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WINTER TOUR JOURNAL FOR MARCH 12-13: Volunteering as coach, referee takes passion



Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Back at school, jet lagged to the gills, grades due tomorrow morning, and wouldn't trade places with any man in the world!

Only wrestlers understand wrestlers. The questions I get asked, up and down the hallways and in the classroom, always make me chuckle! "You burned all your sick days for what?" "You just got back from where?" "You don't get paid?"

People outside our sport really can never grasp the importance of wrestling in our lives. I just spent two of the most intense weeks with thirty-some of the best people, in some of the most beautiful cities on the planet!

Many of us, both in coaching and officiating, are educators, by profession. It is often quite difficult for us to get the time to contribute to Olympic development. I'm one of the lucky ones. My school recognizes what my volunteerism does for the school, community, and students.

Monday March, 12

Here are the completed results from Sunday, March 11, 2007

Medalists

66 kg
Gold - Steve Guenot, France
Silver - Tamas Lorincz, Hyngary
Bronze - Alexandr Chekhirkin, Russia
Bronze - Min Chul Kim, Korea

96 kg
Gold - Balazs Kiss, Hungary
Silver - Jimmy Lidberg, Sweden
Bronze - Aslanolek Khustov, Russia
Bronze - Lajos Virag, Hungary

120 kg
Gold - Jalmar Sjoberg, Sweden
Silver - Heiki Nabi, Estonia
Bronze - David Vala, Czech Republic
Bronze - Antou Botev, Russia

Somewhere over Iceland…Perspective from the other side (of the whistle). Watching Ron Fazio pour his heart into officiating reminds me of the thoughts that go through my own mind, when it's me out there. I honestly don't think very many people ever think about what it's like to be a wrestling official.

OK, some ground rules. First the reader needs to know that I am one of those few who walk on both sides. I coach and I officiate. My role on this tour, as mentioned in the first article, is volunteer coach. Second, I do mean to compliment Ron Fazio for a job, well done. I do not mean to patronize Ron, or give any credit where it's not due.

My biggest goal is simply to offer some insight about the intricate nature of officiating. I have found over the years, there remain many misconceptions, even among those closest to wrestling.

I often hear comments (Really!), like, "Wow, you guys must really get paid a lot to work at the World Class level". FILA referees, including those from the USWOA, are volunteers serving the Olympic effort. This is a hobby, not a livelihood. People, like Ron, are taking some serious time away from work to do this stuff. Most burn all of our vacation time or sick days to referee.

By the very nature of sport, it is the official's goal to be invisible, to remain anonymous. We tell each other, all the time, "If they remember who reffed the match, it means you messed it up!" Nobody ever comes up to tell me, "Wow, I was watching you. You kept that guy from getting hurt." Rarely, do we hear, "Hey, that was a tough call and you nailed it".

Out of fairness, I did hear our Team Leader, Momir, say that to Ron, just yesterday. Ron did have an excellent outing, this tour. He was very much "on" at all three events, two tournaments and a dual.

Few people realize that, while officials are volunteers, we are also in a tremendously competitive arena. We are always seeking the "hot" match or a "bigger" event. We dream in much the same way as our athletes. Knowing that not everyone is a National Champion, World Champion, Olympian, or can referee them, we all still set those things as goals.

Fazio worked many of the "hot" matches in both tournaments, this tour. Such is often the case. It seems the European higher-ups value American honesty. Being a small continent, they see each other, and the same officials week after week. In the big rivalries, they often turn to American officiating to get a fresh look… no baggage.

It can be awkward, starting an event like we saw in Serbia and Hungary. As an official, you'd really like to be selected for a final. Still, you hope that the finals are filled with American athletes, which will disqualify your presence.

The relationships between athletes, coaches, and officials on tours like ours can be crucial. This is another area in which Fazio excelled. All referees attend a mandatory rules interpretation clinic at each event. While the rules, themselves, never change, interpretation can make it seem that they do.

With different nationalities and personalities in charge of each event, it's up to the official to see that word gets from the clinic to the coaches and athletes. The only real way a ref can "help" the team is to prepare them for the subtleties that will govern the scoring of that particular event.

Ron did a great job communicating with our team. Our athletes got all the benefit of every rule. It was a big help that Ron was with us at every practice. This allows the official to "personalize" rule interpretations to fit individual styles and techniques.

We will all see each other again, in four weeks, at the National Championship. Ron will officiate athletes from our tour. I will change clothes, change roles, and ref some of the guys I've been coaching for two weeks.

This is one of the points that I believe makes our sport so special. Where some might question the ethics of these relationships, wrestlers don't and won't. All our athletes know, full well, that their officials hope good things happen for them. When we are together, on the mat, they know we expect them to be excellent, win or lose.

