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JBluegill133

Memories of hero wrestlers

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The post about Mark Hall stopping to sign autographs for kids even after his loss in the finals had me reimincising of a moment that stood out to me when I was a youth wrestler.  I started typing a reply about the story but didn't want to hijack the thread away and though it would be cool to share stories about when we were younger and a memory of a  hero wrestler of ours.  

 I still remember as a child at midlands walking up to Leroy Vega from MN (my favorite wrestler at the time) and asking for an autograph prior to his finals match with Jody strittmatter.  He asked me if I could find him after the match.  He ended up losing (I was heartbroken) and later in the concourse or whatever its called he actually saw me came up and said would you still like my autograph? and signed my program.  I remember being floored by the fact that he came to me and remembered.  It's something that stuck with me my entire life.  

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Growing up in Wisconsin, Lee Kemp was a hero of mine.  I was at a UW meet in the late 90's and I saw Kemp in the stands.  I was in my mid-20s then and felt like it would have been weird to go up and tell him he was my hero.  Looking back, I should have talked to him.

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I grew up in Sheldon. It was 1996, the year that Tom Brands won. I was pretty young at the time, and I was out running the sidewalks of Sheldon mostly because I was naturally a chubby kid and I hated being fat. I never got over that until I hit my sophomore year of high school when I just matured and got muscles out of nowhere.

Anyway I obviously wasn't going fast, and across the street I saw someone else running that morning. It was Tom Brands. The moment he saw me, he crossed the street and asked if I wanted to run with him. I dont remember saying anything. I think I was a bit awestruck, but next thing I know I am jogging alongside the future Olympic champ. I do remember trying soooooo hard to keep the pace. I am sure it was almost a walk for him, but he took me all the way back to my house, wished me good luck, and was on his way again. 

It seems like such a small thing, but it was a big moment for me at the time. Despite the things that get said about the Brands bros, they really are great guys.

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The first NCAA championships that I attended was in Albany, 2002. I was 15 and my father passed away 3 weeks before the championships. A family friend took me to the championships and we were sitting in the UPenn section since we were with an Alum. I think my friend had said something to Brandon Slay about what I was going through and Brandon moved seats around so I could sit next to him a couple of the sessions. He was relatively fresh of the Olympic Gold and was my hero at the time. I was so thrilled to sit next to him. After the championships he called me every couple of weeks to check in and give me some motivational talks. I had a few of the voicemails saved for years.

I told a similar type of story in another thread about Tom Ryan:

 

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I had just started wrestling and my coaches were Dave Schultz fans.  They let me take VHS tapes of Dave to the school library (we didnt have a player at home) and I would skip class to watch them.  Dave did a clinic near where I lived and I couldnt wait.  I was anxious for weeks.  He showed up and he chose me to show moves on.  I had to have watched his matches more than anyone in that building combined.  I dont know how or if he knew how influential he already was to me but he decided to choose an 85lb beginner wrestler to show moves on.  I still think about it every couple of days. Somehow I felt as if we had been practice partners for years and it was another day on the mats together. I have heard other people say he made them feel like they were old friends, and I couldnt agree more.  I would never put an athlete on a pedestal above me, but that day really did change my trajectory in wrestling.

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2 hours ago, olddirty said:

I had just started wrestling and my coaches were Dave Schultz fans.  They let me take VHS tapes of Dave to the school library (we didnt have a player at home) and I would skip class to watch them.  Dave did a clinic near where I lived and I couldnt wait.  I was anxious for weeks.  He showed up and he chose me to show moves on.  I had to have watched his matches more than anyone in that building combined.  I dont know how or if he knew how influential he already was to me but he decided to choose an 85lb beginner wrestler to show moves on.  I still think about it every couple of days. Somehow I felt as if we had been practice partners for years and it was another day on the mats together. I have heard other people say he made them feel like they were old friends, and I couldnt agree more.  I would never put an athlete on a pedestal above me, but that day really did change my trajectory in wrestling.

