Get another look into the 2012 FILA Junior World Championships as USA Wrestling’s Jason Bryant will give daily updates from Thailand.
September 9, 2012
WARNING: This post borders on inappropriate … that being said:
Before you wonder if I took the plunge and ate some of the hottest peppers on the planet, no. The title has little to do with food as it has to do with the last thing I heard before stepping off the shuttle bus to the Eastern Sports Training Center for the final day of competition. This will be my last Asia-based blog from the trip, at least, unless I have time in Tokyo or something like that, but anyway … while heading over to the arena, the bus was playing some funky bass-filled rock music.
It reminded me of a bassline from Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Before I could say, “Hey, it’s the Thai version of the Chili Peppers,” to Brandon Slay, who was seated next to me, I just blurted out … “It’s the Thai Chilis.”
It took Brandon a second before he got the joke.
Unfortunately for the U.S. contingent, yesterday was a bad day in terms of overall performance and medal opportunities. That bad day gave me the only chance to see parts of Thailand other than the arena and the Ambassador City Jomtien Hotel.
Cody Bickley and his group of NCEP coaches had dinner planned up at Pattaya Beach, about a 20-25 minute ride from the hotel, just by the north entrance to the infamous Walking Street. Had a chance to eat some authentic thai food which was probably the best meal I’ve had over here. We were joined at dinner by Les Gutches and his wife Jen, too. Then after some good conversation with Cornell Robinson, Mike Guingona, Mark O’Connor and Bryan Thompson, some of us (not all) boldly went where pretty much everyone in this town has gone before, the infamous Walking Street.
This was more a fact-finding mission than anything else. I just wanted to see how dastardly this place really was, and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I was mortified.
Just walking down the street made you feel like you were doing something wrong. The line Neidermeyer reads in Animal House sums it up perfectly:
“…and most recently, that a Roman Toga party was held, from which we’ve received 2 dozen reports of individual acts of perversion, so profound and disgusting- that decorum prohibits listing them here.”
Frankly, I wasn’t impressed. I felt my skin crawl. We got out of there pretty quickly because being accosted by people trying to sell you on a variety of massages and different “shows” … not my bag.
What was my bag was buying a cheap pair of Beats By Dre knockoffs for $20. In the dark, they look legit, but upon closer inspection, you clearly saw the differences. It’s basically just a pair of headphones for $20 that look like Beats. You spend more on a replacement pair of headphones for your iPhone. If nothing else, they’re for show, since I do have a real pair of Beats earbuds anyway. Their sound is pretty awesome, but I’d never pay $350 for a pair of headphones anyway.
Depending on the performance today, it will be a busy one, go back to the hotel and pack up to leave at midnight to make the two-hour drive back to Bangkok to fly to Narita, then to LAX before landing in Colorado Springs.
And Old Dominion beat Hampton in football, 45-7. Monarchs are now 2-0. You didn’t care to know that, but hey, GO BLUE!
September 8, 2012
Women’s freestyle finished up yesterday with Alli Ragan picking up her second career bronze medal at the Junior Worlds. After standing on the podium, I went to take a picture of her only to have the camera start goofing up.
“Hurry up, I can’t keep this fake smile going any longer,” Ragan joked.
I got left at the arena. Despite having a bus schedule running up until 8 p.m., the buses stopped as soon as the finals were over. The internet started to rock at the end of the session, so I stayed back to write my wrap story, post the last three videos and finish up some work. It was somewhat early, I figured there’d be another bus along shortly. Well, guess what – no bus.
It’s amazing how some of these tournaments don’t adhere to anything posted. There are still bus schedules posted around the venue and in the practice area, but since some people at this tournament have better things to do than actually want to watch wrestling, they leave the stragglers hanging.
This caused me to end up getting ripped off by a cabbie on my way back to Ambassador Hotel Jomtien. I honestly had no choice. This guy was the last cab and with the area around the arena looking like the remnants of a hurricane, to get back, I had to jump in. First thing he didn’t do was turn on the meter. He acted like he didn’t understand after I routinely pointed to it and said “meter.” I even used Google Translate on my phone to say “Turn on the meter.” I showed it to him in Thai.
He goes “meter broke, 1,000 baht.” This shouldn’t cost more than 300. I try haggling for a moment, but at this time, we’re already in the cab and going down a deserted back road, which the bus takes and is quicker, but I don’t want to be left six kilometers from the venue with a few thousand dollars worth of computer and camera equipment on my person.
