Column: Line Drives — Wrestling ability got taken down

[This is my column in the Feb. 24 issue of The Commercial Review.]

One of the first ways we learn as infants is by watching our parents.

The same can be true with learning to play sports. We watch others throw a football, swing a bat or shoot a basketball.

Our eyes are the first way we learn new tasks or new skills; by seeing someone else do it.

Many times, the thought “Hey, I can do that!” springs up in our minds, leading us to try something new.

Even as we age, that thought still pops up now and again.

It’s how I recently took up running.

It’s also what took me to the wrestling room at Jay County High School on Wednesday afternoon.

Saturday completed my fourth season covering high school wrestling, and after watching hundreds of matches during that time, the thought “Hey, I can do that!” popped into my head.

Well, I can’t.

All season long, I told junior Gaven Hare I wanted a piece of him once his year was finished.

It just so happened to have lasted as long as possible, as he qualified for the state finals at 220 pounds.
Hare, who hovered between 202 and 210 pounds during the season, is the exact same build as me. We’re both about 5 feet, 8 inches tall, and thanks to a lot of weight loss during 2016, we were similar in weight.

So I wanted to see if I had what it takes to step on to the mat with Hare, who for all intents and purposes is me, just 14 years my junior.

Wednesday I made my way up to the wrestling room, not knowing what I was getting myself into. I laced up a pair of wrestling shoes — it had been 18 years since I last put on a pair, as I wrestled for two weeks in eighth grade — and stepped on the scale.

I was 207.1 pounds. Hare weighed in at 217.7.

Just about even.

Entering the match, I had three goals: after watching JCHS senior Tyler Leonhard nearly perfect the craft, I was going to pick Hare’s ankle right off the start; I wasn’t going to let Hare pin me; and I didn’t want to lose by tech fall (for those unaware, it is losing by 15 points).

Only one of those goals was met.

In front of about two dozen high school kids, I stepped into the circle, shook Hare’s hand and began one of the most embarrassing efforts in my uneventful athletic career.

I missed the ankle pick.

Before I knew it, I was on my back, down a quick 2-0, and fighting for my life to stand up. A two-point and three-point near fall later, I’m down 7-0.

“Just pin me and get it over with,” I thought.

But I continued to fight, continued to give it everything I had to not get pinned. There was a moment Hare was laying on top of my chest with my left arm extended, and I was doing everything in my power to keep my right shoulder from touching the mat.

As I laid there staring at nothing but Hare’s blue shirt for what felt like ages, I was contemplating my next move. I managed to escape, but quickly got taken down again and Hare scored another near fall.

Then the buzzer sounded, and it was music to my ears. Two thoughts ran through my head at that moment.

“I made it through the first period!” and “I’ve got four more minutes of this?”

I trailed 11-1.

Hare deferred to me starting position for the second period and I chose neutral simply try to delay the inevitable for as long as possible. I knew that if I started on bottom I’d never be able to get up, and I didn’t want him to get an easy escape. I knew there was no way I could keep him down.

Like he does to almost all of his opponents, Hare toyed with me in the second period. He faked low shots to get me to drop down, and faked high moves as well. He got my right leg, lifted it toward his chest and swept my left leg for a takedown. Another two-point near fall and I’m trailing 15-1.

We’re near the edge of the circle now, and he looked at the score, let me go to make it 15-2 and said four words.

“Takedown and it’s over.”

We got back to the center circle, he put me in a headlock and rolled me to the ground for the match-winning takedown for a 17-2 tech fall in 2 minutes, 47 seconds.

Those three goals I had? I didn’t pick Hare’s ankle and I lost by tech fall. One out of three isn’t so bad, I suppose.

I’ve watched my fair share of wrestlers make their victories look almost effortless. Hare has been the subject of a number of those this season.

At the same time, I’ve looked on — sometimes through my camera — as wrestlers were in the same position Hare put me in; slightly outweighed, overmatched and downright dominated.

