State tournament wrestling a wild world of emotional disturbance

Spring athletes ready to take it outside
March 3, 2020

A moving ceremony - As the national anthem began and the wrestling crowd rose to their collective feet, I was on the move. It was a live performance to begin a Saturday that would last 10 hours. Dreams would be realized and hearts would be broken. I was unceremoniously reminded at the start of the tournament about where I was not allowed to roam, under threat of ejection if I did not comply. But welcome to my house. A young Cape girl was singing the anthem and I was moving like a lion in winter to get her photo. It was Adria Windish, straight out of Mariner Middle School, and she brought the Big House down. I don’t know how a middle school girl is handed a microphone and delivers a rousing version of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which is a tough song to sing. The only people sitting during the anthem at a wrestling tournament are in wheelchairs with a hand over their heart. Later before the finals, the Cape Chorale sang the anthem in group harmony. I scanned the gym to get their photo, but I couldn’t find them. Perhaps they were under the bleachers. 

For whom the bell tolls - A.I. duPont senior Azeem Bell took down defending state champion Danny Stradley of Sallies in overtime to win the 195-pound state championship. Azeem looked to his coaches corner and said slowly, repeatedly and emphatically, “I love you, dad. I love you, dad.” I read his lips. Ian Bell is the Tigers’ head coach, and without his leadership, there is no Tigers wrestling team and certainly no state championship moment. Azeem ran to his corner and jumped into his father’s arms. The Bell tolled for all of us. The message was clear, “We are all family.” Later at the victory podium, I stood behind Azeem’s mother’s brother trying to get a photo. I asked him, “How many photos are you going to take?” He just laughed and we chatted; then I congratulated him and the family.

The Invisible Inclusion Kid - The statewide wrestling culture embraced and absorbed Davey Fred, who worked the weekend tournament like Eugene Ormandy of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Wearing latex gloves donated by a trainer, Davey spent time as the third coach in Cape’s corner, sat at scoring tables, sat in a chair designated for on-deck officials and chatted them up, and provided emotional support for all wrestlers, not just Cape kids. 

A week off - An unwritten Cape rule since like forever is that an athlete coming off one season is entitled to a week off before beginning a sport the following season. The reality is, the better the athlete going from one sport to another, the less likely they are to take any time off. And the better the team, the more unlikely any athlete will take time off and jeopardize their position or playing time. The only place a player wants to be is on the field, not on the sidelines resting. 

Travon Miles - Travon is the sports director of 47 ABC out of Salisbury. He graduated from Salisbury University with a degree in communication arts.  He is cool and congenial, and he knows me as the “somebody but not sure who” guy. I took Travon’s photo Saturday night before the finals of the state wrestling tournament. I didn’t realize it was him. I was more intrigued that he was sitting in a corner reading a paperback book, so I asked him, “What are you reading?” Next I knew, we were talking about Baltimore and dialect and Snoop from The Wire. The book “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates is written as a letter from a black father to his teenage son about growing up in Baltimore. Miles has a personal connection to Coates at some level. People are deep; you just have to pause and get to know them. 

Snippets - Tony Romo just signed a new contract as a television football analyst with CBS Sports for $17 million per year. He makes another $17 million in endorsements, most notably from Skechers shoes. But at least he’s a goofy somebody. Amped old guys, the zone where enthusiasm meets obnoxiousness. Amped gramps, I ran into that guy Saturday at wrestling, people knew him and seemed to like him, but there's not enough Wawa coffee in the world to get me to that level. Back it down, Old School! Go on now, git! 


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