I get back to the hotel and go to eat dinner, and I use that term loosely. By the time I arrived, it was oil-soaked egg rolls and a pile of steamed rice and grouper. Yeah, I’m not eating piles of fish here in Thailand. I’m sure it’s fine, but my system is fickle as it is. The last thing I need is to be crippled on the porcelain throne.
So I kind of eat about three forkfuls, then notice women’s freestylers Kristi Garr and Jennifer Page at a table near me. I go sit with them and chat for about 30 minutes. I think Page must have attempted to eat four plates of salad, which was actually more lettuce with dressing on it. To her credit, the plates weren’t big. I’m not trying to make her look like a food vacuum or anything.
Apparently Garr is a biochem major at Oklahoma City University, while Page is going to stay in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center. They’re good kids. Their disposition is pretty humorous.
After “dinner” I went up to the room to rock out the story on the weigh-ins for Saturday competition. Then I walked downstairs to drop off the key and I run into Bruce Burnett and Mike Hagerty, who are on our coaching staff for freestyle.
I mention the National Duals and then we sit and talk for probably an hour about the different nuances in programs, duals, philosophy, things we like, things we don’t like. Burnett’s situation at Navy opened my eyes a little bit to what his program schedules like and for what reasons. I don’t disagree with his assessment. One thing Hagerty and I agreed with, albeit in slightly different ways, is the season has to be tweaked to enable a dual format to work. I’ve said time and time again, I’m on the fence about the idea of a dual champ being the national champion. I do think a dual is a better indication of who has a better team top to bottom.
I engaged a bit in a twitter debate with Cael Sanderson on Thursday night. One point I brought up, since someone brought up basketball, is while basketball teams can have one or two players carry a team to a win, basketball doesn’t gauge the best team in formats where one team has all five players and other teams have just two. In a dual, it’s how strong your weakest link is that can determine if you win or lose, not just your horses. All athletes are on an even keel in a dual. Win. Period. But that’s really not important to the Junior Worlds.
After wrapping up a great discussion with Burnett and Hagerty, I went down to Pasta Pasta to get some of that awesome risotto again. I run into my Iranian friend Reza Herbst, who is sitting at a table with Geordan Speiller and some tourists from Russia.
Let’s just say that was about as amusing as a dinner conversation that I’ve had since arriving in Thailand. I went back to the room and crashed out something fierce.
September 7, 2012
No matter where you go in this world, if you’re reliant upon technology, something will inevitably go wrong. While the communications set up at the 2012 FILA Junior World Championships didn’t exactly “fail,” it was about as close as you could possibly get.
The internet connection has been hit and miss here in Pattaya, and just like in the U.S., hotel internet connections can be frustrating, especially when you’re in the business of promoting wrestling via video.
After the competition ended on Thursday, I had about six videos to post. I started the uploads around 8 p.m. local time … they finished at 4 a.m.
It’s somewhat frustrating, but goes with the territory.
From a wrestling fan perspective, one of the general annoyances with any wrestling tournament is scheduling changes and not adhering to a schedule. Yesterday’s tournament clearly would have violated every fans right to come back to watch a finals.
For the Greco-Roman competiton, a schedule posted indicated the finals would begin at 5:30 local time, roughly an hour after the repechage matches were finished. For the women, with smaller brackets at the non-Olympic weights, the competition got done relatively early. So FILA decides to just run the finals – out of order to boot.
Instead of being the next-to-last match of the finals round, Jennifer Page was the first bronze medal match called. Then they called the Canada-Russia final at 67kg. This enraged the Canadian delegation. At one point, the team leader from Canada approached FILA president Raphael Martinetti about the decision to move the finals up.
Thankfully, the smattering of fans were still in the building, but not all the wrestlers were getting their warm-up in. Imagine if the NCAA tournament decided to run the finals 15 minutes after the placement matches were done and didn’t announce any change or post the change? There’d be outrage.
Well, big props to the Canadian delegation for getting the rest of the finals delayed for at least 20 minutes to give all the athletes time to adequately prepare for the finals. One English-speaking member of a foreign delegation even said, “What if all the wrestlers refused to step on the mat, what would they do? Disqualify everyone?”
I think the point is this, if people are here just to be entertained, let people who generally care about the athletes run things. It’s pretty apparent to many why this tournament was placed in a city like Pattaya. All you have to do is Google the city’s name to figure out what this place is seemingly most notorious for.
I don’t know the Canadian leader’s name, but he stood up to people who just wanted to get out of the gym as quickly as possible. This is about the wrestlers and their quest for gold, not people sitting on couches who have their picture pasted up on big posters in an arena.
