How wrestling explains the American midwest|The Guardian

TomM
November 17, 2015 12:27

How wrestling explains the American midwest|The Guardian

How wrestling explains the American midwest | The Guardian

It was 5am in tiny Eau Claire, Wisconsin on Saturday and the bus was already started and roaring, ready for the trip to the hallowed ground. Five hours, 282 miles ahead – and later that day, back – past towns named Rochester and Waterloo and Cedar Rapids to Iowa City. On the bus was a family, really, the wrestling family of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

That included Tyler Kennedy, a former Eau Claire wrestler who drove in from his home in Minnesota just to get on that bus. He was awake by 2.45am. It included current grapplers on the college team and also John Peterson, an unpaid assistant coach who also was a 1976 Olympic gold medalist. He hadn’t been on a long bus ride like that in years. But for the hallowed ground, it was worth it.

“It’s a sport that really runs through generations of families,” said Tim Fader, a highly successful small college coach who recently took over the Eau Claire team. “My dad wrestled at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; my grandpa wrestled at the University of Michigan.”

The destination was Iowa City, home of the storied University of Iowa wrestling team. And on Saturday, Iowa, ranked No4 in the nation in college wrestling, would beat No1 Oklahoma State in an event that was a celebration of Americana. They wrestled at the Iowa football stadium in front of …

Forty-two thousand fans. Yes, 42,287, a record for American college wrestling. Actually, it was nearly triple the previous record. They called it Grapple on the Gridiron and it was a show of force.

“It’s great for wrestling,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said afterward. “There are people in Russia, in Turkey and Iran that are going to see this as well. They know about this.”

Sure, wrestling hotbeds around the world will notice what happened. After all, this was partly for show, too. But maybe more important was what the day meant here in the United States, whether or not it resonated across the country beyond maybe a glimpse on highlight shows.

It would probably come as a surprise to most of America that they filled a football stadium to watch wrestling, chant for wrestling, go crazy over wrestling. “TWO, TWO, TWO,” the crowd would roar every time an Iowa wrestler even came close to taking down an Oklahoma State wrestler for two points.

It is not a mainstream sport in the US, but it’s in the blood of the American midwest, and a few other pockets, such as Pennsylvania. Why those places? “You have farmers and you have coal miners, steel workers in those places,” Fader said. “Blue collar. Hard working. Strong family ethic.”

See, in Indiana, the lore of sports Americana says, kids from small towns, farm towns all grow up playing basketball. Towns live for and through their high school teams. In Texas, that’s how it is with football. In Minnesota, kids play hockey. In Eugene, Oregon, it’s distance running.

It was 5am in tiny Eau Claire, Wisconsin on Saturday and the bus was already started and roaring, ready for the trip to the hallowed ground. Five hours, 282 miles ahead – and later that day, back – past towns named Rochester and Waterloo and Cedar Rapids to Iowa City. On the bus was a family, really, the wrestling family of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

TomM
November 17, 2015 12:27
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