.
Thanks for that walk down memory lane. The reason I told you all that stuff, from almost 20 years ago, was to help you understand why my 2014 Walkabout is so important to me. In many ways, I’m simply returning to the scene.
Tuesday, 15 July 2014
I’m feeling bad for our Greco kids. But, truth be known, I’m tired of feeling bad for our Greco kids.
Know, first, I am a Greco “guy”. I’ve always been a Greco “guy”. That’s the source of my frustration. As individuals, none of our kids deserve the beating they so often take, overseas. As a program, unfortunately, we do deserve it, but it’s those great kids that have to take the beating for us.
I don’t blame any individual or group for this. I blame us all. With all the efforts Coach Fraser poured into developing a 21st century program, we had some success. I’m hoping Coach Lindland can take this to an even higher level. Without us committing, though… and I mean from brand new little kids through graduating college kids, no National Coach can be expected to produce much more than what we have.
Here we are with our Cadets, some wonderful kids. They’re all self-funded, which makes the choice between Slovakia and Fargo a tough one. The one athlete that chose not to attend the team camp came in and missed weight. Some of our most successful, in domestic competition, got absolutely schooled. Again, I’m not knocking the kids. I’m knocking the system that’s short-changing them.
Fast forward to High School and College athletes. Many of our “finest” coaches insist that only freestyle can help a kid in the folkstyle environment. Nonsense!
I realize there’s a sensitive and complicated formula in developing and maintain our overall National Teams program. I don’t pretend to know the details of budget and planning.
But I do know this: Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Sport focuses on youth and our youth are doing their part. I hope we invest as heavily in our Greco Roman Olympians, on the 2024 and 2028 teams as we ask them to invest of themselves.
Monday, 14 July 2014
“Why do we do this?” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked that question…
And, I phrased it WE, rather than YOU, intentionally. Many of the conversations I’ve had over the last two weeks… with some of the best friends in the world… who all ‘Do This’… have asked that same question.
It’s one thing when someone outside wrestling asks. We all give some version of the standard, smart-alec answer, “If you’re a wrestler, you get it without asking. If you’re not a wrestler, there’s no answer that you’ll understand”.
But, when a peer, a colleague, a fellow ‘addict’ brings it up, whoa! We’re in for a conversation, now! It invariably gets into some deep philosophical exploration. My perspective always leans toward the eastern thinking… Zen.
In the end, we all agree that we do this because we GET to, because we WANT to, and yeas, because we HAVE to. We agree that all civilized men and women, for all time, have felt the need to validate themselves through some activity outside of hunting for food.
In a word, we recreate. And, like all forms of recreation, we include both competitive and cooperative domains. In wrestling, it is the competition that catches the bulk of our attention. Whether referee or coach or competitor, we re-tell the stories of the great matches time and time again.
But we also have the great stories of cooperation, of teammates, sometimes soul mates. I love the stories that start with, “We were in such-n-such”. Or, “So-n-so and I were together in such-n-such”. Or, “At such-n-such, I got to referee the bout between so-n-so and what’s-his-name. The list goes on.
OK… I’ll lighten up. Suffice it to say that this beautiful sport DOES recreate us. We get to look up to great heroes. We get to sit, for a few minutes, with honest to goodness, down home GOOD people. As the poet Whitman would say, “We get to suck the sweet marrow out of life”. Thanks Wrestling!
Tomorrow: Cadet Worlds.
Sunday, 13 July 2014
As I leave Pecs, it’s another one of those collectible moments. You already know that I’ve put a great deal of planning into this sojourn. Still, things change. This one was a good change.
The original plan, worked out back in March, was that I would leave Pecs with Peter Bacsa. He would hand me off to the Hungarian team and I would ride their bus from Budapest to Hummene / Snina.
What changed was until I discovered Miro Vojkovic was in Pecs. Miro is a Slovakian official, and another one of my favorite humans. Obviously, he is one of the organizers of the Cadet Championship. Therefore, he needed to drive directly from Pecs to Hummene. I hopped in with Miro.
