So there was some good news for us last week, which has already been shared out in the community earlier in the weekend, while we were dark.
I was pleased enough simply to be nominated for Wrestling USA’s sportswriter of the year earlier this year. I had no expectations for it and certainly never dreamed to win. I had not received any awards for wrestling coverage since 1991, and that hope seemed long past me, who sometimes sees myself as a jumped-up dadblogger, at this point.
But having done so, I have several people to thank.
First to Larry Yudin, without whom there would be no website. Coach Yudin taught my third son, Logan, American government at Mandarin, and learned of my background — I had thought myself well and truly retired from writing (see the photo below). But I needed some way to try to become part of this adopted community (for those who don’t know, I moved here only eight years ago), and between Logan and Coach Yudin, the seed was planted in February of 2013.
Next would be PJ Cobbert (and by extension Travis Cunningham) and Jim Reape (and by extension Hunter Hill). Without getting a chance to see their programs up close — and the fanbases that supported them — I would not have known that there was a critical need for wrestling coverage (the FTU did not cover much wrestling before the post-season and I rarely, if ever, saw results before I started sending them in). After covering primarily, but not exclusively, these two teams in the first two weeks — for 1010XL.com, of all possible sites — I knew that the next season there would be a site, which kicked off on Labor Day of 2013.
Two wrestling parents deserve special note. Chris Pickren was the primary influencer and motivator to pitch me on extending our coverage to Tallahassee and the Gulf in 2015. Last year, Randy Burke floated what seemed to be a crazy idea to go into South Georgia. This coming year, which will be Year 7 for us, we will be covering 130 teams in two states, from the south Savannah suburbs down to Daytona Beach.
While every coach was and is invaluable to this effort, particular kudos has to go out to David Harrison, Kevin Warner and Chad Parker in our fledgling first year, but also to John White, Clay Allen and Billy Pankey in Florida, along with Joe Eichfeld, John Robbins and Jess Wilder in Georgia, for believing in our mission more or less from the jump. That was true for the Florida coaches mentioned even before they were brought on board. And it was also true for the Georgia coaches mentioned, particularly that there remain a couple of programs that never really got what we are trying to do.
In innumerous ways, particularly so over the last three seasons, Brant Parsons has become a trusted colleague and dearest friend. I still am not sure how a brother of mine from another mother can possibly tolerate Arsenal or, worse, “The” Ohio State University, but family is weird like that sometimes (my sister married a Steelers fan, for Pete’s sake). No entity out there in Florida, none, covers the sport as completely as we do in our Sentinel-Matmen partnership. We bring a large chunk of the Sunshine State a set of results, articles, previews, features and predictions every season and a lot of days in the off-season. It remains our goal to get all wrestling results statewide, something no other media entity has attempted. But Brant is the GOAT in the state; at best, to use a sports analogy, I’m D-Wade to his LeBron, or, in more of a wrestling context, Ben Askren to his Jordan Burroughs.
There have been significant challenges and disappointments along the way in my time here in Florida. Financial difficulties, which continue. Personal ones. Were it not for my youngest son wanting to stay with his friends, I was much closer, closer than any of you will ever realize, to leaving (not just the site, but Florida) last year. There seemed, particularly after September 2017 and again after January 2018, no reason for me to stay here. It took a great deal of prayer and self-reflection to endure. My intended, Lady Matmen, has been a blessing beyond measure on that front. You’ll see her more, and learn her identity, once the season begins next year; that’s the plan, leastways.
Speaking of my kids, they have had to tolerate, more or less, my wrestling obsession over the years (at least since 2007), but this website can’t happen at the level of depth and breadth that it has without the support of my youngest son, Brevan Heaton. While I’ve been off covering your kids, mine has had to spend a lot more time alone. I make it up to him, some, in the spring months, but the time he grants me to do this work is a debt I can never really repay.
As to (yet another) debt I can never really repay, you, the reader — the kids, coaches, and families — are the reason I work on this site every day. It’s been said that I’m kind of a big deal. It’s been said that I just want to make a name for myself. The kids were, are and shall remain always the big deal on this website. They, and not I, deserve to have a name for themselves.
If this award means anything, it’s a testament to my devotion in trying to make that happen.
And it also means that it’s time for me to go back to work.