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Olympic wrestling feature

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by RedHotChiliPrepper, Jun 19, 2008.

  1. Folks,

    A former collegiate wrestler from our area wrestled in the Olympic Trials last weekend. Now, our ME has been pushing for shorter stories throughout our paper lately and chastising those publicly who go over his maximum limit of 800 words. This story clocked in at 1,200 or so words and that was after my assistant editor and I went through and trimmed about 8 inches off the story.
    So I ask of you, can you find any place that I could have made this tighter? And, any other suggestions about composition or writing in general?
    Thanks in advance everyone.


    Bryce Hasseman has trouble sleeping.
    His mind races at night in his apartment in Colorado Springs. For the first time in his two-year stint at the Olympic Training Center, there’s something to lose in his next tournament.
    The Bloomsburg University graduate tends to call up his former Huskies coach, John Stutzman, on these nights when he can’t sleep. They’ll be on the phone about an hour, talking about the only thing that’s been running through Hasseman’s mind — qualifying for the Olympics.
    It helps that Stutzman, besides being Hasseman’s freestyle wrestling coach, is also his brother-in-law. The fourth-year BU coach understands what this weekend means to Hasseman. He understands what’s on the line. That’s why he listens intently.
    Hasseman has a chance to qualify for the Olympic Games this summer in Beijing if he can win the 84 kilogram (185 pounds) weight class today. It’s Hasseman’s second shot at qualifying for the Olympic team.
    But that trip through the 2004 Trials was nothing like this. Four years ago, he didn’t lose sleep. Four years ago, it was just an accomplishment for the Indiana native to be at the Trials.
    Now, anything less than a trip to China is unacceptable for Hasseman.
    That’s why he loses sleep now. In a life devoted to wrestling, never has a group of three or four matches meant so much.
    “I’m going to bring an Olympian back to Bloomsburg. That’s my plan,” said Hasseman, bravado emanating from his voice. “If I wrestle well, no one in the country can beat me.”
    Confident in defeat​
    Maybe the biggest change in Hasseman in the past four years is that bravado. Hasseman never used to brag. He always blended into the background.
    In 2004 he was at the Trials only after qualifying in his fourth try during the spring. At the time, he was trying to crack the national top 10 in the 163-pound weight class, just trying to get noticed any way he could on the national level.
    Hasseman enters Sunday’s one-day, winner-take-all tournament as a clear favorite. He finished third at the U.S. Nationals last month against pretty much the same field he’ll see Sunday.
    He was about 10 seconds from defeating top-seeded Mo Lawal in the semifinals, before Lawal scored a takedown and three exposure (near-fall) points for the win.
    It was a loss that may have showed Hasseman much more than any win in his career. It was a loss that showed the United States wrestling community just what Hasseman is capable of.
    “He’s always lacked that confidence that he probably needed,” said Stutzman, who will be in Hasseman’s corner on Sunday in Las Vegas. “We joke about it all the time, but he really could be going to Beijing. That’s the truth of the matter and I think he believes it.”
    Lawal is clearly the favorite to win the weight class. As the U.S. Nationals champion and former World Team qualifier, Lawal got a bye directly into the finals of the tournament. He’s a former NCAA Division II national champion, and won a Division I bronze medal at Oklahoma State as a senior. He’s also placed at the World Championships and is a three-time U.S. Nationals champion.
    Hasseman will have to win three matches in a mini tournament just to get his rematch with Lawal. It automatically puts Hasseman at a disadvantage because it is a one-day tournament.
    But that’s what Hasseman has prepared himself for. He’s put himself through grueling workouts at the Olympic Training Center for the past 2 1/2 years to prepare for this one day.
    “The only guy in this tournament that can beat Mo is me,” Hasseman said. “I’m in better shape than everyone. I’m bigger and stronger than everyone. Mo is sitting around all day, which is fine. I’ll be scrapping all day and that’s my advantage. I’m in too good of shape and I can let my shape take over, even if I have to go three periods in every match. Mo’s in for a rude awakening. I promise you that.”
    Bulking up​
    When he qualified for the Olympic Trials four years ago, Hasseman competed at 163 pounds — 11 pounds lighter than his senior-year weight at BU.
    The emphasis four years ago was as much about cutting weight as it was about wrestling. So he made an educated decision before he left to live and train at the OTC in January of 2006 that he was going to move up a weight class.
    In high school or college, going up a weight class means gaining only five to seven pounds. On the international level, it can mean gaining more than 20, since there are just seven weight classes.
    For Hasseman, it meant making the jump to 185 pounds.
    It may have been the best decision he’s ever made for his international career. He now weighs between 200 and 210 pounds, and has perfected a system where it’s very easy to cut to his wrestling weight.
    Better yet, Hasseman has only gotten stronger by gaining weight while not losing a bit of the athleticism that makes him so tough at a higher weight.
    “Our society in wrestling thinks you need to cut weight to win, and he did the exact opposite,” Stutzman said. “He’s at a good 210. It took him a couple years to find where he needed to be, but this is it.”
    “It used to be that I’d work out, then throw the plastics on (to cut weight),” Hasseman said. “I was doing that every day with Stutz and that was rough. Now, I’m cutting weight, but I’m doing it the right way.”
    The extra strength comes in handy against someone like Lawal, who dropped from 211 pounds to compete at 185 this year.
    But, more than just focusing on his weight, or on Lawal, Hasseman’s preparing for the big picture. That’s why he and Stutzman talk about going to Beijing: They want to focus on why Hasseman has dedicated his entire life to this one tournament.
    But the gameplan he, Stutzman and OTC coach Terry Brands have built is based around beating Lawal. Hasseman has to focus on making short work of his first two opponents by winning the first two periods of each bout. He knows he’ll be in a dogfight in the mini tournament finals, likely with Andy Hrovat, who was runner-up to Lawal at U.S. Nationals. But Hasseman expects to win, as opposed to four years ago when he hoped to win.
    New confidence​
    The only future Hasseman talks about is this summer and China.
    Hasseman, Stutzman, his sister Annette and niece Alexa have already begun the process of getting their passports ready for the trip. They aren’t doing that because they feel a win is a done deal. They know that making the Olympic team is far from a done deal.
    It’s just a symbol of the new confidence that surrounds Hasseman’s pursuit for the Olympics.
    “Do I plan on being an Olympian? You bet your ass I do,” Hasseman said. “That’s why I have trouble sleeping at night.”
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