We left Pecs at 5:00am, stopped for gas in Budapest, crossed the border about 9:00 and arrived in Kosice near 10:00. Miro’s aunt, who’s also his Godmother, lives in Kosice. Her granddaughter is Miro’s Goddaughter. Mischa was celebrating her third birthday.
So, Miro shows up, dragging this old guy along. Obviously, from a three-year-old’s perspective, any old guy with Miro must be “Grandpa”. Mischa grabbed my hand and led me directly to the toys. We played, sang, had coffee and cake and played some more. I know, for sure, the old guy had fun!
Another two hours and we arrived in Hummene (Hoomenay), where the Championship will be held. Literature lists the event in Snina. Snina is a village, right on the Ukrainian and Polish borders, with a very strong wrestling club. Selected to host the World Championship, the Snina leaders will use the sport hall and hotels of Hummene to accommodate.
Saturday, 12 July 2014
The future of our Greco-Roman program has some high-octane fuel. The six young men, and their coaches, that represented us here are proof.
That doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of work to do… we do. But I hope Coach Lindland and Coach Petkovic, and the staff they organize, can appreciate the depth of our upcoming talent.
Globally, Greco-Roman wrestling is still facing some obstacles. Recent rule adjustments are doing a lot to breathe new life into what was a dying sport. We saw a lot of spectacular scoring in the University Worlds. The system is working.
Unfortunately, change takes longer with some. We have a few dinosaurs out there, still coaching to “Get the Call”, then feel cheated when they don’t. Stop! With the rules back in harmony, offense is king. If we practice both technique and tactic, which are offense oriented, all the “Calls” take care of themselves. We must capitalize on the gifts these rules offer.
It’s time for me to thank the Americans that made this a wonderful week for me. Athletes should always come first. What a classy bunch of people we put on the mat this week. Thank you girls and guys!
Our Greco coaches, Rodney Smith and Tommy Owen, give us more to look forward to. Both are keen technicians and powerful motivators. Thanks.
Our women were coached by Melissa Simmons, Emma Randall and Danny Struck. Their results speak for their efforts. Great job… Thanks.
Then there’s our men’s Freestyle group. When I’m together with Mike Hagerty and Doc Bennett, I feel like a member of the cast of Grumpy Old Men. But, I also feel like I’m learning a lot about wrestling and a lot about life. The better news was I go to spend some time with Nebraska’s Bryan Snyder. Thanks, my friends.
Tomorrow morning, I’m off to Snina, Slovakia.
Friday, 11 July 2014
This is my first time at the University Championship. It’s a unique collection of people and a unique event. There are a lot of good kids here.
The event is sanctioned by the International University Sports Federation. FISU goes to FILA for sport specific support. This dual management has caused some paperwork snafus for many delegations.
The Hungarian Wrestling Federation staffs the event. They answer to FILA. Cutting to the chase… there’s some double billing going on. Fortunately, in the digital age, this can get solved with wire transfers.
Back to the “Cool Kids” theme. FISU’s mission is to “Retain the spirit of play and encourage and develop an open and curious mind among university athletes”. I see a lot of success there.
I have learned that many, if not most, of these athletes paid their own way to get here. In itself, that is remarkable. Many plan to stay around for a few days, after the tournament. Awesome! Some of the European groups will drive to other historic areas, on the way home. Thank you!
I had breakfast with young coaches from Finland and Germany. It was the German guy who emphasized, “These guys are still students. Wrestling should do something for them, if they do not become Olympic Champions”. Well said. I have noticed, all week, that it’s the German athletes up early to participate in the cultural and sightseeing tours.
Two of the Canadian girls knocked on my door yesterday, needing to borrow a roll of toilet paper. I was surprised they were still on campus. The rest of the Canadian delegation left earlier. They explained they had discovered that the Hungarian federation was hosting a training camp next week, so they had made their plans to stay. They also were excited to share the list of things they want to see in Budapest. Well done!
