Growing up in Florida in the 60s and 70s, I had two loves: baseball and wrestling. If you have read any of my other posts (and if you haven’t now would be a great time!), my love for the game of baseball is well documented. Wrestling may shock some. And here’s the real shocker: it was professional wrestling…. Championship Wrestling from Florida, with Gordon Solie. My dad and I would watch every Saturday night on WTOG channel 44, and let the Dean of Professional Wrestling come into our home and call matches with Jack and Jerry Brisco, Dusty Rhodes, Buddy Colt, Eddie and Mike Graham, and a host of others. We would go to matches at the Bayfront Center in St. Petersburg (because back then, Tampa was just TOO far to drive….). As a young kid, you couldn’t tell me it was just sports entertainment. It was real! Oh sure, I remember seeing Olympic wrestling but that was just a different form of wrestling…
Skip ahead a few years… well, say 40+ years. I started Tweeting with Gerald Brisco. We started chatting about how Alex Colome of the Rays did nothing for our blood pressure, he’d answer all kinds of stupid questions I had about other wrestlers, and our favorite college football teams (he’s an Oklahoma State Cowboy and I’m a Florida State Seminole). In September of this year, Hurricane Irma came through Florida. I rushed down to help some friends and family in need, and Gerald offered a ton of support and advice (like, who knew chainsaws needed bar oil…), even though HE was without power and water for almost a week! We met for breakfast, along with his son Joe, and among other things, he convinced me I needed to see some college wrestling, and told me that Frank Beasley had taken over the reigns at George Mason University (GMU) and I should check it out. Gerald knows something about wrestling: he started in junior high, and followed in his brother Jack’s footsteps and wrestled at Oklahoma State, where Jack was an NCAA champion his senior year. Gerald is also a talent scout for the WWE and travels the world over looking for talent at the amateur level. So I trusted him!
This past Saturday I attended my first ever amateur match. It was at the GMU Field House, and it was their intra squad Gold and Green wrestle offs. I got my MBA from GMU but hadn’t been back to the Field House in well over 20 years, and even then it was to jog on the indoor track. I had no idea what to expect. Sure, I knew you got 2 points for a take down, and 1 point for an escape. But beyond that, I was clueless! I thought take downs would be easy, and rides would last a while, with sit outs and escapes. Much like the chain wrestling that I saw on tv back in the day. Boy was I wrong! I saw intense struggles, amazing strength, body parts bending like I didn’t know they could bend!
I saw psychology. For example, quite often during a match, the wrestlers go to a referee’s position. For those of you who don’t know, this is the referee’s position:
During one match, the wrestler on top decided to just cede the escape to the wrestler on the bottom, which meant a point to his opponent. Why would a wrestler just give up a point? I was confused. So I asked Mr. Brisco about it later, who said if a wrestler is behind more than one point, he feels his chances are better to get a take down later and get two points. Ah, ok that makes sense! To me, though, just giving up a point seemed odd, but now I get it.
I also found it interesting that they keep track of ride time, and that can be used in a tie breaker at the end of a match. Which helps also to explain why the athletes wear colored bands on their ankles. While sometimes it seems like not much is going on, just looking at the colored bands makes it easier to track who is doing what.
I won’t try to fake my way into explaining how every match went, and what the various holds and moves were. For one, I don’t know what they were! But also, as a blogger with a camera, I was so focused on trying to get some good pictures I sometimes didn’t see the forest through the trees. I can say, though, the action was great!
I did get a chance to say hello to Coach Beasley before and after the match. Really nice guy, and seemed truly excited about GMU wrestling. Their first home match is in a few weeks against Oregon, and said it would be a great match to come to. Don’t worry, coach, I’ll be there!
The action on the mat was great, and it was a very competitive meet for just a wrestle off. The team score was decided on the final match, with the Gold team coming out on top 24-20 via a fall. You can read the complete results here on the GMU website.
I admit I think I’m hooked. I’ve already made plans to attend the NWCA All Star Classic in Princeton next weekend, and meeting up with my new friend Gerald. It should be a lot of fun. And I think between him and Coach Beasley, they are proving the saying wrong: you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!
My apologies in advance for not getting everyone’s names on the photos. Rather than run the risk of getting someone’s name wrong, I’ll just leave you with the photos from the day for you to enjoy!
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A Florida St. fan who also likes pro wrestling and minor league baseball? I think we just became best friends. (Seriously, that’s amazing that you got to meet up with Gerald Brisco.
Thanks! Gerald Brisco is a great guy! We’ve had breakfast a couple of times, went to an amateur wrestling event together, and he invited me to his induction into the National Wresting Hall of Fame Florida Chapter which was last month in Orlando!
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That is quite the brush with greatness. I enjoy your blog.