Why the news today is upsetting.

Posted in Uncategorized on 12 February 2013 by fortes416

I don’t find today’s news to be upsetting for any real historical reason. I really don’t care if Socrates wrestled, albeit naked, in the sand. I could care less that philosophers went from the Gymnasium to the “gym” to put in the place the idea of Anime Sana in Corpore Sano. You don’t either, or if you do, please know you can’t. This next ultimate match cannot be about what you learned or what you did. That is what has us in the predicament in the first place. Leaning on tradition, patting ourselves on the back without listening to our critics, and setting on the laurels that once shrouded our skulls.

The sadness for me is knowing this, that Jordan Burroughs can never have the chance to do what Bruce Baumgartner couldn’t, find gold three times, and the accessory fact, that Chance Marstellar might very well have to make a real run at Rio in 2016, because that will be his first, last and only shot. Complementary to that is the ancillary fact that Bobby Telford, the current Iowa Hawkeyes heavyweight, a young man that gave up life on the east coast for the cold of Iowa and ultimately a chance at Olympic gold also has to roll the dice at Rio in 2016. Now or never fellas.

The sadness for me tonight was knowing that as much as I joke, that I really do now want my son to not wrestle. Son, go be a DH. They cannot win gold either. He ran and picked up a football. He is like every other kid in America right now. He won’t wrestle, he’ll never wear my singlets I have spent years saving for him. He won’t understand what I do, why I do, when I do, and most certainly not how I do things. He will lack the vision I have gained from the sport. He will lack the depth and volume control wrestling has given me. He will lack the inner peace that is made after another late night run in pursuit of a goal. At one time it was to be the best, now the runs are there for sanity and to keep my mind free. He will not have that.

He won’t have any of this. Jordan will not have another Chance (pun intended), and Bobby will be relegated to summers fishing off the coast of Cape Henlopen if we quit.

By thinking backwards we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot. Now, now is the time, “To determine the right direction to take this momentum and move the ground swell in sync,” as Jim Harshaw so beautifully put it. We must forget our past, hang our ego’s to dry for a bit, for a minute, for a day, for a month, for a year, for an EVER.

Unity is what we need. Let’s forgo the IOC and USOC as America and throw the biggest trapped arm belly-to-belly 5 point toss we can as a unified wrestling world. The Iranians are just as important as the Indians, who are just as important as the Russians, who are just as important as the Germans, who are just as important as the Chinese, who are just as important as the Ukrainians, who are just as important as the Finnish. You get my point.

This is not about you and me, and our past. If it is, we’re going backwards faster than we are going forwards. It’s about Jordan Burroughs having his shot, about seeing Chance Marstellar have a coming out party in 2020, about Bobby Telford wrestling a Romanian in the Olympic Semi-Finals instead of wrasslin’ a Wahoo or Tarpaulin on a 24 ft. Bayliner.

For me, it’s about my son and speaking a common language. Looking at him and helping him understand the struggle I went through as an athlete, a subpar athlete, and the struggle I went through as a coach. Talking to him about the tough times in life when he does something stupid, being able to tell him to get up off the mat. Being able to say to him, as I used to say to my athletes, “It’s about being the guy that wants to be in the gym the longest that wins”, being able to tell him what overtime means, and not to get ridden out.

Struggles that have made me a significantly better man, but ultimately have given me the vision to help him have the best life I can, so he can do the same for his son.

I said this today and I will say it again here:The only question any wrestler should ask today is not, “Why did this happen and who can I blame?” Rather the question is, “What can I do and how can I help?” If we don’t answer that, plan on making your wrestling mats into swimming pool floats.
Be sickened, be saddened, but most of all be active.


The Sapling Amongst the Oaks

Posted in Life, Wrestling on 16 August 2010 by fortes416

I have been fortunate enough to become a part of the group of coaches that steers the Keystone Wrestling Camp, created and maintained by former Penn State Head Coach and NCAA Champion John Fritz. Most recently, six of us met to discuss the camp in the coming year. Ways we will change the camp to offer a truly systematic approach to teaching wrestling. I could go on and on about the positive aspect of teaching system wrestling, but I’ll spare you the details. Instead, I’d like to comment on a phenomena I realized while driving to the meeting. I was the only person that would sit at the table that was not either an All-America wrestler, or coach of a PIAA State place winner. Sure, I’d been fortunate enough to coach some really great wrestlers, but I lacked either of these accolades.

On the way to the meeting, I’d become further taken by this idea. I have good pedigree as stated in an earlier post. I have had some great experiences coaching wrestlers and training athletes. But I was a young kid seated at a table full of legends. To my far left sat NCAA champion and coach of many NCAA All-America wrestlers, John Fritz. Next to Coach Fritz sat Ralph Voit, Head Coach of a very successful Gov. Mifflin wrestling program. Along the other side of the table sat NCAA Champion Stan Zeamer, NCAA All-America Bernie Fritz, and NCAA All-America and Coach of 2x NCAA Champions Duane Bastress, Tom Kessler from York College of PA.

