Caring Enough


October 13, 2009 by David Gillaspie




Rooting for a favorite team, or athlete, is a God given right in America, but not in countries that don’t believe in God, or have decent teams.  Cheering shows you care.  You clap.  You yell.  You stand up and boo the bad calls against your guys.  

Cheering is not downing a half rack of PBR pounders and throwing one through the flat screen when Tony Romo does his Danny White impression of Dandy Don Meredith.  Unless you’re a Cowboy fan.

Caring about a team means wearing the gear.  A hat shows you understand the commitment.  A jersey shows you are committed.  A tattoo shows you should be committed.  Short of peeling your skin off on a regular basis, team gear should be able to hang in a closet.

Caring about a sport is different from caring about a team.  Now it’s about ‘The Season.’  A successful sport like college football is all about riding that wave of testosterone and attitude.  You don’t have to be a great surfer.  Basketball?  Same wave, more attitude.  Caring about those sports is fashionable.  There’s the tradition, the history.  There’s the modern facilities. 

And there’s the money.

With money you get administrators and coaches.  You get boosters and sponsors.  And you get away from the sport; you get social.  It’s not a bad thing, but once you get social you end up around people who don’t know the sport and don’t really care.  If they didn’t pony up for the team of their choice, their money would still go somewhere, just somewhere else.

Without money, without boosters and sponsors, without administrators and a cadre of coaches teaching athletes how to tie their shoes and keep their socks up; without all that, a sport dies. 

A good example, the best example, is college wrestling.  The numbers don’t lie.  The tanking economy chopped hundreds of athletic teams since the winter of 2007, Graham Watson reports at

“When the NCAA’s annual Sports Participation Report is released in the fall, the association expects to report that more than 100 teams were dropped in the past year, bringing the two-year total of dropped teams since the economic crisis began in the winter of 2007 to more than 227 teams.” 

Add to that number, though not all dropped teams were wrestling teams, the list of schools that have already dropped wrestling.  The award-winning wrestling writer Jason Bryant created a telling list on The Bryant Blog.  He noted schools that produced all-Americans, but no longer field teams.  It’s ugly.

No less attractive is the April, 2009 NY Times story on the athletic team cuts at M.I.T., including wrestling and their pistol team.  The gun team was called, “one of the institute’s most popular physical education classes.”  Do we need to compare the physical education benefits between shooting a pistol and wrestling?  Does the pre-eminent tech school in all the land need to play with firearms?  It’s Boston; I think they have enough gun problems. 

A dying sport, as wrestling is sometimes called, has the same needs as a dying human being.  Both need a caregiver.  Not a care-taker, or steward, but a caregiver.  How ironic that the world’s toughest sport needs such tenderness.  A Wrestling Caregiver isn’t all the sport needs, but it’s a start.

The Wrestling Caregiver, or WC, would assess the condition of the sport the same as they would the condition of a person.  They would check vital signs and keep a log to chart stability.  They would note the causes of any fluctuations in the condition.

Also, as with a patient or loved one, the WC would review all professional and therapeutic opinions before taking action.  Is wrestling depressed?  Delusional?  Does wrestling know where it is?  The day and month?  Establishing a baseline is the WC’s first job, followed by a unique course of treatment. 

It is wrestling, after all, so a unique approach is the only way.

Are current actions producing the desired results?  If not, start a gentle change.  A man with Parkinson’s feels like they are the only sick person in the world.  They need to see a bigger picture, then find themselves in it.  Imagine someone with Parkinson’s falling and becoming paralyzed. 

Imagine the patience of Stephen Hawking’s struggle against a neuro muscular dystrophy that is related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease; so much to say and so difficult to say it.  Imagine Franklin D. Roosevelt running the country through the Depression and WWII without being able to walk.

Now imagine wrestling in the same context.  It’s down but not out; weak but still a fighter.  It’s not basketball with all of the jawing and gesturing and Chris “Birdman” Andersen.  It’s not baseball with an entire ‘era’ labeled for steroids.  And it’s not football where even the third string extra point holders are so bad they scare themselves looking in a mirror.

Wrestling will ebb and flow with the times.  Schools may cut teams, but they won’t stop guys from working technique on a garage mat.  Other sports may survive on a Sugar Daddy’s whim, but see Foxcatcher for fair warning; there’s more than one nut job who’ll pay to pretend they are The Man.

How will school boy wrestlers make the jump to high school, then college, then the world mats?  Henry Cejudo will answer your questions.  If that’s not good enough, then know that any kid wrestler who competes through high school has been through more ups and downs in one match than any other athlete in any sport played an entire season.   