Wrestlers hope the same thing for their officials. They hope they get to see certain refs in their matches. There is a trust that has been developed. And, officials know each athlete expects them to be excellent, win or lose.

This level of expectation we hold for each other has to be one of the keys elements in the wrestling culture. Volunteer coaches and volunteer officials working together to present and promote the raw talent and endless work of bright, young athletes is just the way it ought to be.

Thanks to Ron Fazio, for giving up two weeks to be with us on this tour. Thanks to the 3000 dedicated officials of USWOA, for making their own sacrifices for American wrestlers of all ages.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

This will be my last entry from the road. I will offer one or two more, to cap it all off, once I get back to the states. We will travel immediately after today's finals. I am writing as the session progresses, as I will have only a few minutes to locate a 'hot-spot' in the dorm and get this off to Gary Abbott.

Jim Gruenwald and his guys, from Marquette, Mich., leave later than we do, but go straight to the airport. So I don't forget… I have to say what a credit Jim is to our National Coaching Staff! He is firm, positive, and inspirational with some of our nation's brightest young hopefuls.

Here are American results from the last day's matches. We were rushed out, before the finals. I got the match ups, but will have to post final results later.

Medal Match pairings

66kg/145.5 lbs.
Gold - Tamas Lorincz, Hungary vs. Steve Guenot, France
Bronze - Kazakhstan vs Russia
Bronze - Korea vs ???

96 kg/211.5 lbs.
Gold - Balazs Kiss, Hungary vs. Jimmy Lidberg, Sweden
Bronze - Hungary vs Russia
Bronze - Finland vs ???

120 kg/264.5 lbs.
Gold - Heiki Nabi, Estonia vs. Jalmar Sjoberg, Sweden
Bronze - Ukraine vs Czech Republic
Bronze - France vs Russia

US Performances

66kg/145.5 lbs. - Mark Rial, Gator WC
LOSS Mihail Siamianov, Belarus, 0-2, 6-0, 1-1

66kg/145.5 lbs. - Marco Lara, USOEC
LOSS Martin Kallasmaa, Estonia , 5-0, 2-2, 2-3

66kg/145.5 lbs. - Jacob Curby, USOEC
WIN Hunor Szakolczi, Hungary, Injury Default
LOSS Jong Gyu Yoon, Korea, 0-2, 0-3

96kg/211.5 - Adam Wheeler, Gator WC
LOSS Fritz Aanes, Norway, 3-8, 2-0, 0-3

Saturday, March 10, 2007

I just got an email from Gary Abbott, Director of Communications, telling me,"It's been a couple of days. Where's the next article?" It's nice to be needed!

I actually got internet access about an hour ago. We arrived in Szombathely, Hungary yesterday (Friday) at 1:30 pm, after a six hour bus ride from Subotica. We had weigh ins for our first four weight categories at 5:00. It's been non-stop since.

We got everyone down, weighed in, then made the twenty minute drive into town, to get 'em fed and hydrated. Then, we finished getting checked into our dorms at a boarding school.

With over 200 competitors from 30-plus nations, the start time for this morning was bumped up to 8:00. That meant breakfast at 5:45 and a 6:45 bus.

It's 9:00 Saturday night and we just got home. While we had no medals today, we still claim it as a successful one. We wrestled some great guys and had some bright spots, especially from our younger guys.

Chas Betts (84kg) beat 2003 World Bronze medalist, Attila Batky of Slovakia, in the repechage. Jake Clark, (also 84kg) lost a close (and controversial) one to Belarus' 2005 World Champion, Alim Saliamav. Joe Betterman lost a great scrap, at 60kg, to Romanian former medalist, Eusebio Diaconu.

Betts led the U.S. effort, placing fifth. Below are Saturday's results. Tomorrow (Sunday), we will test the remaining three weights. We are scheduled to come back to the dorms, just long enough to load luggage on the bus. Then, we are off to Budapest for an early morning flight on Monday.

I will make EVERY effort to have Sunday's results in the computer and ready to send. I think I can get to a connection while the others are grabbing a shower.

I still have at least one, maybe two, pieces that need to get done, before I close out this tour. I can work on 'em on the plane, but it's a strong guess I won't be able to get 'em to Gary before Tuesday, noon.

I'll be back in school Tuesday, with grades due Wednesday morning. It's true what they say, "No rest for the wicked".

