Entering the vacuum of wrestling

February 27, 2003|by ANDY MASON

Wrestling fans tend to be a different breed of sports enthusiasts.

I'll always remember my first trip to the PIAA state championships a few years ago. Pulling into the parking lot at Hersheypark Arena was like arriving at a Grateful Dead concert, with all the carnival-like hoopla surrounding the much-anticipated show.

It seemed these mat-heads would gladly quit their jobs, grow out their hair and be perfectly content just swaying to the brackets from town to town.

Fortunately I had a press pass that day, because I had no balloons or veggie burritos to swap for an extra (OK, that's a joke, but tickets were being scalped).


My good pal Bill Wolfe is the most hard-core mat-head I know. He's just like one of those old bootleggin' rockers - except his catalog of tourney history is recorded cleanly in his head.

Just look at the e-mail he sent to me last week with his predictions for this past weekend's District 3 Class AAA championships - although it may be tough to fully capture the adrenaline that I know was pumping from his keyboard.

It read:

"103: Baublitz; 112: No idea, but Barbush and Albright are very good; 119: Royer in a walk; 125: Haas; 130: Fittery or Geesaman; 135: McConnell or Murray; 140: Barnett; 145: Murray; 152: Murphy; 160: Bretz, but wouldn't be shocked if he was second to Angeline; 171: Morrison, although Rock and Metzger are very tough; 189: Davis, although he has a tough bout ahead with Narkiewicz; 215: LoPiccolo; 275: Sheaffer."

The amazing thing is not that he took the time out of his day to make such predictions (go on-line, there are hundreds just like him), nor that he was about 90 percent accurate in a field of more than 200 wrestlers.

No, the incredible part of it all is that he was e-mailing me this stuff from Taiwan, where he's spent the past six months teaching English.

So, how does Bill, perched on the other side of the world, know so much this season?

"The Internet has been my saving grace for my cravings," he wrote. "Newspaper sites have become almost a drug for me. The first thing I check when I sit down at the computer are high school results from central Pa."

But why wrestling?

"If you've never wrestled or been around it, you really have no idea how intense it is. People outside the sport say it's boring, but that's almost always an uninformed or uneducated opinion," he wrote. "Take a wrestling neophyte to the District 3 quarters or semis and see how long it takes them to get into it. Not long at all, I'm betting.

"When you have 6,000 people around you screaming, many times screaming at each other, that mob mentality just sucks you in."

The tour hits Maryland with regionals this weekend. Get your lighters ready for the encore at states March 7-8 at McDaniel College.

Andy Mason is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at

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