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St. James Plaindealer - St. James, MN
  • Wrestling with my own Ignorance

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  • With my esteemed colleague Marissa Hennen now onboard here at the Plaindealer, we've divided up the news coverage, which allows us both to cover sports, as well--girl's basketball and gymnastics for her, and boy's basketball and wrestling for me. Though we were both drawn to this position by the opportunity to write about sports (what, you thought we came for the weather?), the transition hasn't been seamless. As a reporter, beginning a new beat is always tough--it's tantamount to moving someplace new--so I need to avail myself of this opportunity to toss a few bouquets at the feet of those who rescued me from drowning at the wrestling meet December 17. Between my own less-than-spectacular playing career, fandom, and covering events as a journalist, I have a solid grasp on football (where I was too small and didn't enjoy getting hit), basketball (I was a superb shooter and an adroit passer, but I was slower than a Terrence Malick film, couldn't dribble, played mostly matador defense, and treated the rebounding area inside the lane like it was radioactive, because, again, I'm not a big fan of contact--I don't even like when people hug me), baseball (good defensive outfielder, couldn't hit), golf (my best sport, where I was the top gun on our high school varsity team for three years. Don't get too excited, though; we were the worst team in the conference each year, and being the best player on a lousy team is like being the most morally upstanding person in Caligula's court--it doesn't take much effort. I had a sublime short game, but, off the tee, I was both short and crooked--a pernicious combination), tennis (innate hand-eye coordination and a wicked backhand, but all that running really wears a guy out), and horse racing (only as a bettor; I'm too big to be a jockey, and I'm obviously not a horse--although some ex-girlfriends have suggested I am a certain part of a horse's rear anatomy). My only blind spots are ice hockey and wrestling. My hockey knowledge is limited to the hilarious Paul Newman movie “Slap Shot,” and I don't know icing from offsides, so I'm thankful St. James Area won't be inflicting a hockey team on me. As for wrestlers, I can name only two: Rulon Gardner--who won gold in Sydney in 2000, but, by all accounts, should be dead right now (he punctured his abdomen with an arrow during a show-and-tell gone horribly wrong in elementary school, lost a toe to frostbite while stranded alone for 18 hours in the Wyoming wilderness after being separated from his snowmobiling party and falling into a freezing river, and survived a plane crash into a Utah river)--and Aleksandr Karelin, who won Olympic gold in 1988, 1992, and 1996 before losing to Gardner in 2000, all the while cutting an image of mythic invincibility (he didn't lose a match in International competition for 13 years). I mention all this so you understand that, when I attended my first ever wrestling match December 17, I was out of my depth--and I knew it. As I milled around the mat like a morose medieval minstrel bereft of flute or function before the match, I finally spotted someone I knew: Don Kurpiers, who at least was able to point out the coaching staff to me. When the match was about to begin, I didn't even know where to sit, but fortunately the in-house announcer (thank you, sir) pointed to a spot for me to park myself. While watching the first few matches, I was about as flummoxed as when my television is inadvertently turned to Spanish--I see what's going on, but I don't understand any of it. Serendipitously, a couple former St. James High School wrestlers sitting next to me educated me on the finer points of the sport (thanks, gentlemen), and two statisticians gave me a veritable crash-course in wrestling. One was Alison Durheim, and I didn't catch the name of the other young lady, so I'll just name each statistician--Kali Wright, Lindsey Kulseth, Bailey Petersen, Halie Redmond, and Allison Wolle--in the hopes of getting it right (you know who you are). A sincere thanks to those of you who helped bail a wrestling dilettante out of a precarious position.

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