All my life, I’ve seen people do things and thought to myself, “Hey, I can do that!”

On Wednesday, that theory got taken down, over and over and over again.

I’ll still enjoy the sport of wrestling, but from now on I’ll keep myself off the mat. My headgear is officially retired.

Column: Line Drives — Running might be addicting

[This is my column in the Dec. 1 issue of The Commercial Review.]

“You’re addicted,” he said to me, as we stood in the produce section of a local grocery store.

His statement didn’t spark a verbal response; just a smile and a little bit of a blush.

“You’ll start trying something new for more of a challenge,” he continued.

I couldn’t bring myself to agree with him at that moment. But of all people, he knows what he’s talking about.

An avid runner himself, Donald Gillespie has watched the progress I’ve made over the course of the last 11 months.

There was once a time I wouldn’t dare run on a treadmill, let alone run on the streets of Portland and in multiple 5K races.

But I just can’t let go of that one word Donald said to me on Monday.


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Column: Line Drives — Mind is set on a mini

[This is my column in the Aug. 4 issue of The Commercial Review.]

“Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.” – Dean Karnazes.

Seven months ago, I struggled to run a mile.

Now, the same distance requires less effort.

Over the course of 2016, I have made a handful of lifestyle changes. I’m eating a lot better, I am working out a lot more and I am running more than I ever have in my life.

As a result, I’ve dropped more than 50 pounds.

My next challenge involves running, too.

I want to run a half marathon.

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Column: Line Drives — Stay is longer than was expected

[This is my column in the Thanksgiving — Nov. 25 — issue of The Commercial Review.]

This was supposed to be a stepping-stone.

My time here was going to be brief.

I’d come to Jay County, work for a year or two and then hit the road, moving on to someplace else to start over again. Work my way up the sports writing ladder.

My dream, after all, is to cover professional baseball on a daily basis.

But sometimes, plans don’t work out as envisioned.

I moved here two and a half years ago, and I never thought I would make it as long as I have.

I was going to kick-start my career — and this is a career, not just a job — gain valuable experience and then scream sayonara from a moving van as I drove into the sunset.

But something happened.

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Column: Line Drives — Question from a fan was a surprise

[This is my column in the Nov. 19 issue of The Commercial Review.]

It was a question that caught me off guard.

Saturday in Monroeville, the Jay County High School girls basketball team had just finished beating the host Heritage Patriots.

It was the second win in as many games — also the second game I covered this winter sports season — and the eighth consecutive regular season Allen County Athletic Conference victory for Jay County.

Usually I’m the one asking the questions following a game. Sometimes, I even catch the athletes off guard with one of my inquiries.

The table was turned Saturday.

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Column: Line Drives — Indians deserved playoff game

[This is my column in the Nov. 12 issue of The Commercial Review.]

It was more than two decades in the making.

The Fort Recovery High School football team hosted its first playoff game in program history on Friday.

There is a certain buzz that surrounds football games on Friday nights, and what happened in Fort Recovery last week was special.

Even before arriving at Barrenbrugge Athletic Park, the pomp and circumstance was in full force.

Pop-up canopies were peppered throughout town, grills fired up and the smell of tailgate food permeated the air.

It was hard not to get caught up in the moment.

Nearly an hour before the game started, the home side of the stands was just about half full.

It was easy to see the implications of the game.

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Column: Line Drives — Lapse in security needs answers

[This is my column in the Nov. 5 issue of The Commercial Review.]

How does it happen?

Given the surge in security measures taken at sporting events since Sept. 11, 2001, how is it that fans are able to smuggle things into professional sports stadiums?

Take Monday night’s football game between the Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Those of us who watched the game on TV were treated to footage of two people who rappelled and displayed a sign from the upper deck of the stadium protesting Bank of America’s involvement in a liquefied natural gas plant.

Initially it was unclear what they were doing. Gregg Doyel, a columnist for the Indianapolis Star, tweeted a photo claiming that they were technicians fixing a TV camera.

Makes sense.

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