Saturday Medalists

55 kg/121 lbs.
Gold - Eun Col Park (Korea)
Silver - Jung Baik Lee (Korea)
Bronze - Nazyr Mankiev (Russia)
Bronze - Uriy Koval (Ukraine)

60kg/132 lbs.
Gold - Gun Hei Kim (Korea)
Silver - Catalin Miron (Romania)
Bronze - Maxim Karpov (Russia)
Bronze - Surey Gevorkian (Ukraine)

74kg/163 lbs.
Gold - Mark Madsen (Denmark)
Silver - Vladimir Shatskich (Ukraine)
Bronze - Andras Horvath (Hungary)
Bronze - Levenete Furedy (Hungary)

84kg/ 185 lbs.
Gold - Melonin Noumonvi (France)
Silver - Zoltan Fodor (Hungary)
Bronze - Sandor Bardosi (Hungary)
Bronze - Alim Sialimav (Belarus)

U.S. Performances

55kg/121 lbs. - Nate Engel, USOEC
LOSS Thomas Ronningen, Norway, 0-4, 0-6

60kg/132 lbs. - Kerry Regner, USOEC
LOSS Tonimir Sokol, Croatia, 0-6, 0-6

60kg/132 lbs. - Joe Betterman, USOEC, NYAC
WIN Krisztian Jager, Hungary, 1-1, 5-0, 3-1
LOSS Eusebio Diaconu, Romania, 2-0, 0-4, 0-4
LOSS Kyung Ho Jung, Korea 0-6, 1-4

74kg/163 lbs. Sasa Petkovic, NYAC
LOSS Vasil Racmiba, Ukraine Fall 2:51

74kg/163 lbs. - Marco Toledo, USOEC
LOSS Aleh Mihalovich, Belarus, 0-10, 0-7

74kg/163 lbs. - Andy Bisek, USOEC
WIN Petr Amaritei, Romania, 1-1, 6-0
WIN Valizmaki Tero, Finland, 1-1, 2-1
LOSS Levenete Furedy, Hungary, 3-0, 0-3, 0-2

84kg/185 lbs. - Chas Betts, USOEC, Minnesota Storm, 5th place
LOSS - Melonin Noumonvi, France, 2-4, 1-2
WIN - Pavel Burla, Romania, 1-1, 1-1
WIN Attila Batky, Slovakia, 3-2, 0-2, 5-3
LOSS Sandor Bardosi, Hungary 0-6, 0-4

84kg/185 lbs. - Jason Plamann, USOEC, Gator
LOSS Zoltan Fodor, Hungary, 0-3, 1-2
LOSS Genady Shabanov, Ukraine 1-1, 0-8, 0-4

84kg/185 - Sean Murphy, USOEC
LOSS Alim Saliamav, Belarus, 0-6, 0-6

84kg/185 lbs. - Jake Clark, US Marine Corps
WIN Valdemars Venckaitis, Lithuania, Injury Default
WIN Mohammed Babulfath, Sweden, 1-1, 4-0, 6-0
LOSS Alim Saliamav, Belarus, 2-2, 1-2

Thursday, March 8, 2007

I gained access to dump my jump drive. Unfortunately, for me to get to town, I was forced to stop, right in the middle of today's story. I'll finish it under a new day's entry. Also please post the story about Coach Petkovic and his club coach from yesterday.

Today is Chas Betts' birthday. He turns 21 in Subotica, Serbia. Everybody's birthday is a big deal. But celebrating his, overseas, is not a big deal to Chas.

He celebrated both his 19th and 20th in Sofia, Bulgaria. He was with Ivan Ivanov and members of our USOEC program on a Juniors tour both years.

We have a team in Sofia with Ivan, today. Many of our Serbian work out partners left for Sofia last night.

Chas moved up to wrestle with a Senior tour this year. He is still with USOEC team mates Joe Betterman and Spencer Mango who are here with Chas.

One of the cool things I get to hear, over lunch or in the sauna, is young guys talking about their clubs and sponsors. There's kind of a "bragging rights" mentality to it.

What's refreshing is that all the guys feel like they get treated better than everyone else. These are all guys around Chas' age. A couple are in their mid to late 20's, but still qualify as "young". I just think people back home, and especially the leaders of the various clubs need to know that young athletes truly appreciate their support and say so, publically.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Updated entry from jump drive

We met Coach Petkovic's first club Coach Wednesday night. He's seventy-something, and still full of fire. Momir hugged him, tightly, and rubbed the older man's neck, as he told us the story. It was the story of his very beginning in our sport.

At the time, the coach was a young, solid leader of Spartak, Subotica's local wrestling club. Petko didn't say, but I think he must have been around 13 or 14.

Momir's memory of his first practice focuses on the six mile run that came at its end. He ran with the group and held his own, up to the turn around point, half way. At that point, he stopped, hung his head in defeat, and loudly proclaimed, "I can't do this anymore".

Coach jumped right in Momir's face. "What's wrong with you? You just gonna' quit, or what?" I get the strong impression there were some expletives deleted.

