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A mat-side view with passion

The Pressbox

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 10:37 a.m. CDT

Passion is part of sports, whether you are competing, coaching or watching.

Wells Fargo Arena was filled to the brim, bottom to top, with wrestling passion last weekend from Wednesday to Saturday. I witnessed the Iowa passion and love for the sport of wrestling Friday and Saturday as I covered the 2014 Iowa high school state wrestling tournament.

I grew up with wrestling in Kansas. We’re just as passionate there. State tournaments are amazing. Even fans with no vested interest in outcomes can attend tournaments and watch the artistry of the sport on the mat.

One big difference between Kansas and Iowa high school state wrestling tournaments is that Iowa has all three classifications wrestling in one arena. Kansas has its four classes at three different locations.

Sitting in Wells Fargo Arena Friday, I was reminded of one of the greatest high school track meets in the nation — the Kansas High School All-Class Track and Field Championships. All six classifications of Kansas high school athletes come together at Wichita State University each May. You can enjoy watching the best athletes from the smallest Class 1A school to the largest Class 6A school.

These type of events are amazing.

I loved that on the big center scoreboard at Wells Fargo Arena had all the matches — scores, times, periods — up there so no matter where someone was sitting they could keep track of a match. You can’t always move around to see the mat-side scoreboard.

There’s the steady ebb and flow of team cheerleaders moving from mat to mat. The “Let’s Wrestle” announcement signaled the start of each session. In Kansas, teams and fans are allowed to hang banners and signs — not at Iowa.

Then there’s the wrestling. And there was plenty of wrestling to take in over three days of the individual state tournament. 

When I wasn’t covering Newton, Lynnville-Sully or PCM wrestlers on the mat, I sat and took it all in. The passion mat side and throughout the arena. 

I love the sport of wrestling. I grew up on a wrestling mat. My father is a wrestler. My brothers and nephews are wrestlers. My father, brothers and sister are wrestling coaches at the kids level plus my brothers coach high school and middle school wrestling in Kansas.

Wrestling is a sport that challenges the individual. There’s no one else on the mat with you. It’s you against one opponent. Your talent, your strength, your knowledge, your passion against one other, who has just as much passion for the sport.

There’s no one to block for you. No one to set a screen for you. No one to rebound the ball for you. It’s basic one-on-one. There are times when nothing goes right on the mat for you.

But when it all comes together, it is magical.

I’ve never had that pleasure. I’ve watched from mat side many times as wrestlers I knew and many I didn’t experience it both ways. Emotions run high. Tears come both in defeat and in victory.

My father and mother both loved the sport. They worked together to establish a youth program in my hometown in the 1960s. Mom is gone now but her legacy of passion for the sport lives in her children. Dad continues to coach youth at age 86. Passion is his motivation. 

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