American, Amy Fearnside went home. But, she’s on our Juniors team and will be back to Zagreb in three weeks. When Amy found out I’m staying, she bubbled over (Amy Bubbles Over!). It turns out she collects sand, or soil, samples from every place wrestling takes her. She displays her trophies in shot glasses. Cool collection. Amy has asked me to bring a shot glass full of Slovakia, Romania, Austria and Slovenia to her in Zagreb. How can I refuse? Cool kid!
Which brings us to Mervin Orrantia. Mervin is a 48-kilogram guy, from central Mexico, who showed up unannounced, on his own, by himself, to compete in the 59 kilogram Greco tournament.
The FISU representative, Julien Buhajezuk, worked his butt off to connect all the registration dots. The Hungarian staff got him housed. It was Esther, the coordinator of housing, that came to me. Not sure why me… but I’m flattered. “He needs a coach, Rusty. Will you coach him?”
It doesn’t take a Rocket-Surgeon to figure out the right thing to do. “Sure”, I said. I mentioned it to our coaches, Tommy Owen and Rodney Smith. They were cool with it. Then I looked at the brackets. It didn’t happen, but there was a possibility that Mervin could meet Sam Jones along the way. I spoke to Sam about it. He shrugged and said, “Seems like the right thing to do. Why not?” Cool kids!
Mervin had a great first period, then pretty much got roasted. He’s tiny! Sam went on to win a bronze medal, and looked good doin’ it.
Thursday, 10 July 2014
We got our men’s Freestyle contingent on the 1:00am bus to Budapest. Today we will complete the last six women’s weights.
After bragging BJ Futrell up, yesterday, I guess my awareness became heightened. These are ALL great kids. That’s one of the cool things about being able to make these trips. The adventures and adversities of travel let us see inside people’s souls.
The last three weeks, I’ve gotten close to Matt McDonough, from Iowa. As usual, this all kind of happened by accident. It all started with storms and delayed flights.
Matt’s one of those guys that’s extremely information driven. I call him “Captain Info”. (I call Matt LOTS of things, but I can print “Captain Info”). He, like all the good ones, is also addicted to routine.
Tuesday morning, we got up early for Matt’s pre-competition walk. He needs to get active and take in a lot of visual prompts. He had scouted out the famous Zsolnay Porcelain Factory, and decided to take me there.
We went into the outlet shop, in front of the factory, for a few minutes, and then finished our walk. We had lunch, got on the bus to the competition hall, and Matt spent the rest of the day winning a Bronze Medal.
The organizers put together a series of short sightseeing tours. Pecs really is a beautiful, historic town. The tour for Wednesday was… yep… Zsolnay Porcelain. I signed us both up, Tuesday night.
Besides giving me the excuse to drag McDonough out of bed and get him goin’, the tour served another purpose. Matt’s girlfriend is an artist who specializes in ceramics. So, after seeing the process and the fabulous collection of historic pieces, we returned to the shop. Matt got his girl a magnificent jewelry dish, and a small piece for his Mom. Yes, I snagged a little something for my Eva, too.
Even Matt, himself, pointed out the obvious. It’s kinda’ weird to think that we, known mostly as Referees, get close to some, mostly known as Athletes. But we do. Pretending we don’t would violate most people’s personal ethics, certainly mine. And to choose not to would violate the human condition.
Matt called me on it at dinner, the night of his wrestle-off to make this team. He put it simply, “You’d sit here and have dinner with me and then ref my match tomorrow, and make a tough call against me, wouldn’t you?”
After replying, “Yes, I would… 100 per cent”, I hope I put “Captain Info” at ease. I said (as I have to Matt’s coaches and generations of athletes), “Matthew, it’s pretty simple. I consider you my friend. Friends get to set high expectations. Do you think it’s fair for me to expect you to be excellent?” “Of course!” “Then, it’s fair for you to expect me to be excellent, too”.
Wednesday, 9 July 2014
I try not to have too many heroes, but I added a new Hero to my list today: BJ Futrell! Today, at 61kg, BJ wrestled better than well. He ended up with a silver medal and a story to tell.
In the semi-final match, BJ tweaked his right knee. The FILA doctor has full authority to pull him from the competition, and nearly did. The referee insisted he must. I try not to shout too often, but did this time. “Get up, NOW”. The doctor nodded, the referee shook his head, BJ won.
