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Wrestling with the Weather

on December 29, 2009 7:30 AM

Editor's Note: Former Penn State wrestler, Accuweather meteorologist, national bodybuilder and life-long Penn State wrestling enthusiast Joe Bastardi has joined the lineup of columnists at StateCollege.com. His columns will appear every other Tuesday. -TJC

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I was recently asked to write a column for StateCollege.com about Penn State wrestling, and my columns will be as much about things one might not normally link to wrestling as they will be about things going on with the team.

There will be numerous excerpts from the Book of Koll in my columns. Bill Koll was my coach at Penn State, and he reinforced and helped me build off of the values my mom and dad taught me.

When I look at all of the twists and turns in my life, I realize the greatest gift God ever gave me, outside of my family, was the chance to wrestle at Penn State. I cannot overstate what that meant to me.

I have grown to be friends with the new coaches in the same way I was with Coaches Lorenzo and Fritz. Fritz is even one of my daughter's two godfathers. (The other is Mike Bevilacqua, a former captain at Penn State.) I figured I need two good wrestlers to make sure my daughter is taken care of (though they probably aren't necessary, as tough as my wife, Jess, is).

Jess has a nasty duck-under and knows how to choke out. (I always hug her with my arms in.) She has never ducked me, and she has promised never to choke me out in public. I will in the future write about the time she ducked Fritzy and had him in a choke hold from behind. In fact, I think there are three PSU coaches she has tried to surprise with her duck (which would make for an interesting column).

You can see how important wrestling is to me; we have two PSU wrestlers as our daughter's godfathers. In fact, I doubt I would have even met my wife had I not wrestled here.

I met Jess while hanging out with PSU star Dan Mayo, whom I was training. She had five brothers who wrestled, so I doubt she would have married a weather nerd without a wrestling background. When a weather nerd is talking to someone whose brother was once ranked No. 1 in New Jersey at 105 lbs, he better have wrestling experience. I am, after all, a weather nerd. (I prefer "Weather Warrior.") That was my primary calling.

Some folks lay awake at night and regret what they didn't do that day. I lay awake and thank God for what I did do (be a part of the program here under Bill Koll).

The current coaches here should never try to compete with those who came before them, but they should stand on the foundation their predecessors build and go beyond it. There will never be another Koll, Lorenzo, Fritz, etc., but we have people who can raise the level because they are they are the same type of people.

My son Garrett notices I am always in a good mood when I come back from watching wrestling practice or hanging out with "Mr. Becker" (Dave) or "Mr. Puleo" (Rich), both former classmates of mine. It's a feeling only truly understood if you've wrestled here, but I'll try to share it with you.

There is something that I never knew was being taught until I woke up one day and realized Penn State wrestling was burned into my soul. I tell the kids on the team now that 15 years down the road they will find out if they really wrestled here. The lessons learned will drive them in everything they do. 

It's why I feel it was the greatest gift God gave me, in spite of the fact I was a scrub who happened to get into the lineup a few times. 

National titles have been a byproduct of the lessons taught here for years, so I will in my columns talk about some of these lessons and some lessons taught today. 

I wasn't over at the wrestling room much before this year. It's not a knock on former Coach Troy Sunderland; he is a good man, a good coach, and someone I really liked. But the things taught now are the same lessons as when I was here, things that will make people come through this program and "take the mat" every day for the rest of their lives, in everything from their jobs to their families. 

I've said a couple of time that I think I love wrestling more than the weather, even though i see the good Lord's hand in both of them. Without Penn State wrestling, I would not have been what I am in the weather business.

You can look at the line of living Penn State wrestling alumni and their successes, and I believe there is no school at our level that can compete with us. While I kid around with the fact that I am the only degreed meteorologist I can find who lettered at a Division One school, I know I would not be the meteorologist I am had I not wrestled. It's that simple.

For that, I own Penn State wrestling a debt I will never be able to repay in full, but perhaps I can start by giving you another look at the sport in my columns.

So as you watch this team busting off bottom faster, winning takedown battles and never being beaten (even if it is outscored sometimes), there is a reason I might be a reason.

The way I see it, there is nothing wrong with how things are done today; they are just as valid as they were when I was here.

Ciao for now.

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