Coach looked around until he found a downed branch, the size of a walking stick. "Hold on to this and don't let it go," he said, offering one end to Momir. And, with that, they were off. The team finished their run, Coach dragging young Momir on the other end of the stick, with Momir crying as he ran. But he finished!

Through the next couple of years, Petko improved consistently, showing that he would become something special for Spartak. It had gotten to the point, none of Momir's peers could really challenge him. So, his coach became his work out partner.

One night, Coach demanded that Momir stay after. The 'grind' match began, just the two of them in the room. Coach attempted, but did not score. Petko scored. Coach pulled out the trick stuff that "Old Guys" have stored up for such occasions. He didn't score. Petko scored.

This went on for about an hour. Coach took a couple of cheap shots. Momir was bleeding from both nostrils, from his lip, and had one eyebrow split. Still, Coach did not score. Petko scored.

When it was over, the coach ordered, "Take a shower and be ready to go"! Quietly, knowing he must be in trouble, Momir complied. Coach took Momir to town, (to a bakery we visited a couple of mornings ago). He bought Petko a big slice of the best cake in the display case. Setting the plate on the table, Coach shook Momir's hand and kissed him on both cheeks. The older man said, "You did good today," and left. Petko finished the cake.

That was nearly 40 years ago. Watching Petko rub his coach's neck, while he shared this story, reminded me why we love wrestling.

Original posting

Good News! The young man at the internet cafe has hooked me up with the ability to dump my flash drive. Bad News! The flash drive is in my room, and it's quite a hike to get there and back between work outs. I will update some stuff for you, tonight, and bring the drive to town with me in the morning.

Speaking of, we have a reception with the Mayor of Subotica, tomorrow morning, early. This one will be interesting. As reported, Coach Petko is a Big Deal to the people of Subotica. However, there is a sense of "friction" between him and the town's politicians.

I know enough of the story to know that, at some point, Momir simply told the truth, instead of saying what somebody wanted to hear. As is often the case, in our beloved wrestling lifestyle, Momir's lack of "diplomacy" got him spanked. But who, among us, would have done it differently?

Practice is going well. We've got some boo-boos, but Trainer, Dave Grossman is solid at keeping everyone going. Spenser Mango has a bit of
a hip pointer. he landed hard in a throw yesterday morning. Joe Betterman is nursing a sore back , but he went hard this morning. Sasa Petkovic has a sore rib, up high in the front. He's avoiding some of the par terre parts of practice. Adam Wheeler picked up a flu bug. He's been fighting fever and a bad stomach for the last 30 hours, but is coming out of it.

We are hearing that the level of competition in Szombathely, Hungary will be slightly higher than we saw in Belgrade. Our guys are pumped. We have also heard that, at least most of, our teammates from Northern Michigan finally got out. We think they are somewhere in Hungary, finishing up their training with Coach Jim Gruenwald.

We went one match live, this morning, and will go one more, this evening. Tomorrow we taper, so that everyone can go their own way, get their weight down and relax. We bumped our travel time up to 7:00am Friday, so we can get to Szombathely by noon to check weight.


Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Still no jump drive ability. The guy at the internet cafe says the big boss locked that part of their server about a month ago. It seems young kids, playing games, were bringing in too many viruses. I can empathize, but I asked him to consult with the boss and get special permission for one machine, these three days. We'll see.

Practice is good. We went twice yesterday, once outdoors... jogging and drilling... once indoors. We had one pretty tough go this morning, and have one more this afternoon.

The wrestling room is quite small, so we vave split into two groups. The first workout is for 55, 60, 66, and 74 kilos. The second is for the 84, 96, 120 guys. Both workouts are identical and very regimented, according to cycle and intensity.

Tomorrow we will go once, hot, in the morning, then have the afternoon off. Thursday, we will go twice, but it will be predominently weight management. We travel early Friday morning and will not get into Sombathely (Hungary) in time to do much about weight.

We are very comfortable! The rooms and beds are great. The food is special, just for us. Coach Momir Petkovic is making sure things are perfect.

Yesterday, Momir got us all started, then drove the three and a half hours back to Belgrade. They had a BIG ceremony with the President of Serbia, honoring All living Serbian Olympic and world Champions. We got to see the hand-signed certificate. It's sweet! Momir was back by the end of practice last night, exhausted, but happy

Monday, March 5, 2007

I have a new story written and saved to my jump drive. It seems, though that I'm at the only internet cafe in Subotica, and the young man working here swears he cannot help me download the drive. So, I'm not able to attach the story. I will keep working on it.

For now, though, I will offer a brief summary of story.

We got to Subonica last night. This is Momir's home town and it is clear he is a great hero. We've seen his picture in businesses, met his childhood friends, and had desert in his Mother-in-law's parlor.

