Australian wrestling with U S help

By Gary Abbott | Sept. 13, 2000, 12 a.m. (ET)
Wrestling is not one of the most visible or popular sports in Australia, but with the Olympic Games in their nation, a World-class wrestling operation was required for the competition. Handling all the details of running the eight-day wrestling event is a daunting task, especially in a nation that doesn't know wrestling from team handball. Geoff Marsh is the competition manager for wrestling here in Sydney. A pleasant and hard-working man, Marsh came to the United States in 1998 to attend the Junior World Championships in Primm, Nev. and check out the U.S. operations at the event. Australia hosted the next Junior World Championships as the test event for these Olympics. Marsh is handling the same kind of duties that Rich Bender managed for the Olympic wrestling competition in Atlanta. Every little detail, from mats, to athlete transportation, to officials, to international federation needs to whatever crises could emerge fall on his desk. Geoff works with a small staff of other wrestling people, as well as a large group of volunteers who will handle every single task necessary to operate the wrestling competition at Sydney. We visited Marsh and his staff at the SOCOG headquarters in downtown Sydney. All of the other sports had already moved their offices to the venues, but since wrestling doesn't start until the end of the Games, they have remained in their current offices until judo clears out of the venue. His people have just one day to turn a judo gym into a wrestling facility, and he is confident that things should go smoothly. When we visited the wrestling office at SOCOG, Marsh couldn't stop talking about how much help and support he has gotten from the U.S. wrestling community in putting together the wrestling event. He gave major credit to John Dustin, the American wrestling veteran who moved to Australia and served as competition manager during the past few years. Dustin, the only non-Australian to serve as a sport competition manager, voluntarily stepped aside for Marsh to take the reigns recently. Dustin is still actively involved in the operation for wrestling, and had great things to say about how Marsh has handled the job. Marsh also thanked Rich Bender and Mitch Hull of USA Wrestling's staff for their help and support in getting things put together for these Games. He also thanked Bob and Sue Siar from the U.S. Wrestling Officials Association, for their direct leadership in putting together and managing the team of pairing officials for the Games. Marsh said point-blank that if would have been very difficult to pull off this Olympic wrestling effort without the direct assistance from Dustin and the people from USA Wrestling. A large number of U.S. wrestling volunteers have come down to Sydney (or are on their way), and will be part of Marsh's team. According to Marsh, a total of 8.5% of his wrestling volunteers are Americans. He had great praise for the efforts of wrestling official Mel Ashcraft, who has been one of his main contacts for working with the American volunteers. Ashcraft has recently become ill, and according to Marsh, may not be able to participate with the U.S. volunteers that he helped organized. Americans are actively involved in many things, from announcing to sports information to equipment to results to timing to escorts. There will be a familiar sound of the Olympic Games, as American Ed Aliverti will be involved in sport presentation as a announcer, along with his wife Shirley as spotter and Don Blasingame as manager. Other U.S. volunteers for wrestling include James Ravannack, Ruben Candiotti, Ron Grose, Randall Balch, Ken Berger, Sandy Cageo, Tom Siar, Tyler Wylie, Carl Dambman, Tony Brown, Sara Levin, James Ravannack, Paul Sachs, Saundra Sachs and Josh Henson. These people, who commited their own time and expenses to get to Sydney, will be a major part of the team putting together a successful wrestling competition. Marsh will also be working with a number of Canadian and New Zealand wrestling volunteers as well, along with Australians from every state in the country. This should be one of the interesting things about this year's wrestling competition, a multi-national volunteer force of wrestling people working in the venue.