The knee did suffer a moderate strain to its MCL. The doctor was a much better guy than we thought. He explained the possible outcomes to BJ and said those magic words, “It’s your choice to continue”. He did.
BJ’s final ended 11-12, on the scoreboard. Watching it, later, I scored it 13-10. There were several hot calls, both ways. The error that bit us happened as the first period ended. Following an intense flurry, lots of points got entered into the computer. The Mat-Chairman summoned the Judge and Ref. They conferred. Two of BJ’s ‘Blue’ points got entered as ‘Red’. As Doc tossed in the Challenge Block, the Chair refused it, based on having conferred. It bit us!
Down 10-12, with a few seconds, BJ hit a hard shot, driving the Mongolian out of bounds, face down, both ankles captured. Originally scored ‘Two’, BJ wins on ‘Last Point’. After the Mongolian challenge, it was determined that only his hands were down. Two points turned to one and we lost 11-12.
Did I mention there’s a lot to be learned here? As Chair, the guy should have seized the opportunity to watch the video. (I made a bad call, earlier this year, and missed the opportunity to ASK for video review). As Team Leader, maybe this was the right time to at least start across the mat and draw the FILA Delegate’s attention.
BJ Futrell made it clear, instantly, that he had learned something. While it could not be articulated at the moment, it will turn into lots of chances for him to guide other athletes through horrible moments.
BJ Futrell will remain on one old guy’s list of heroes! This kid is a ‘Class Act’. The dignity and poise BJ showed, in and after the ‘Hurry Up’ moments of the award presentation, made us all proud to be Americans.
Tuesday, 8 July 2014
Today, the first four Men’s Freestyle weights of the University World Championship compete. We are in Pecs (pronounced Pech), in southwestern Hungary. From what I can tell, so far, Pecs is a beautiful town nestled in the mountains.
You think I’ve got stories… Doc Bennett dwarfs any ability I might claim. The guys here have given doc a new moniker, “Big Fish”. It doesn’t matter how great the tale, nor who it’s told by… Doc can, and will “Big Fish” ‘em! He took Raquel Welch shopping. (Ask your parents who that is!)
When I wandered into Doc’s and Hags’ room about one o’clock this morning, right off the bus, Doc was pestering Hags, “Where’re my clothes? You lost my clothes!” It seems the two had piled their nasty work out stuff in the anteroom of the dorm suite, intending to do laundry. The clothes somehow escaped. Doc was particularly freaked about his ‘favorite’ pair of warm up pants. Hags had no clue as to the whereabouts of the laundry.
I returned to their room, early this morning, to start on the daily plan. Half way down the hall, I could hear him, “You lost my &%$# clothes!”
After breakfast, I wandered to familiarize myself with the dorm layout. One floor down, on a chair, in a hallway, outside a Canadian athlete’s room, I discovered a pile of dirty workout gear. I have my suspicions, but we’ll never really know.
After reporting my find, I left “Pete and Repeat” (Hags & Doc) with their dirty clothes in the laundry room. They were savagely debating how to program the washer.
We spent the afternoon and evening competing on two mats in one of those good, old-fashioned, European sweatboxes. The Stars and Stripes had a pretty good day.
Tyler Caldwell is World Champion! The young man with the Zia tattoo on his ribs (Tyler spent his first 13 years in New Mexico) wrestled nearly perfectly all day.
Dustin Kilgore and Matt McDonough wrestled well. Dustin leaves with a silver medal, Matt with bronze. Anthony Ashnault wrestled well and did not place.
It’s important, to me, to preface each sentence with the words, “Wrestled Well”. Everyone who came here, did so to go home World Champion. Only 24 will.
Everyone who came here is a University “Student”. There’s a lot to be learned, if you call yourself “Student”. Most will learn, just a little more, about what’s between them and their goals. The 24, Tyler is one, will learn how to carry the title, “World Champion” and push the reset button on their “Goals APP”.