September 6, 2012
Greco-Roman finished up yesterday with little fanfare. What seems to be unfortunate about some of the officiating over here is that some officials seem to be afraid of the protocol.
In Luke Sheridan’s match against Esenov of Turkmenistan, Sheridan was lifting from par terre, only to stopped by Esenov posting his foot against the thigh of Sheridan. The official called for a caution, but the judge, who had the best vantage point of the foul, just sat there. No white paddle or anything. He just sat there. The mat chairman was in no position to confirm the call because his view was blocked.
The judge just sat there and let it happen. We were shooting the video from the judge’s angle. Here’s the video. Start around the 6:40 mark.
Anyway, I actually had about an hour to kill during the day, so I walked outside where the concession area was set up. Cody Bickley had recommended the Thai massage, which had a station to the other side of the wall where the competition was going on. It was cheap, about $6 American. Very strange, but it did loosen up my shoulders and my calves especially. This company had a whole set up, complete with foot massages, sport massages and everything.
One of the German women’s wrestlers yelled to me as I was walking in and she was walking out that the experience “was most excellent.”
I tried not to channel any references from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, which still rates as Keanu Reeves’ best movie. Bogus Journey was awful.
When we got back to Ambassador City Jomtien, I wrote my wrap for the day in Greco and posted a short weigh-in story about the four women set to wrestling for the U.S. on Thursday.
Then I met up with Greco coaches J.D. Robbins, Ike Anderson and Shawn Sheldon for dinner at the little Italian place on the grounds here at the resort.
For the third straight day, I had the risotto, which has been nothing short of spectacular the whole week. I’m not getting tired of it, it’s that good. The air is still thick like soup and it reminds me of South Florida. I lost count of the 7-11’s and I’ve also lost count of the stray dogs.
I was excited about the prospect of getting a Slurpee over here, only to find out from my buddy Kimen from Canada that the 7-11’s over here don’t have Slurpees. That’s a major buzz kill.
It’s about 9 a.m. now here on Thursday in Thailand. It’s very strange to already start the day when most everyone you know is still on Wednesday. I’m sure some of my friends back in the states are just starting out their night.
The internet bogged down yesterday at the facility, so here’s to hoping it goes better today. The women’s field is a lot smaller than the Greco was, so I’m anticipating a quicker day. Hopefully we continue to have good luck with the technology side of things. And here’s to hoping the women keep us busy today. A busy day means a good day.
By the way, heavyweight Wyatt Baker shaved his beard and is now sporting a super creepy mustache. Although it’s a fine “continental,” suitable enough to make Bruce Baumgartner kind of smile.
September 5, 2012
This song has been stuck in my head for the last two days. It’s like on a permanent loop in the arena. Here’s the YouTube video of it. At this point, I don’t even know if I will because this song is stuck in my head.
When I sit down to write this, I’ve already heard it four times. Now a fifth. ARGH!
So a little bit about the media setup … ok, that’s about it. Seriously. When I got here, there was a table and some blue chairs, which are about as sturdy as a fat man standing on a chopstick. One American coach who shall remain nameless already broke a leg right off of one by leaning back. Precarious seating to say the least.
I bribed one of the Thai electrical workers with a USA Wrestling pin to run me some power, then talked with my Iranian friend Reza who then hooked me up with the Wi-Fi password, so then I was rolling.
The initial power cord they ran seemed to originate from one of the light poles outside. The 220′s over here make your power supplies scream with heat.
Yesterday, Jesse Thielke picked up a bronze medal and wrestled extremely well. Geordan Speiller also wrestled well for his first World Championships. He beat the Russian, which is a big win for any U.S. wrestler.
Rusty talks about yesterday on his blog and check my wrap on TheMat.com for the happenings of the day.
The song just cycled through for another time. UGH.
Going to keep this one short, because it’ll basically be a rehash of the first day of competition. They did turn on the air conditioning in here, so the — ARGH! THE SONG AGAIN! — sweat factor isn’t as much as it was the first day I came up here for practice.
WOOP WOOP WOOP PATTAYA! PATTAYA!
September 4, 2012
It’s already tomorrow morning here in Pattaya. As I sit down here to write, Rusty Davidson is already up writing his blog as well. To recap yesterday, it was a long, jet-lagged type of feeling. And sweaty.
Like real sweaty.