This group is the most unassuming group one could ever happen upon. As Coach Kessler and I left, I saw three men wearing Penn State shirts and I wondered if they even knew they were in the presence of two former All-America wrestlers. To get back to the point of this all, it took me well into the meeting to believe I was fortunate enough to sit at the table with these men. These men are giants in this field we call wrestling.

It was then that I was called back to the adage from Confucius telling me I really do not know that much. I have a lot left to learn in this life and only be understanding that I am a sapling when surrounded by mature oaks will I truly be able to learn. So often many of us, me included, think we have “IT” together, when in fact we don’t have a clue. I have been at the top and the bottom of the coaching barrel. I was lucky enough to be voted as a coach of the year by my peers in 2007,and just five years before I coached a group of wrestlers that couldn’t get out of their own way.

When we face situations like this, all we can do is sit back, shut up, and listen to what these men have to say. I had another situation like this over the summer when I got the chance to speak with Kevin McCleary. He’s a local legend here in York County, and for good reason. He’s been an NCAA All-America wrestler, he has coached some of the best ever to wrestle here in York County, and he’s been a coach for the PAWF in Freestyle and Greco. His fund of knowledge is enormous, and he has the personality to go with it. Kevin taught me more in a few short moments than I have learned in entire semesters in classrooms with people holding Ph.D.’s.

I guess my point in all of this is, when you are the sapling, be as much. Do not try to be too much more than what you are, for if you do, those around,  you will know and you will forever be a sapling while questing to be an oak.


Fortes Fortuna Iuvat

What is your legacy?

Posted in Life, RANTS with tags , , on 22 July 2010 by fortes416

Ending an era
Today it was hot, nasty make you smell funky in less than a minute hot, so I had to occupy my mind while sprinting to mow the lawn. I was also fighting rain clouds and my wife needed to leave for a dental appointment. I was running and completed the yard in 46”, 1” off of my PR. In that time I had to lock into some thought to keep me moving at that pace or I was bound to think about the heat and would slow. In that I began to think that an era will end in the spring of 2011 at Salesianum School. Once that class leaves so does any influence I have in that place. It is a humbling thought to know that I am such a tremendous part of Delaware educational and athletic history by teaching and coaching there, but it is depressing all the same that my alma mater becomes that much more removed from my life. I love the school, the people in it, the lessons I learned while there, and the lessons I was able to teach. It is a powerful place.

I have recently been in contact with a former wrestler of mine that is in the process of locking down a DI football scholarship. Great kid, great family, great will to suffer. As a teacher we are lucky if we come in contact with a student in our career that takes to us. Though I have been largely absent for the career of this student athlete we’ve kept in touch and he occupies a special place in my mind when doing things as a coach. He’s the kid that sent me a message after he bought a Prowler that said, “Jesus Christ, I nearly passed out and another kid puked in the street.” He is that type of kid. The kind I wish I had 50 of each year.

Thinking on this I was taken back to my very first season opening, coaching meeting in Oct 2002. I was new to the school and new to the program at another school in Delaware. The head coach was tepid at best to me coming in and less than welcoming as we got into the meeting. Not much was accomplished that meeting for me, except my coaching philosophy, and consequently educational philosophy was born. During a particularly heated portion of the meeting, I got to speak on what I thought about the whole program. Not being one to hold back, I said I largely disagreed with the technical emphasis and the head coach did nothing to promote the betterment of the program. Then it came. I looked at the group and gave what I think to be a pretty solid coaching philosophy, especially for an over-aggressive 23 year-old. I explained that each kid is a ball of clay we have the chance to impact and form. If we fail to do that, we fail as coaches. Needless to say I was not a favorite of the head coach that season, but I did replace him to the next!

Tonight I got this note on my facebook account from a former student from my last senior class at Salesianum.

It’s in moments like these that we know as educators that we will teach them well and touch their lives, or at least I have the ability to do that. If I do, then well that is up to me. But when students can pop back into our lives with such a miniscule piece of minutiae from such a fraction of a moment, it shows that we are always creating, defining, and then redefining our legacy. Our legacy is what it is whether we want it to be or not. It is what people correctly and incorrectly perceive. It is up to us to protect and continue. The funny part about legacies though is they cannot be protected with caution. They are not your Uncle Cecil’s 1978 Porsche 911 that he wipes with a diaper daily and only drives when there is a drought to prevent damage from the rain. Legacies must constantly be tested, broken, sent to the back, and re-tested for them to maintain legitimacy and truth.

