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Friday, March 20, 2009

Barbaric to be sure, but a sport

— Say this for Marcus Davis: He knows how to grab attention walking into an arena or a committee room at the Maine Statehouse. His pull-no-punches personality helps. So does his nickname.

How do you ignore someone who calls himself the ''Irish Hand Grenade?''
Davis was the spokesman this week for those who want Maine to recognize and license the sport known as mixed martial arts, cagefighting, ultimate fighting or, in the words of Sen. John McCain, human cockfighting. McCain said that in 1997 when he proposed a ban on a form of competition that was in its infancy.
Well, this baby has learned to walk and is now sprinting. Mixed martial arts is a growth industry and Davis believes the state should tap into the revenue stream. That Davis is a ranked welterweight with earning power, a businessman and a Mainer is not beside the point.
That Maine lawmakers will find themselves in a quandary is another point. Mixed martial arts is alley-fighting with a bare-bones code of conduct. Submit or I'll continue to kick, elbow, punch, knee or choke you.
Davis, during an interview at his Biddeford gym last year, said the sport wasn't barbaric. Everything stops upon submission.
Afterward the combatants shake hands, embrace and voice their respect for each other.
It's crude and savage fury getting to that point that is the definition of barbarity.
You see that same savagery during hockey fights. You can't see the biting and eye-gouging at the bottom of a pile of NFL players going after a fumble. Later, players will tell you it happened.
Red Sox fans cheered when Coco Crisp charged the mound last spring, initiating a brawl. Many times it's just grab-and-hold. And sometimes it's not.
Fighting in hockey or in football or baseball is an occasional byproduct of the games. That makes it all right, barbaric as it still may be. Because mixed martial arts and boxing is fighting, some would bring it down to the mindlessness of dogs and roosters tearing each other apart. There's little that is mindless about two men or two women in a cage or a ring. That's what makes it sport.
People are drawn to either or both because there is so little pretense, or to put it another way, more honesty and even honor. Mike Tyson aside, it's why the great fighters are so deeply embedded in our culture. Time will tell if a Tim Sylvia, the Ultimate Fighting heavyweight champ from Ellsworth, or Bangor's Davis or featherweight champ Mike Brown, the Bonny Eagle graduate who lists Portland as his hometown, will rise to that.
After Brown defended his title, a reader called the Press Herald to say we gave him and what he does too much attention. Better that we write about more socially redeeming sports.
Last week, Jimmy Smith's eyes lit up when he heard that Brown successfully defended his title. Smith is the Marine from Biddeford who won the New England Golden Gloves title and heads to the national tournament next month.
Smith and Brown sparred together at the Portland Boxing Club when Smith was in high school. Funny, but Smith maintains that amateur wrestling, which he did at Biddeford High, was more challenging than boxing.
But the idea that two opponents, squaring off with only their strength, wits and will is the common ground for boxers, amateur wrestlers and mixed martial artists.
There's room under sport's big tent for mixed martial arts. It has its rules, its code of conduct and, surprise, its respect for each other.
You would have to watch and listen to understand.
Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:
ssolloway@pressherald.com

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Locals compete wrestling New Englands, Deering wrestler second in weight class

By Michael Hoffer

Several local standouts capped their winter season with New England competition last weekend. Toussaint runner-up wrestler Deering senior Ryan Toussaint finished second in the 125-pound weight class at the New England championship wrestling meet in New Haven, Conn. Toussaint beat Nick Flannery of Framingham, Mass., 6-5, in the quarterfinals, decisioned Joe Pronk of Marshfield, Mass., 3-1, in the semifinals, then lost 10-0 to Mike Meyers of Warwick, R.I., in the finals. 

Monday, March 9, 2009

Maine wrestlers fall short in finals

— From staff reports

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Ryan Toussaint of Deering, Peter Gilman and Joey Eon of Massabesic, and Travis Spencer of Belfast all came within one victory of winning their respective divisions but settled for second place Saturday at the New England high school wrestling championships.
Toussaint won his first three matches at 125 pounds before losing 10-0 in the championship match against Mike Meyers of Warwick, R.I.
Gilman's bid for the 140-pound title ended with a 6-3 loss to Dan Telhada of Franklin, Mass. Eon, a four-time state champion, then lost in the 145-pound final to Victor DeJesus of Lowell, Mass.
Spencer, also a four-time state champion, dropped a 4-2 decision in the 189-pound final against Lucas Bowman of St. Bernard (Uncasville, Conn.).
Stephen Martin of Bonny Eagle compiled a 5-1 record to finish third at 171. He won 6-4 in the consolation final against Joel Altavesta of Tewksbury, Mass.