The town is about 150 thoudand, in population. It is an agricultural center, twenty minutes from the Hungarian border. The town was founded around 4,000 BC, but has all the modern amenities ( except a download for a jump drive!).

We will train here, with the Serbian national team, until Friday, when we leave for Sombathely, Hungary. There are really nice dorms at our training facility. We eat at a small cafe, a two minute walk from the
dorms.

This is the first day I can remember, when it's not raining. We had a short work out, lunch, and have walked the 20 minutes to the town center to communicate. We have a more intense workout at 4:30.

Brandon Ruiz and Jake Clark have joined our group. We are supposed to meet more Americans in Hungary but, from what we are hearing, they are stranded by a blizzard in northern Michigan. We will learn more as we go.

I tried, every way I could to send a team picture from our dual and a picture of Brad Vering on the podium. More download problems.

I will do my best to get everyone the appropriate details. I has short bios on the members of our delegation, and I know their families would enjoy seeing them.

If nothing else, I'll continue to squeeze out whatever these slow fingers can type in 45 minutes each day.

Congratulations to the various high schools, universities, and their individuals who were successful last weekend, in State, Conference, and National Championships.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Brad Vering (Colorado Springs/New York AC) won the championship Saturday, at 84 kg/185 lbs., in the Ljubomir Invanovic Gedz Greco-Roman Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia.

Vering was one of two finalists. Russ Davie (Colorado Springs?New York AC) came up just short in the finals. Davie was defeated by Alexander Chernichenko of Russia.

The U.S delegation won a total of seven medals, placing the team second in the team race, just behind Russia. The host nation, Serbia, was third.

Earning bronze medals were Spencer Mango and Joe Betterman, both of the USOEC program at Northern Michigan. Jermaine Hodge, of the U.S. Army, and James Shillow, of the U.S. Marines, earned bronze for the military teams. Justin Ruiz (Colorado Springs/New York AC) brought home another bronze.

The Outstanding Wrestler award went to Serbia's 60kg Champion, Davor Stefanek. Russia's Head Caoch received the Outstanding Coach award. The award given for Outstanding Officiating went to USA's own Ron Fazio, of New Jersey. Jerry Reicks, of Iowa, also worked the event. Momir Petkovic led the American delegation. Coaches included Shon Lewis, Dan Hicks, James Johnson and Rusty Davidson.

The competition was hosted by Belgrade's Partizan Sports Club. Teams from the following countries were represented: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia, Portugal, Russia (two teams), Serbia, Slovenija, Switzerland, Tunisia, USA (two teams).

55kg
Gold - Venkov, Bulgaria
Silver - Hasim, Turkey
Bronze - Mango, USA
Bronze - Hodge, USA

60kg
Gold - Stefanek, Serbia
Silver - Abdulin, Russia
Bronze - Betterman, USA
Bronze - Ugur, Turkey


66kg
Gold - Kovalenko, Russia
Silver - Maksimovic', Serbia
Bronze - Shillow, USA
Bronze - Petrov, Bulgaria

74kg
Gold - Janakiev, Bulgaria
Silver - Bajlovic', Serbia
Bronze - Kirkuha, Russia
Bronze - Koznikov Russia

84kg
Gold - Vering, USA
Silver - Akif, Turkey
Bronze - Kurakov, Russia
Bronze - Bojanic, Serbia

96 kg
Gold - Kaladze, Russia
Silver - Balasz, Hungary
Bronze - J Ruiz, USA
Bronze - Dinchev, Bulgaria

120kg
Gold - Chernichenko, Russia
Silver - Davie, USA
Bronze - Petkovic, Serbia
Bronze - Gyola, Hungary

Teams
Gold - Russia
Silver - USA
Bronze - Serbia

U.S. performances

55kg Spenser Mango, USA
LOSS Baykara Hasim, Turkey, 2-3, 2-3
WIN Srdan Nikoloic', Serbian, 2-1, 3-0

55kg Jermaine Hodge, USA
LOSSS Velin Venkov, Bulgaria, 0-7, 1-7

60kg Joe Betterman, USA
LOSS Davor Stefanek, Serbia, 0-7, 0-4
WIN Hugo Silva, Portugal, 4-3, 0-3, 1-1

60kg Jeremy McClean, USA
LOST Tonimr Sokol, Croatia, 0-6, 2-3

60kg Donovan DePatto, USA
LOSS Aslan Abudil, Russia, 0-5, 0-4
LOSS Tonimir Sokol, Croatia, 3-3, 1-1

66kg Glen Garrison, USA
WIN Balint Korpasi, Hungary, 0-2, 1-1, 1-1
WIN Hamza Lovati, Tunisia, 0-4, 3-1, 3-2
LOSS Seregei Kovalenko, Russia, 1:17
LOSS Plamen Petrov, Bulgaria, 1-1, 1-2