They are all Wrestling Caregivers.  And so are you. 

Make Robin Reed happy.




10 thoughts on “Caring Enough

  1. James says:

    ” A Thumper” That is an understatement he is a beast. Clackamas has a great program and solid traditon. The JUCO schools west of the Mississippi are always very tough. My son wrestles for Jamestown CC, NY and we were in Muskegon Mich for a tournament this weekend Northern Idaho was there and where clearly the best team at the tournament.

  2. David Gillaspie says:

    Sometimes guys aren’t ready to go away to college and wrestle at the same time. We’ve got a guy at Clackamas CC, one of two CCs in the state with wrestling, named Tryell Fortune. He’s a thumper but not ready for college by himself. This is route missing when wrestling leaves the CC campus.

  3. James says:

    Speaking of college wrestling NJCAA in particular. I am from Ohio a hot bed of high school wrestling with some of the best wrestlers in the country. We are in region 12 of the NJCAA which includes Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. There is only one NJCAA college out of 28 in the region that offers wrestling. That is a travisty as well as a considerable loss of opportunity for a many young men who would like to continue their careers and can’t compete in Div. 1 or 2 and can’t afford the high cost of Div.3 schools. A sad situation that nobody in the wrestling community seems to care enough to do anything about.

    • David Gillaspie says:

      Thanks for coming in James. You’ve hit the point pretty hard. Not all high school wrestlers compete in college and the ones who do get enough after a year or two. The JC is perfect for the extra year or two.

      I’ve met some Ohio wrestlers and they’ve been coached very well. When Cael Sanderson leaves Iowa State for Penn State you know he had an eye on Ohio wrestling. We had an Ohio State guy coaching at a local high school. The story was he was too hard on the kids. How can that be?

      • James says:

        David the JC is also a chance for high school wrestlers to get some exposure on the national level. Everybody matures at a different rate and some kids don’t hit their peak while in high school but do very well in the JC. All the college scouts big and small are at the national tournament and some guys go on to have great careers at bigger colleges, Brock Lezner is one that comes to mind. What upsets me is the loss of opportunity some of these individuals might have had if the option were open to them, we had a good program here in Cleveland (Cuyahoga Community College)but lost it to the title 9 absurdity some years back. By the way met Cael at the Ohio State wrestling tournament 2 years ago, he definitely had his eye on Ohio wrestling. Great guy let us all take our pictures with him.

  4. roger says:

    Wrestling is killing itself!
    The people that make the rules are killing the sport. How many football [layers have died on the
    practice field? How many changes have they made in their rules?

    The wrestlers that died trying to make weight, did that to themselves. They were the ones that were on diuretics and creatine. Now, we have rules for
    every wrestler that are unnecessary. The high school coaches were doing a great job controlling weight loss. We do not need these new rules. They are only there to “CYA” and are not followed by most of the teams. But they make it very difficult to get new athletes to wrestle.

    • David Gillaspie says:

      This is a very disturbing comment, and an issue that needs all the air it can get.

      From the NYTimes:

      “The first of the (wrestling) deaths occurred on Nov. 9, when Billy Saylor, a freshman at Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C., died of cardiac arrest after riding an exercise bike and refusing liquids as he tried to lose six pounds. He was 19 years old.

      Two weeks later, on Nov. 21, Joseph LaRosa, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, died of heat stroke after dressing in a rubber suit and riding a stationary bike in an attempt to lose four and a half pounds. He was 22.

      And on Dec. 9, Jeff Reese, a junior at Michigan, died of kidney failure and heart malfunction while wearing a rubber suit and working out in a room heated to 92 degrees. He was 21.”

      As horrible as the news was, and still is, the rubber suit was a standard training outfit. Guys used to put it on under layers of sweats, roll up in a mat, and cook beside the boiler used for heating the local swimming pool after practice.

      After reading of the deaths I suspected a few things were on the line, like a starting spot on the team at a lower weight, like a scholarship, like showing the coaches you’ll do whatever it takes to make weight/win.

      Dying isn’t a part of any sport. Dying takes the recreation out of the idea of wrestling as recreational combat.

      Thanks for the comment, Roger.


  5. […] Caring Enough « DeeGee's B&B – view page – cached Rooting for a favorite team, or athlete, is a God given right in America, but not in countries that don’t believe in God, or have a decent team. — From the page […]

  6. David Gillaspie says:

    Thank you for reading, I’m combining themes for the first time.


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