After waking up and getting breakfast here at the hotel, I quickly had to run back up to the room following. I’ll let you guys figure that part out, but once we were all cleared up, I headed over to the Eastern National Sports Training Center with the U.S. Greco and Women’s teams for practice. The venue at that part of the day was sweltering. As soon as I walked into the gym, my forehead didn’t just bead with sweat, it was like turning on a faucet on full blast. It made for a rather smelly day.
Greco was working on getting everyone’s last few pounds off, as Isaiah Varona, Jesse Thielke, Geordan Speiller and Marcus Finau all weighed in later in the day. Women’s national coach Terry Steiner was putting the women’s team through some drills and honing some skills. I walked away from the practice mats and over to the competition side of the venue to find things not exactly finished from a set-up standpoint. As of right now (Tuesday morning), I don’t know if there is internet in the facility and quite frankly, bringing our Verizon WiFi card here was not an option, as international data rates and the lack of 4G connections would make that a lost cause.
I’ve got my work cut out for me here in trying to make sure we record and post every match and make sure the fans and parents back home get the updates in a timely manner. The time difference helps a little bit, but I’m hoping my Iranian friend Reza comes through and gets a press tribune (press row) set up and I have at least somewhere to work.
We got back on the bus to head back to the venue after practice and then we knew we were at a wrestling tournament. The smell of wrestling is unmistakable, it shielded the smell from all the stray dogs running around town. I haven’t seen any stray cats like in Turkey two years ago, but the dogs here are widely prevalent. Thankfully, there haven’t been any at the hotel, just on the outskirts of the street corners and little tents where the street vendors reside. I love animals, so to see dogs in such unsavory conditions was borderline upsetting, but I don’t think Thailand has Bob Barker calling for the folks here to get their pets spade or neutered, but I digress.
By the time I got back to the hotel, Rusty Davidson was arriving. He got hung up in Beijing after a late flight and got sent to Singapore and then to Bangkok. You can read about his travels on his blog, also here on themat.tv. At around 4 p.m. local time, I headed over to weigh-ins where the four U.S. kids got their draws. Still no press tribune set up by then.
After writing my story on the weigh-ins, I met up with Dr. Dave Grossman, Ike Anderson and Terry Steiner for dinner at a little Italian place here on the hotel grounds called Pasta Pasta. Some of the best risotto I’ve ever eaten. This is authentic stuff. I might be eating here several more times throughout the week. I haven’t experienced the local fare much, other than potato crisps purchased at the minmart here at the hotel, also a worthy usage of Thai Baht, the national currency.
After dinner, the jet lag started to hit me, so around 9:30 p.m., I retired to my room, where Rusty was already down for the count. I wasn’t lasting too much longer. After watching CNN and CCTV for a total of 12 seconds, I was out. Eight hours later, I awoke refreshed enough to write this.
It’s about six hours until competition … it’s my first experience at the Junior Worlds in a country not known for its wrestling prowess. I hope the host nation makes a good showing, because it’s always positive to see wrestling growth around the world. I don’t think they’ll win many matches as a nation, but their volunteers are working hard to make sure this goes well, despite the language barrier.
Google Translate on my iPhone has been a big help thus far. It’s time for our boys to get to work in Greco.
Today’s movie reference is from the movie “Snatch.” Yesterday’s was from Slap Shot! Gold star goes to Matt Diano of Strong Island, N.Y.
September 3, 2012 – Arrival in Pattaya
By the time you start reading this, everything that’s fresh in the mind will be hours hold. I’m currently sitting in a wicker chair at nearly 4 a.m. The wicker chair is in my hotel room, where I’m currently waiting for my U.S. roommate Rusty Davidson, only Rusty doesn’t yet know. I guess that’s will be great shock when he finally arrives.
The day, or in this case, days, started at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday morning as I caught a flight out of Colorado Springs bound for Chicago. From Chicago, it was a 12-hour flight to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport then on to Bangkok. I won’t give my spell check a heart attack by trying to type the name of the airport, but it’s international code was BKK.
After nearly a two-hour ride from Bangkok to Pattaya, I sit in a barren, but livable room at the Ambassador City Jomtien Hotel. I’m on the 10th floor and as of this moment, I can’t see much out the window because well, it’s 4 a.m. We didn’t see much on the ride, but here’s a quick recap of the trip.
My wife Abby dropped me off in the Springs to catch the Chicago flight, which meant a 3:30 a.m. wake-up call and departure from the homestead at 4 a.m. I slept the entire way to Chicago and then waited for three hours before boarding the flight to Narita. I saw NCEP Manager Cody Bickley and his wife Lynette at the airport in the Springs. We’d end up touching base later in the trip. He was routed through San Francisco.