66kg James Shillow, USA
WIN Ilie Georgiev, Macedonia, 7-0, 6-0
WIN Marcel Cooper, USA, 4-3, 4-0
LOSS Aleksandar Maksimovic', Serbia, 0-2, 1-1
WIN Ile Georgiev, Macedonia, forfeit

66kg Mark Rial, USA
LOSS Sergei Kovalenko, Russia, 0-3, 0-6
LOSS Plamen Petrov, Bulgaria, 2-1, 0-3, 1-1

66kg Marcel Cooper, USA
WIN Danijel Stefanek, Serbia, 7-0, 0-3, 5-0
LOSS James Shillow, USA, 3-4, 0-4

74kg Phillip Padilla, USA
LOSS Vyacheslov Koznikov, Russia Fall 3:04

74kg Keith Sieracki, USA
WIN Javor Janakijev, Bulgaria, 1-1, 1-1
WIN Vyacheslav Kozinikov, Russia, 1-1, 2-2
LOSS Stepan Krikuha, Russia, 2-2, 1-1, 0-3

74kg Sasa Petkovic', USA
WIN Mihajlo Bajlovic', Serbia, 5-0, 2-0

74kg Steven Forrest, USA
LOSS Fethi Benanni, Tunisia, 2-4, 0-7

74kg Faruk Sahin, USA
WiN Petar Balo, Serbia 4-4, 3-0, 4-0
WIN Renato Kun, Hungary, 3-0, 1-1, 1-1
LOSS Stepan Krikuha, Russia, 0-4, 0-3

84kg Chas Betts, USA
LOSS Zoltan Fodor, Hungary, 0-3, 0-5

84kg Brad Vering, USA
WIN Dejan Franjkovic', Bosnia-Herzegovina, 3-0, 7-0
WIN Zied Yacoubi, Tunisia, 7-0, 7-0
WIN Canbas Akif, Turkey, 1-1, 2-0

96kg Justin Ruiz, USA
WIN Vladimir Radoslavljevic', Serbia, 3-4, 5-0, 6-0
WIN Adam Wheeler, USA, 1-1, 1-1
LOSS Kiss Balasz, Hungary, 0-2, 0-2
LOSS Bojan Mijatov, Serbia, 0-3, 0-6

96kg Adam Wheeler, USA
WIN Deni Lipic', Croatia, 6-0, 0-3, 4-0
LOSS Justin Ruiz, USA, 1-1, 1-1

96kg RC Johnson, USA
LOSS Ivan Nemet, Hungary, 0-3, 3-2, 1-2

96kg Phil Johnston, USA
LOSS to Dinchev Ivanov, Bulgaria, 0-4, 2-5

120kg Russ Davie, USA
WIN Yavus Guvendi, Tunisia, 3-1, 1-1, 3-0
WIN Radomir Petkovic', Serbia, 3:12
LOSS Alexander Cernichenko, Russia, 3-0, 0-4, 2-3

120kg Dremiel Byers, USA
WIN Ivan Stojanov Ivanov, Bulgaria, 3-0, 3-0
LOSS Alexander Chernichenko, Russia, 0-3, 1-1
LOSS Brandon Ruiz, USA, forfeit

120kg Brandon Ruiz, USA
LOSS Alexander Chernichenko, Russia, 1-4, 1-4
WIN Dremiel Byers, USA, forfeit
LOSS Gyola Branda Balin, Hungary, 1-3, 0-3

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Today is a day when each athlete will rely on their individual routines to manage weight. We wrestle the big dual against Serbia, tonight, and prepare to make weight tomorrow in Belgrade.

People are healthy and we all feel pretty good. Last night we played some indoor soccer… mixed Serbian - American teams. We finished with a nice sauna. Our local hosts treated the coaches, trainers and officials to a wonderful dinner of local cuisine.

After our morning session, we rushed back to the hotel, donned our dress-up clothes, and hurried back to the bus. Our destination was the Palace of the Mayor, in Novi Sad.

We filed through the reception line, then listened to speeches and translations. Two things were clear. First, that the Serbian people have a true love for sport, especially Greco-Roman Wrestling. Second, they have a true love for Momir Petkovic, as their Olympic Champion.

Momir, himself, spoke, and was very eloquent. He conveyed our sincere gratitude to the city of Novi Sad, for their warm greeting. The most fun, for me, was watching Momir's son, Sasa, admire his Dad.

Sasa keeps a very low profile through all of this. He was a little boy when his family left Serbia (then Yugoslavia). He has always heard stories of Momir's fame, "back home". Now a grown man, Sasa is seeing that they weren't just stories. We could all see the pride and admiration welling up inside Sasa. It was one of those "Wrestling Moments".