With my legacy ending at Salesianum, I look to the future in my own house. I have a great four year-old daughter that is growing by leaps and bounds and is a riot on a daily basis. She has a younger brother, featured here in this short clip.

I made this because many parts of me do miss home and Salesianum. Once you teach at Salesianum, especially as an alumni a piece of your heart wants your son to attend, pray the Direction of Intention, navigate the rancid locker spaces, maybe catch a fly ball on Fr. Kenny OSFS field, play in Baynard on a Friday in November, head to Monkey Hill during F6 (now G6), know about Chief, Buzzy, Joe Nowak, Ted Hazlett, Phil Vavala, and maybe, just maybe record a win in a mat on the same floor where on one Saturday in January 1997 his daddy pulled off a huge upset.

Looking back on the thoughts of today it’s important that we do leave a legacy because then we know we were not afraid to live. We lived and affected others. Hopefully, we affect others in such a tremendous way that we can help change the way they act, think, or carry themselves.

Do you have a ball of clay in your life? If so, what have you really done to provide that person with something, anything to help them better themselves and this world?


Fortes Fortuna Iuvat

Focus is necessary: Danger Training

Posted in RANTS, Wrestling with tags , , on 18 July 2010 by fortes416

Danger Training:

So often as trainers (I am NOT certified, but I do coach youth thru NCAA wrestlers) we focus on things based on science. We often fail to really focus on the psychological side of the training. We talk about the psychological side of the training, but to really train the psychological side calls for us to realize failure might not only be eminent, but painful. Not painful in a boo hoo manner, but in a very real physical sense. If you have ever bonked on a box jump you know from where I am coming. I have come to call this the Oh $&1! Point of training.

Recently I had begun doing tire jumps in my basement. I don’t have boxes, and with two children cranking out $150 for a 36” box is not practical and may make my wife re-evaluate my place as her husband. After having no problem sticking the 32” stacked tires I needed to progress further. I decided jumping into the tires is a great idea. It forced me to gain height and to create distance displacement. The real training though came from getting out of the tire. I had less room to squat and use my arms. If I failed coming out of the tire I was going to wind up flat on my face on my basement floor. I don’t have any padding there, so it would be up to me and my hands to save my face. It’s not pretty, but it is passable.

With that, I took to thinking about ways to help our athletes. We have a wrestler that has become a physical specimen in his own right, a tough kid from NY (Strong Island) that is about as explosive as I have ever coached. Considering I have had the great fortune to coach an Ok. St. Cowboy and a VA Tech Hokie that are looked upon as two of the more explosive wrestlers in the country, this is saying something. Our wrestler can explode, but he had trouble knowing when explosion is needed. So I began to think how to apply the idea of danger into his training.

About 3 weeks ago, I went to my in-laws farm for dinner after a workout and swim. Part of my workout was to perform a knee jump to a jump over a portion of the barn foundation, then to do 10 kettlebell swings and 10 push ups. I started by kneeling about 6” from the barn foundation, jumping to my feet, then over the foundation (about 18”) to my bell. Each time I jumped I had to focus, because if I failed my shins were going to be hambuger.

I thought back to a clip of the training of the actors in the movie 300 where one of  the stuntmen says, “So, if you’re not nervous before you train, think about it. It might be not hard enough[sic].” When we train, a fear is needed, that we might not make it; couple that with the fear of injury and you have a different mentality when training.

I took this training to some of our wrestlers at York during the recent visit of John Fritz’s Keystone Wrestling Camp. I taught two of our guys the knee jump – box jump combination to emphasize the response of the nervous system to multiple jumping exercises. Once that was mastered we looked for more, only because our shins were spared. We took it to the field house the next day at the end of a session and created a gauntlet. Knee jump to a 24” box jump to a jump into and out of a 30” tire stack, then onto a 30” box. If we failed at any point we were falling on our face. My knees bear the bruises of my neuromuscular system failing me twice. We then created alternate versions where we would land on one foot on the boxes to find out if our muscles could stabilize. There were a few falls during the exercise, including one where I jumped over the 30” box and bit some floor.

The idea that if our muscles failed us we’d be hurt made a focus so much more clear and present. Before each knee jump a centering of our person was needed. If we capriciously went into the movement as people often do in a “gym” then we’d pay for it for who knows how long. In conversation I likened this to running across a pond full of gators. If you fail, you die. That simple.

Focus before each movement you do to prepare for anything you prepare for is a necessity. If you can perform a movement without focus, is it really worth doing?

The choice is yours.


Fortes Fortuna Iuvat

Why I am NOT cool.

Posted in Life, RANTS on 15 July 2010 by fortes416

Why I am NOT cool
During a recent trip to the cradle of liberty in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and a subsequent trip to Busch Gardens I was dealt a crushing reality I have known, well frankly since I was about 5. I am not cool. I was presented with myriad reasons over the course of that weekend why I am not cool, but I AM cool with not being cool. Here is a list I came up with to elucidate.