Monday, 7 July 2014
This was another one of those days that justifies the insanity! But, it’s always good to start with a little panic. As hard as they tried, the organizers of the Beach Worlds never really connected the dots.
The good news is that the bus finally DID show up. I dragged my six weeks worth of stuff, in a big red bag, the half mile to “the bus stop near the big church” at 5:45 this morning. I had been advised that a bus would meet me there at 6:15, and then go pick up the Turks, the Russians and the Estonians.
I walked around the corner, two blocks away, at 6:45, going into the nearest hotel to figure out who to call. As the hotel guy was handing me the phone, I somehow heard the diesel engine of the bus as it turned the corner. Everything I was told had been correct, but in reverse order. And… I had a guardian angel!
There’s a guy on the Turkish team that, for some reason, has decided it’s his mission to take care of me. I am flattered. This gentle giant wears a scar from his left ear to the corner of his mouth. I don’t know the story, but I remember him from my 2005 trip to Antalya (his home and site of the First Beach Championship). He remembers me.
Throughout the weekend, my friend made it clear that, in any situation that involved waiting in line, I would go first. The bus driver shared with me that my friend made it clear to him, the bus was not leaving Katerini without the American referee. I am blessed.
I must admit, I was a little conflicted when I got to Istanbul. We arrived at 11:00am and my flight to Budapest left at 6:15. To stay or to go… that was the question.
I knew that, if I stayed, I could catch up on the writing I need to get done. I knew I could pound some Gloria Jean’s coffee. I knew I could get a solid four-hour nap. I went.
You know… there’s talkin’ the talk and there’s walkin’ the walk. If I were one of those guys with a bank account to support an annual sojourn, I might have opted for the nap. I’m that sixty-year-old guy wrestling has blessed with global awareness, on a school teacher’s salary. I ‘plan’ to be back in Istanbul, but I can’t guarantee it. I kept walking.
On a side note, I HAVE been in Istanbul before. I spent a month in Istanbul one day. That was 2003 (long story). In 2010, I found out (the hard way) how long it can take to clear customs (another long story).
With a flight boarding at 5:15, I had six hours. I took the hour to clear customs and passport control, buying a Turkish visa for 30 U.S. dollars. I found a place where I could check one carry-on, all day, for 18 Turkish Lira. Not draggin’ bags today!
I learned the difference between taking the shuttle and combining the Metro and Tram rides, opting for the latter. I took the hour to ride those beasts. I left myself an extra half hour to return, making my total four and a half hours.
The hour and a half in between, though, I got to celebrate the echo of mid-day prayer dead center between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. I had 100 grams of freshly roasted chestnuts for lunch and took advantage of the ‘only consistently free toilets on the planet’… McDonalds!
I got back to the airport with time to spare… actually time to write. I got stuff ready to send to Richard, Craig and Gary, so they can get you the real news.
My plane to Budapest was on time, there was a guy with a sign waiting for me and our freestyle guys are in good shape, ready to rock. Two quick parting notes:
Wrestling always makes the world small. I spent the last four days, in Hotel Dion, Katerini, Greece, next door to an Estonia female athlete named Mae. We left on different busses, early this morning. I went to Istanbul. Mae went to Belgrade. We arrived within minutes of each other, in Budapest and shared the same bus to Pecs.
As I get ready to sleep, it occurs to me that I watched the sunrise on the Greek Mediterranean, was on hand for mid-day prayer at the Blue Mosque, and watched the sunset just outside Budapest. Life’s good.
Sunday, 6 July 2014
I often think I have some wonderful adventures. Then, I talk with Jeff Funicello! Jeff, Ike Okoli and Scott Wendel got caught in the travel glut that resulted from Hurricane Arthur.
I pick on Jeff because I’ve known him a long, long time. All the Americans that find it normal to pay their own ways to any kind of wrestling opportunity share a certain karma. Funicello is pretty much the model.
Jeff was a pretty good Greco guy. He knocked on the door several times, during his prime. His interest in the history of the Art of War, and his willingness to sacrifice to explore that art, makes him unique.