LOL...I'm apparently older and dirtier than you. Dave wasn't hot **** until I was in JH :D

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5 hours ago, JBluegill133 said:

The post about Mark Hall stopping to sign autographs for kids even after his loss in the finals had me reimincising of a moment that stood out to me when I was a youth wrestler.  I started typing a reply about the story but didn't want to hijack the thread away and though it would be cool to share stories about when we were younger and a memory of a  hero wrestler of ours.  

 I still remember as a child at midlands walking up to Leroy Vega from MN (my favorite wrestler at the time) and asking for an autograph prior to his finals match with Jody strittmatter.  He asked me if I could find him after the match.  He ended up losing (I was heartbroken) and later in the concourse or whatever its called he actually saw me came up and said would you still like my autograph? and signed my program.  I remember being floored by the fact that he came to me and remembered.  It's something that stuck with me my entire life.  

I’ve coached against Vega for about ten years. He’s a great guy. 

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8 hours ago, jcjcjc said:

I’ve coached against Vega for about ten years. He’s a great guy. 

Glad to hear it.  I can't even remember why I was such a big fan.  I am from Illinois haha.  Probably because he was a little guy and I was a little guy.  Glad to hear he is still in the sport

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14 hours ago, russelscout said:

I grew up in Sheldon. It was 1996, the year that Tom Brands won. I was pretty young at the time, and I was out running the sidewalks of Sheldon mostly because I was naturally a chubby kid and I hated being fat. I never got over that until I hit my sophomore year of high school when I just matured and got muscles out of nowhere.

Anyway I obviously wasn't going fast, and across the street I saw someone else running that morning. It was Tom Brands. The moment he saw me, he crossed the street and asked if I wanted to run with him. I dont remember saying anything. I think I was a bit awestruck, but next thing I know I am jogging alongside the future Olympic champ. I do remember trying soooooo hard to keep the pace. I am sure it was almost a walk for him, but he took me all the way back to my house, wished me good luck, and was on his way again. 

It seems like such a small thing, but it was a big moment for me at the time. Despite the things that get said about the Brands bros, they really are great guys.

Wow - great story!! Were you able to tell that you were running with Tom and not Terry (I guess Terry would not have been running nor training in Sheldon if it was after trials)? I think Brands was going through some Foxcatcher drama around that time so I bet you were good company for Tom, who separated himself from the rest of the team and was training independently before that Olympics, and he appreciated your presence as much as you appreciated his.

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I grew up in State College, PA in the 1980s- Penn State had a good team: consistently placing in the top ten at NCAAs. All of the guys who wrestled for PSU back then were my heros. Carl DeStefanis, an NCAA champion at 118, John Hanrahan at 167, Eric Brugel at 158 (both NCAA All-Americans)were the guys who really stoked my love for the sport very early in my career. As I got older, I used to go into the PSU room in the off season and got to be in a group of four with future Olympian Ken Chertow and NCAA Champions Jimmy Martin and Sanshiro  Abe. I remember one of the coaches telling me that the only way my workout would be finished for the day is if I scored ONE takedown. I was there for over two-hours before one of the guys felt a little sorry for me and gave me a takedown! Even Coach Lorenzo and Coach Fritz treated me like I was a member of the team whenever I saw them; they were genuinely interested in how my wrestling was going through high school. 

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8 hours ago, pamela said:

Wow - great story!! Were you able to tell that you were running with Tom and not Terry (I guess Terry would not have been running nor training in Sheldon if it was after trials)? I think Brands was going through some Foxcatcher drama around that time so I bet you were good company for Tom, who separated himself from the rest of the team and was training independently before that Olympics, and he appreciated your presence as much as you appreciated his.

I think I have always been able to tell the difference. Being from Sheldon, there was no shortage of posters or pictures around our wrestling room. I had a teacher who was their high school coach(he would go on to be my middle school coach),and at that time T & T's mom still lived in Sheldon so they would come back and do some camps every now and then. I was pretty familiar with the two. 

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