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Article:A personal recap of the 104th EIWA Wrestling Championships

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Last week, I penned a lengthy profile of the F&M program, it’s ups, it’s downs and it’s relationship to Division I athletics as a Division III school. I compared the school to other schools that also field Division I programs like Hobart, Johns Hopkins and Colorado College, just to name three.

As the 2008 EIWA Championships neared, I don’t think I was alone in thinking about the problems that could develop by having the event hosted at a school not known for recent wrestling prowess and considering the school last hosted the event 23 years ago, how much actual experience did the staff have in putting on this type of event.

Wrestling events are much different than any other … so the preparation from a school that didn’t have big time Division I events was a concern.

Those concerns really never arose, because I firmly believe F&M’s staff and administration did an amazing job.

There are the usual group of complaints, but you could have hosted the event at the Scottrade Center and people will still find something to complain about. I can’t find too many, if any, things to point out that F&M needed to do better.

The facility is older and somewhat typical of smaller private schools with a long history and historical architecture. Mayser Gym might have been tight quarters for some, but the four-mat layout fit fine … which I must admit was a personal concern.

One thing people fail to take into account is how much behind-the-scenes work that goes into putting on an event. Most of us show up and “expect” things to be one way or the other, because that’s what we’re used to.

Upon walking in to Mayer on Friday night to do a sound check, I was like “Wow, this will work.”

The sound system at F&M is actually pretty good. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to work with it first hand, since I started announcing F&M home duals late last year.

But once fellow announcer Natanya Levitoff and I kicked off the event, things just ran great. A tip of the cap goes to tournament director Howard “Hob” Kroesen. He did everything he could to make the event memorable and first-class as did the athletic staff at F&M and wrestling coaches Pete Schuyler and Mike Catullo.

The coaches gifts were great, the pre-tournament banquet was stellar. There were some issues with parking, but the tight urban campus only has 1,800 students … and there were easily more people in Mayser Gym Saturday and Sunday than the campus typically has on it at any one time.

Remember folks, F&M basically bailed out the league by offering to host … and by their performance in putting on the event, I wouldn’t say “bailed out” is an effective word. They were gracious hosts and what also helped was new lighting in the gym.

Steve Peed, the Associate Director of Athletic Communications, was on point with his planning of the broadcast via B2 Networks. The wireless was set up for the media at the head table, and while somewhat cramped, it was still workable.

He looked completely relieved to have it over, but you’d think the staff was much bigger considering everything they took on. Athletics Director Patricia S.W. Epps was beaming during the finals, seeing the raised platform take stage. She knew it was a success and was visibly pleased at how the event took shape. While I might have been somewhat critical during my article during the week prior, she wasn’t going to let the event fall flat either.

Countless coaches and athletes from the other sports at F&M stepped up and there’s so many people to name and I’m still getting to know everyone’s first names – but Ann Phelan’s work went over well, as did SID Jill Yamma and her affinity for the Joe Esposito song “You’re The Best,” made famous by The Karate Kid. She also kept me hydrated with bottles of water frequently during the event. I got some mileage out of that song this weekend.

Along with Hob, Steve and Ann, two others that really had a big hand in planning this thing from early October on were Shawn Carty and Jared Ursani.

In talking with Steve, I’d made sure to get some additional thanks in here too. From Facilities and Operations: Marty McGrath, Ted Schmid and their crew. F&O came in to those meetings a number of times, and they carried out much of the heavy lifting.

Here’s a note from Steve, which I can personally attest to as well.

“Speaking of heavy lifting, the F&M football team and coaches broke their backs building and tearing down the stage. They also served as ushers all weekend. The B2 production was basically seven F&M students save for the announcers. Jeff Rich was the producer/director. Mark Collimore managed both sound and graphics. Kim Wenger (formerly Kim Kupec, the Lock Haven wrestling guru and current Centennial Assistant Director volunteered for the broadcast, and relayed all of the information from the table to the broadcast team).”

So it was truly all aspects of F&M involved, from Molly Austin singing the national anthem beautifully at the start of the tournament and again through finals, to the Rugby team selling subs at the long break before finals.

Not sure who all was on the broadcast at all times, but I know a few folks that were involved – namely F&M alum and message board "legend" (in his own mind) Nate Schy. It was Nate’s first time with radio/broadcast experience and he said “all the nerves went away when we started.”

I’m still curious to know how the local restaurants did that were within walking distance. I’m sure Doc Holliday’s and Iron Hill were jammed … and of course, The Brickyard, on Friday and Saturday night.

I came home with some good schwag, as did Gary Abbott of USA Wrestling, who holed up on my couch during the weekend, since I live a roughly half a mile from Mayser Gym.

The only thing that I found somewhat disappointing was some energy. I guess it might be my blue-collar wrestling upbringing that invokes loud, boisterous reactions during wrestling matches, but with some absolutely great and exciting finals, there wasn’t much of a roar when action was at its peak. I will give Lehigh fans credit, they made noise on nearly every LU takedown and rose to their feet when Dave Nakasone won the EIWA championship over Jordan Leen.

EIWA guru John Harmon and I were talking as the event came to a close and thought about the grade we’d give F&M on the overall event.

Harmon went with a B-plus … and all things considered, I’d probably bump it up to a solid A-minus. I’m not complaining, because A-minuses weren’t something common on my semester grades in college – except that one semester where I made the Dean’s List, but that’s another story entirely.

Great job F&M. It was a thrill to be able to finally get on the mic for a major college wrestling event after announcing eight sports and high school wrestling events for the last 14 years. You made me feel right at home.

Thanks for stepping up … it wasn’t a disappointment and it was great to have something like this in what’s quickly becoming home for me.

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