Jeff’s true love (besides wife and child) is traditional Pankration… the kind where there are REALLY no holds barred. I’ve watched Jeff take on Modern Pankration, Sombo, Grappling (both Gi and No-Gi) and Beach Wrestling… in addition to the scholastic and Olympic styles. Most aficionados of combat sports, around the world, will ask for Jeff by name.
I’m blowing a little sunshine towards Jeff and Ike and Scott. What they went through, this week, in the pure interest of competing, is something we should all brag about when we recruit kids into our sport.
All of us put together our own travel arrangements to get to Katerini for the World Championship. Some came early. Some planned to stay late. Three planned to be on time. Those three got caught by Hurricane Arthur.
Scott got in OK… Saturday afternoon for a Sunday morning weigh in. Ike got to Katerini just after midnight, Saturday-Sunday. Like others, before him, he went to the hotel listed in the FILA website as the “Athletes‘ Hotel”. As it turns out, that was about the only hotel in Katerini that housed no athletes.
Funicello hit delay after delay after delay, and kept on coming. He arrived in Katerini about 20 minutes before his weight class competed. Kudos to FILA here… the ‘Big Bosses’ showed off the ‘New’, athlete friendly mentality. They did everything they could to help Jeff compete.
Ike was victim to, what I think, was a bad call. Still, he ended up with our only medal… Bronze. And, you know what, this kid’s got some class!
All six Americans wrestled well. Our program is gaining credibility. Beach Wrestling is gaining credibility. Congratulations and Thanks to these American athletes: 70kg Alex Stanley, NC and Jason Joyce, VA; 80kg Jarrett Payne, NC and Scott Wendel, NC; 90kg Jeff Funicello, AZ; +90kg Ike Okoli, GA.
Saturday, 5 July 2014
When we got to dinner, last night, I thought I was getting close to sleeping… Nope! Had to stay at the restaurant and watch the end of the World Cup (Soccer) match between Brazil and Colombia.
This is truly a European resort area. The several hotels we are scattered in are all right on “The Strip”, 50 meters from the water. The Norwegians and I are in Hotel Dion. Guess whose room is on the street side of the building, just above the bar… yep!
The cool part is the neon sign. I have a sliding door to my balcony, covered by those see-through, veil-like curtains. Every time a group of drunken singers walk by, I open one eye and get the bright red letters H…O… of hotel. Sweet! By the way, trash pick-up and street sweeping take place at exactly 3:20am. Rockin!
The Juniors competition went well. There are some really talented athletes here. Interestingly (at least to me), Beach Wrestling is beginning to develop technique and tactic specific to the demands of the sand. I know that was one of those giant, vague Rusty-isms, but I’ll explain it over time.
Greece, the home team, won both the men’s and women’s events again today. In case you’re wondering, competition rules heavily favor the host. Each team is allowed a maximum of THREE entries per weight. Makes sense?
Norway was second in both divisions. The Norwegians brought 25 athletes. They are bidding to host the World Championship in 2016. Romania was third in the men’s division. There was no third place team for the women.
One of the big treats, today, was the arrival of FILA President, Nenad Lalovic. I had not had the pleasure of meeting the President before, but pleasure it was. Judging from what Lalovic has accomplished in the last 18 months, it seemed like he must be a pretty decent guy. It’s beyond that. Two minutes with the man proves he is a down-home, deep-thinking, in-it-for-the-right-reasons man!
One thing he said, to me, validated the risk I have been willing to pour into the “Developing” styles. “Beach Wrestling is a gold mine for us”, he said. You know my bias, but I have to agree.
This is the right time to thank Gary Abbott, of USA Wrestling. Developing Styles is one of Gary’s assignments, on top of managing our Communication efforts. Gary comes off a little inhibited but, I assure you, he’s a guy that works his butt off and a true advocate for every part of wrestling.
So, it’s Saturday night in Katerini, and we’re watching futbol again. “We” means the Norwegians, the Swedes, and a ton of Greeks, sitting downstairs in the hotel. As a Pan-American, I root for any team from our hemisphere. But, I have to admit, last week I was pulling for Greece to beat Costa Rica. Imagine the party, here, if Greece was just coming up. Imagine!