Our dual began at 7:00. The crowd was enormous, by American standards, and they filled the place early. We went through a lot of pageantry and much of the ceremony was obviously designed for the television broadcast. Jerry Reicks (IA) and Ron Fazio (NJ) joined their two Serbian counterparts to officiate.

It seemed none of the hype and the wait had any negative impact on our light weight guys. We came out hot, winning the first four in a row. Mango, Betterman, Garrison and Shillow outscored their opponents by a total of 36 technical point to 14.

We had four wins, but needed six to win the 11 match day. Momentum shifted. We dropped the next three consecutive bouts. Rial, Padilla and Sieracki all had bright spots and all won one period. We just got beaten, in critical situations. Anything that resembled 'luck' went fell the Serbian way. We needed to take the crowd out of it!

Sasa did that for us. The audience recognized his name and seemed kind of unsure whether to cheer for or against us. Sasa ripped his guy in the first period, then hung on to get us within one of the victory.

We would have to wait. Getting to the heart of the Serbian line up, our big guys dropped the next two, in consecutive periods. Both Justin and Chas wrestled well, although Chas was seriously outsized.

So, in classic, down to the wire tradition, all eyes turned to Russ Davie to carry the day. Davie wrestled this huge, young Serb. The youngster, from what we heard in practice, in the next great hope for Olympic glory!

Both periods went 0-0, on their feet. Davie won both coin flips. Once on the mat, Russ left no doubts. In the first period, Davie terminated the Serb with three quick and decisive guts. In the second, Russ got the start he had been looking for, and zipped the big Serb for a beautiful 'five'.

The entire event was extremely intense. But, as soon as it was over, the Serbian crowd swarmed their athletes and ours with hugs and handshakes. Everybody congratulated everybody. Young kids snagged autographs and dignitaries snapped pictures with their favorite American.

Momir was dragged away for more press conference. The guys who could, loaded up the bus. Many more got their stuff on, immediately after the dual, to get a work out to manage weight for Friday.

Friday morning, we'll get one short work out. Then, we load the bus for a one hour ride, back to Belgrade. All weight classes make weight Friday afternoon and compete Saturday.

Here are complete results from the Novi Sad dual:

55kg - Spencer Mango, USA, dec. Srdan Nicolic, SRB, 5-0, 7-0
60kg - Joe Betterman, USA dec. Davor Stefanek, SRB, 6-0, 4-4 (last point)
66kg - Glen Garrison, USA, dec. Danijel Stefanek, SRB, 4-1, 1-1 (last point), 5-0
66kg - James Shillow, USA, dec. Goran Fijat, SRB, 1-5, 4-2, 2-1
66kg - Aleksandar Maksimovic, SRB dec. Mark Rial, USA, 4-0, 0-4, 1-1 (last point)
74kg - Dalibor Busic, SRB, dec. Phillip Padilla, USA, 2-3, 2-1, 6-0
74kg - Mihajlo Bajlovic, SRB, dec. Keith Sieracki, USA, 0-3, 8-0, 1-1 (last point)
74kg - Sasa Petkovic, USA, dec. Slaven Dokmanac, SRB, 6-0, 1-1 (last point)
84kg - Goran Bojanic, SRB, dec. Chas Betts, USA, 3-1, 5-1
96kg - Bojan Mijato, SRB, dec. Justin Ruiz, USA, 3-0, 2-1
120kg - Russ Davie, USA, dec. Radomir Petkovic, SRB, 6-0, 5-0
Team Score - USA 6, Serbia 5

Wednesday, February 28

It is Wednesday, the last day of February. Travel days are long. We all finally got together, in Novi Sad, late Tuesday afternoon. Novi Sad is about 100 Kilometers from Belgrade. It is an agricultural center and oil refining town of about 400 thousand.

There are many of us here. Our specific group includes eight athletes, an official, a trainer, Coach Momir and myself. We are joined, by two other American delegations. One group just came in from Greece, where they competed last week. We also have four members of our World Cup team, just in from their second place finish in Turkey.

Our accommodations are luxurious, by eastern European standards. My understanding is that Novi Sad got beat up, pretty badly, during the conflicts of the 90's. Clearly, there is a major effort to renew and reconstruct. The people go out of their way to make us feel welcome.

The members of our contingent include: Spencer Mango, Chas Betts and Joe Betterman (all of our USOEC program at the University of Northern Michigan)… Mark Rial, Adam Wheeler, Willie Madison and Sasa Petkovic (members of our Resident Athlete Program in Colorado Springs). Sasa is the son of our Team Leader, Coach Momir Petrovic. Olympian, Brad Vering, also a resident, joins us for just the Serbian leg of our tour.