1-    I don’t style my hair: Actually, I don’t have enough to spike because after my daughter was born I shaved my head to prevent me from walking into salons ever again. I thank the venerable David Willard for this.
2-    I don’t wear skinny jeans: My left foot won’t fit into a pair, forget the rest of my leg and accompanying anatomy. Boys, yes those that wear the skinny jeans are in fact boys regardless of age [Iggy Pop exempt here], skinny jeans are for girls, not you.
3-    I wear a belt and my pants at waist level: I cannot understand this fashion trend, yet it goes on.
4-    I don’t have [more than one] stupid tattoo: I don’t have tribal signs, I don’t have a bicep tat. I do have mighty mouse, but if you saw my ears you would understand.
5-    I don’t wear shirts that will fit my younger sister: Though I didn’t ring the bell at the amusement park, I did beat the two guys shrink wrapped in their cotton shirts. That was satisfaction enough for the moment, though I will ring the bell next time.
6-    I don’t worry about my biceps: I reserve the right to puke if I see another guy with inflated arms and skinny legs.
7-    I don’t wear trendy shirts: My wardrobe lacks the pomposity of the current UFC trend, and I don’t own an Ed Hardy, Abercrombie, or Hollister shirt. I do though have a sweet Westbank Wrestling Club Grapplin’ Ducks Shirt!
8-    I don’t say “bro”: I say brother, and this is a term I reserve for my closest friends and family members, not just some schlub I want to borrow a dollar from to ring the bell.
9-    I don’t like Justin Beiber, or any “bands” that affect my position and anatomical gifts that make me male: ‘Nuff Said.
10-     I don’t wear my hat like it is a scarf: I take the stickers and tags off and bend the brim. It’s a hat man, wear as such.
11-    I don’t find too much skin sexy, just skanky: Opinion is yours, but this is mine.

With the above stated I’ve never been cool. I wore the same jeans for 48 straight days in college. I wear wrestling t-shirts everyday, because I like them and they are comfortable. I’ll admit I am sure I was a victim of a few trends, but for the most part I have been anti-establishment as long as I can remember. This is what separates me today. Does it make me better, or does it make me think I am better, no. Just different.

I’d like to have a cup of coffee with Emerson and Thoreau. They were different and they changed (and still do change) people’s lives. So if you are a lemming beware of the edge. I’d rather be a skunk and live by myself another day.


Fortes Fortuna Iuvat

Hunc Tu Caveto: RIP Clint McFatridge

Posted in Life, RANTS on 12 July 2010 by fortes416

Tonight I take a moment of silence for a friend that died today. I do not have specifics, but I do know the world lost a great man in the death of Clint McFatridge. I was lucky enough to know Clint since the spring of 2005 when I began to coach his son, Colton, for whom my son was named.

Clint was always ready with a crucial stat, a warm smile and an open ear. He was unassuming in his person and very deep where depth was needed. He was a thoughtful man and a person that cared deeply for his family.

Clint, If you can hear my thoughts now, know I’ll be heading to Chicho’s when I head to VAB this summer to have a slice of ludicrous pizza for you.

Rest well my friend, you are already missed.

Dan Gilbert should be lauded. We need some anger.

Posted in Life, RANTS on 9 July 2010 by fortes416

Why I am now Dan Gilbert’s biggest fan:
Tonight was supposed to be seismic, and it might just be, but Dan Gilbert’s response was much more entertaining and honest than the anguish provided by LeBron James in his choice to abandon his hometown. Personally I hope every real Cleveland Cavs fans does burn their hard earned money in the form of a LeBron James jersey, or t-shirt, or poster. But that is another article for another day.

In sport, we’ve fallen into a culture of being politically correct all of the time. Coaches never speak out against their players that act like idiots. Players never call out other players; rivalries are dying at an alarming rate. Until tonight we’d hit the point of being too nice too much of the time. Dan Gilbert changed all of that with a short letter calling LeBron James personal character into question. Some will call Gilbert unprofessional, others will call him a sore loser. I call him a winner. He wants to win, and to a degree, he expected James to be with the Cavs until the bitter end. If it was really all about winning and not trying to improve his global brand why not take a pay cut to bring the best stars to Cleveland.

We need more people like Dan Gilbert in the United States. He provides passion, anger, and a spark. We need people that get up the grouse of others. We need people willing to lay it all on the line and not feign reservation in public, while smashing brandy snifters behind closed doors. We need people to grab life by the genitalia and take it for a ride.

Dan Gilbert may eat his words about James and the curse, but at least he had the testicular fortitude to lay it on the line. Quit playing nice. Do something you are passionate about, cause a conflict and deal with it directly.