Friday, 4 July 2014
Happy Independence Day, America! My day actually started with a little more independence than I wanted. When the Greek organizers planned this, they scheduled one hotel for teams and another for officials. Oops! It’s the peak of tourist season in the beach resort town of Katerini.
I mentioned yesterday, we’re scattered all over town. Make that ‘all over the planet. In what little news I can get, there’s a hurricane along the U.S. east coast. Lots of flights have been cancelled. We have three guys still in the States.
I found two more, this morning, in two different hotels. Another one drove in from Athens tonight. We’re getting there.
With the variety of hotels comes a vacuum of information. The only thing our hotel knows is that we’re sleeping here. There’s no information about where meetings… even the competition was to be held. And, nobody knows who knows, or which hotel they’re in.
We finally found he competition site. It’s really quite nice. Good bleachers around a well designed competition area. There’s a little bar there, so spectators can get a drink and some shade.
We held our officiating clinic at 10:45 (scheduled at 9:00). We weighed in Cadets from seven countries at about 11:30 (scheduled at 11:00). We started the Cadet tournament at 1:40 (scheduled at 1:00). We finished up, took a break, and the bus for the opening ceremony left at 8:15 (scheduled at 7:30).
The ceremony was worth every minute of delay, though. We were transported to “The Institute of Alexander the Great”, near his birthplace and at the foot of Mount Olympus. There, in an outdoor amphitheater setting, the athletes were featured as part of a concert that included traditional Greek music, singing and dance. Very cool!
On the Beach, today, we saw Cadets from Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Norway, Russia and Sweden. The hosts, Greece, won both the women’s and men’s trophies. Norway finished second in the men’s and third in the women’s. Sweden was runner-up in the women’s division. Estonia took third in the men’s.
We just got back from the ceremony. It’s shortly after midnight and they have brought us to the restaurant for dinner. Better go…
Thursday, 3 July 2014
After a pretty sound sleep, I had breakfast in Budapest… good coffee! I caught the shuttle back to Ferihegy International Airport thinking I was off to Istanbul. That was before I tried to check in, and found out my friends at Priceline only completed half of a schedule change. I had been cancelled, in the Turkish Air computer!
Thanks to some thoughtful guys in the Turkish Air office, I got back into the system. I managed to make the flight to Istanbul.
My transfer time was really short, but the incoming flight was delayed one hour. I used that hour to make time to stop for another “special” cup of coffee. Istanbul’s airport does not have a Starbucks, but they do have a Gloria Jean’s!
What’s special about Gloria Jean’s is that there’s also one in Fargo and we go there, every morning, during the National Cadets and Juniors. When I say we, I mean a select few. Bill Stecklein, Casey Brennan-Goessl and I are regulars.
We often include others. We’re open to anyone who wants to get up early. We generally meet up with the entire Coaching staff from New York. A lot of guys give us grief, but our morning coffee outings have become quite a tradition. Rick Tucci calls them our “Walks of Wisdom”. I can’t vouch for the wisdom but, with three generations present, we’ve managed to work each other through some of life’s problems, both inside and outside of wrestling.
Fortunately, I was on the same flight as the large Turkish delegation. Thessaloniki is an hour and a half bus ride from the beach in Katerini. Lots of people got stranded, with no ground transport.
I learned more, as we got to the registration site. This is a resort town and, despite reasonable efforts, the organizers were not able to come through with the hotels they had promised. We are scattered all over town. I couldn’t find any of the six American athletes that are supposed to be here.
About 3:00am, I faded. The Cadet competition starts tomorrow and I have a meeting, SOMEWHERE, at 9:00.
Wednesday, 2 July 2014
Paris! I did not schedule an eight-hour layover intentionally. But, I did take full advantage of it. Dragging my carry-on, I cleared passport control, found the Air France bus into town, bought the ticket and hopped on.