Unfortunately, not all United planes are equipped the same way, so instead of being able to pick movies at my leisure like I did to and from London, I was subjected to what the airline decided to show. Thankfully, I had one of the Economy Plus bulkhead seats, so I had enough legroom to make the trip a little easier on my 250-pound frame.
The guy sitting to my right looked like a Japanese version of Phil Specter, the crazy-haired record executive. I think Specter’s in jail, or was, but that’s not important really, other than this guy had some crazy hair.
Men In Black 3 was the first feature and it was about what you might expect. I don’t think it was as funny as the first two, but it killed the time since I wasn’t about to go right to sleep on this 12-hour jaunt across the Pacific. After MIB3 finished up, the map showed we were somewhere over Saksatchewan … Moose Jaw to be exact, home of the Charlestown Chief’s Billy Charlesboi (gold star if you get the reference).
While waiting for the next feature, I notice some of the Canadian junior wrestlers are up and around on the flight. Very long day for them as well. One noticed the J Rob wrestling shirt I was wearing (the dry wick makes on-board sweating less of an issue). About this time, I realize that I’m going to be missing the first full Saturday of college football. This makes me unhappy, because I love college football. I would later find out ODU won its opener at the FCS level over Duquense 57-23. ODU moves to Conference USA and the FBS next year, so this is their last shot at an FCS title, even if its only the program’s fourth year playing football.
After arriving in Tokyo, I kill some time by hitting up the Crackdonalds and watching some TV in the Gate 33 waiting area. Japanese baseball is on. It’s the legendary Yomiuri Giants taking on the Yokohama Bay Stars at the Tokyo Dome. The announcers are going nuts and the fans are banging thundersticks together having a grand ol’ time at the ballpark – even if it is a dome.
The commercials were awesome. I don’t know a lick of Japanese, other than what I learned from Styxx’s Mr. Roboto (domo … domo), but the culture there seems to exalt creativity and fun. But then I see Tommy Lee Jones for the second time on the trip – doing a commercial for SoftBank. His parts weren’t dubbed. Just wow.
After loading up on some bottles of water for the six-hour trek to Bangkok, I again see Cody Bickley and this time, he’s joined by Les Gutches and his wife Jen.
They’re going to stay in Bangkok, while when I arrive, I’ll board a bus down to Pattaya, about 120km away. First person I see after getting through passport control was Wisconsin native Casey Brennan Goessl. As I get my bag, I run into Oklahoma official Danny Blackshear. This is good news, this is who I’m supposed to connect with to head to Pattaya.
We board the bus, along with athletes, coaches and officials from Canada, Mexico and China. We were hoping Rusty would show up in time to catch the bus (which was waiting for 55 minutes before we departed), but Rusty would have to catch the next one (I assume).
One of the Canadian coaches sitting in front of us (I’ll get his name for future updates, because I’m sure we’ll be hanging around them) points out how many 7-11’s there are as we approach the hotel.
There was probably a four-mile stretch where we counted maybe 10-12 different variations of the popular convenience store chain. Maybe I’ll be able to get a slurpee or 10 while I’m here. Maybe.
So Casey, Danny and I walk into the Garden Tower section of the hotel (There’s five wings, we’re in the Marina Tower), and after about 30 minutes of confusion, we walk to the desk to get our rooms.
More confusion. We’re not staying in the Garden Tower.
So now we walk from the Garden Tower to the Marina Tower, wait around some more, get our rooms and hopefully retire for the night. Before I started to transcribe my blog notes, I walked down to the lobby to buy internet access – this will probably be the most troublesome part of the Communications process. The internet here costs 300 baht for 12 hours, so that’s roughly 10 or 11 dollars. I don’t have any bhat on me and the nearest cash machine is out at the front of the Garden Tower – not a walk I’m about to make at 4 a.m.
Then it dawns on me just for a moment … why do I know the Thai currency? Probably for the months and months I played Mafia Wars on Facebook. Mark Reiland would appreciate this. I don’t play it anymore, but anyway, that’s not important to anything really.
So credentialing starts at 9 a.m. … five hours from the time I write this.
We weigh in the first Greco weights tomorrow, so the work will begin immediately. I’ll post this on Monday morning sometime, because after about 28 hours of travel, I have absolutely no idea where my timeclock sits.
It’s probably saying “GO TO BED!”