Everyone has a list of things that they can say where they were and what they were doing when they happened. I will always remember where I was and what I was doing when I learned that George Carlin had died, as well as when Michael Jackson died. I will always remember my first concert (Journey at Pine Knob). I will always remember proposing to my wife and how I’d never been more nervous to get an answer that I was fairly confident in. There are just things, some good, some bad, some in between, and some with specific significance to specific people. For me, attending Grand Valley State University's first dual meet since returning to NCAA Division II competition will be one of those things that I remember. Here, I’ll do my best to walk you through what that experience was like and share some videos of what I got to experience.
It all began with a social at the nearby Main Street Pub. There alumni, parents, friends of the program, and other connected folks got to sit and eat and share stories. What was immediately amazing to me was seeing how many people were here from generations before, and who took time out of their day to sit and hear from the President of the University (Philomena Mentella), Athletic Director (Keri Becker), and the steps towards this special day. They discussed and celebrated some of the people and alumni who had a big impact on this eventual result, and we all had the chance to applaud their efforts. Specifically, John and Diane Harris whose generous donation helped build the new facilities.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t refer to the special guests who were there for this social as well. Dan Gable, Lee Kemp, and Myles Amine were all in attendance, which should share some of the significance of this event. Jim Scott, former Laker Wrestling Coach and Laker Hall of Famer, had the chance to ask the question to these three individuals “Who is the person that had the greatest influence on your journey” Below you’ll see two videos as these greats answer. My apologies to Lee Kemp as my video cut out halfway through his answer, which is why this is broken into two parts.
From here we all cruised over to the GV Fieldhouse to prepare to watch the dual. It was great being there beforehand though. Many got in line to get autographs and pictures from the three legends.
I had the chance to wander around and mingle with some of the great people that GVSU and West Michigan wrestling has to offer. Shoutout to Cornerstone University Head Coach Chris Williamson who I had the chance to talk with about his team and some of their development since they started the program just a couple of years back. In their second season, they had an All-American, nbd, and have continued to develop strong wrestlers and members of their community. I also had the chance to catch up with several GVSU alumni whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting over the years, John Aikens, Travis Eisen, Chris Eggleston, and others. I also got to catch up with Ryan Lancaster who has been running the GVSU club team since the two separated, and JJ Johnson who runs MI Grappler. I even got to meet Jake Short, who is running the GVSU Women’s program which will begin next season, and who I had the pleasure of interviewing on Bloodround (episode #439 if you want to check that out). I ran into fellow CMU Chippewas alum Brad Anderson, who coaches at Forest Hills Central and had some of his High School alumni competing in this dual.
Enough about my mingling. Let’s get to the dual itself. By the time this got going, the whole place was packed. The anticipation had built to its boiling point, and everyone was ready for the action. It was an awesome dual with several back-and-forth matches. You wouldn’t necessarily think that the first home dual would be such a home-field advantage, but it absolutely was. Check this out:
At the break, with the score 11-9 GVSU over Cornerstone, Dan Gable addressed the entire crowd which you can enjoy here
After the dual, I was able to get a walk-through of their facilities and even catch up with Joey Simcoe - Head Coach of the GVSU Lakers team. It was awesome getting a chance to catch up with him, learn about his vision for the program, his feelings after this dual, and his decision to come to GVSU. Check out a quick walkthrough and interview with Coach Simcoe.
GVSU head coach Joey Simcoe; photo courtesy of GVSU athletics
I tell you what, I enjoyed reliving this experience from last week while putting this together, but I can honestly say it’s impossible to really put into words the feelings going through that building. There was a tremendous sense of pride and joy just floating through the arena. It was like having Stevie Ray Vaughn playing in my head, but it wasn’t (that reference will work for like three of you, and that’s enough for me). It’s hard to replicate the experience of a program coming back after 30+ years of being gone from the NCAA D2 scene, and I get that. However, what we can do is to continue to support our programs that are here and to make sure that administrators know that they’re valued. Support our programs while they’re here rather than when they’re gone. You don’t have to compete to impact the future of your favorite programs, you just have to show up.