An hour and fifteen minutes of killer traffic later, we arrived at the stop. It sits on one of the streets that wheel-spoke out from the Arc de Triomph. One of the bus porters tried to help me figure a metro route to my destination. The best we could put together was that it was “complicated”. So I walked.
Paris is not scorching hot, but dragging the roller-board and carrying the backpack, 45 minutes up Champs Elysees, I broke a pretty good sweat. Crossing the Seine, I hiked another few blocks, and I was there.
My destination was Musee d’Orsay. Perhaps one of Paris’ less famous museums, it has been my favorite, since I stumbled onto it in 1995. Orsay is home to the Impressionists, those nature-loving painters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Situated in a beautifully renovated train station, Orsay holds work by Van Gogh, Renoirs, Cezanne, and others. My favorites, though, are the notorious Frenchman, Claude Monet, and a Brit, Alfred Sisley. Orsay holds magnificent collection of both men’s work.
With a little help, I did discover a metro route back to my bus stop. I got back to Charles de Gaulle airport with time for a cappuccino.
I got into Budapest around 10:30 but, of course, still had to do the passport control, baggage claim and customs. I checked into a small hostel, not far from the airport.
Tomorrow, it’s back to the airport around noon. My flight leaves Budapest at 2:15pm. After a quick turnaround in Istanbul, I’ll arrive in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Today was one of those that makes it all worth it. I find so much tranquility just sitting in a room full of Impressionist art. What a treat!
I’ll leave you with a chuckle. AFTER I dragged the roller-board carry-on and my back pack all over Paris, I got back to the airport to have “Chachi”, the airport security guru tell me I could only have one carry-on. He made me check the bag I had just pulled all day. You gotta’ keep a sense of humor!
Tuesday, 1 July 2014
So… here’s how this story ends: FILA, the International Governing Body for Olympic Wrestling, have a mandatory retirement age for referees and I’ve reached it. I’m making my last tour, overseas, this summer. As has become custom and, with the help of USA Wrestling’s Communication Department and ziawrestler.com, I’ll be sharing my journey via blog.
The retirement age was put into effect after the Games of Athens, 2004. The rule has a good purpose. It’s no surprise. It is something I have looked forward to and planned for a decade. Showtime!
The way the international calendar was built, 2014 turned out to be the perfect summer for what I’m calling, Rusty’s “Last Walkabout”. I have a lot planned. A lot, that I don’t have planned, will surely find me.
I fly out of Albuquerque today and get home near midnight, August 11th. That’s exactly six weeks on the road. Eva will join me July 28th. (Sunday, we celebrated our First Anniversary.)
Before we get going, there are a couple of key disclaimers you deserve. You can boil them down to what I Think… and what I Don’t Think.
I think wrestling… all wrestling holds the power to enrich the lives of average men and women. I think I’m proof. I don’t think my life is more cool or enriched than yours. I offer to share my wandering, simply as entertainment for people immersed, or interested in the sport.
I think I’ve earned my way. Nothing about wrestling, coaching, refereeing is a gimme’. We all pay dues. I don’t think I’ve paid any dues that countless great ones, before me and after me, have or will pay.
I think I’m a decent student and active observer. I see what I see, hear what I hear, evaluate with care, and arrive at what I hope to be educated conclusions. I do not hesitate to share those. I don’t think my conclusions are better than any other. Nor do I claim that mine are always right. They are offered with a clean heart and corrected when warranted.
I think that the events I plan to share with you are significant. I don’t think they diminish what’s going on in The States, especially Fargo. Pay attention to that first. If Kolbe, Gary and Craig and Richard work my blog in, around the edges, take me with a grain of salt. Smile and be entertained.
My son, Sterling (who many of you know is the “Parent” in our relationship) gave me a bit of advice, and I plan to hinge my journey around it. We met, back in March and I told him about the plan. I said, “I’m gonna’ go look for one last adventure”. With his unshakeable wisdom, Sterling answered, “Dad, go look for peace. The adventure will find you.” Thanks, Sterling!
OK… here we go! A quick turnaround in Minneapolis where, I’m confident, either my luggage or I will make the connection… not both. Minneapolis in July? Just sayin’.