Much of what we do, on this part of the tour, is actually about Momir. He is one of three Olympic Champions (in Greco-Roman Wrestling) from what was then Yugoslavia. Momir won his gold medal in Montreal (1976). He has been in the United States for many years, and is a key factor in the success of the U.S. Greco-Roman program.

The tournament we compete in, this weekend, is named for Momir's coach, the legendary Ljubomir Ivanovic. This is quite a homecoming for both Momir and Sasa. Besides getting to see extended family, Sasa gets to watch his Dad get treated like the proverbial "Rock Star"!

Before we even got out of the airport, in Belgrade, we were whisked upstairs for a major press conference. Sasa's grandmother called, this morning, to say she had see Momir on TV last night. Just two days ago, the Serbian parliament passed new legislation, honoring Olympic Champions of Serb ancestry.

It is really refreshing to see the whole process. First, it's nice to see good people happy. There are a lot of people who work as hard as Momir, but most of us forget to say a simple, "Thank You".

Secondly, I get a little jealous, on behalf of our American Olympians. It's only 2007 and I'm already having to teach High School freshmen who Cael and Rulon are. Many would not even recognize the names Zadick or Warren. It's just nice to see a culture, like Serbia's, place so much value on a guy brining home Olympic glory. Momir Petkovic is a "real deal" hero!

On a lighter note, speaking of Olympics and glory and heroes… We're are all a'buzz, telling Rulon stories! We got the news of his latest mishap, early Monday, on our ways to airports. Some of the guys in Greece and Turkey are just getting the word. As soon as each guy learns that Rulon is not seriously harmed, they all have the same reaction. It seems there is no end to the tales of the big man's adventures!

We had a good work out, this morning, with our Serbian hosts. We'll get one more in, today, one tomorrow, then wrestle a dual match that is being promoted all over town.

Tuesday, February 27

Here begins the saga of one of USA Wrestling's 2007 Greco-Roman Winter Tours. This particular tour travels to Belgrade, Serbia and Sombathely, Hungary.

It seems best to begin with some explanation of how the tour system works, its mission and goals. This writer has often wondered if the wrestling community, at large, really understands what our governing body does between World Championships.

Each year, our Greco-Roman, Women's and Freestyle Coaching Staff identify several competition and training venues around the planet. Some of the events remain consistent for years. Others are one-time only events.

Each coaching staff has defined certain regions, countries, or individuals we need to see and wrestle, in order to stay competitive. This "scouting" process has long term perspective, looking at least as far as the next Olympic four-year cycle.

Through our own system of age group development, national championships and team trials, we identify both our current and future hopefuls. Like college and professional teams, in the high-dollar sports, depth is critical to what we do!

Each of our senior athletes have their personal scouting agenda, too. Each wants to wrestle a certain technical style, country, or individual, in order to refine their own goal setting and time line. The goals are always the same… World and Olympic Medals. The time lines vary, but it's fair to say they encompass both 2008 Beijing Games and 2012 London Games.

Our top-ranked athletes get to choose their tour from a menu constructed by National Teams. Most of the support for the tours come from USA Wrestling's budget, including direct funding from the U.S. Olympic Committee. Other contenders get support from the clubs they represent. Still others scrimp and save, a year at a time, to pay their own way to their dreams. We often send two or more athletes, in a weight class, to a premier event.

Our salaried coaching staff work hard to get to many key competitions. Still, the quantity of tour opportunities and the time overlaps between require additional personnel. USAW developed their Volunteer Coaches' Pool at the organization's inception.

Every autumn, the National Teams staff polls the volunteer coaches who have made themselves eligible, through our system of Coach Education and continued service to our programs. Coaches interested in assignments for the upcoming year list their choices in priority order.

Results are charted, then made available to each style's Coach Selection Committee. The committees meet, by conference call, in mid to late November, each year. They choose volunteer candidates and alternates, then confirm availability.

That's how I got here. My name is Rusty Davidson. I was selected to accompany Greco-Roman Assistant National Coach Momir Petkovic, as the Volunteer Coach to two events in southeastern Europe.

Our specific delegation is composed of some of the brightest young stars in Greco-Roman Wrestling. I will introduce you to them in a future installment. We will combine with other American delegations both in Serbia and Hungary.

This assignment is very much a "treat" for me! I've been part of several age group Greco tours, including World Teams. I have worked with Senior female athletes in World Championships and Pan Ams. But this is my first Senior men's assignment. (I hope they're as tough on the mat and easy to travel with as the women!)

My plan is to communicate with USAW's Media Director, Gary Abbott, daily. Knowing that internet connections are not always guaranteed, in eastern Europe, I may have to 'hit and miss'.

Tomorrow, I'll introduce the guys in our delegation. Feel free to send specific questions through Gary or the message boards. I'll do my best to respond.

- RD
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