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October 02, 1989 - Image 17

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-10-02

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The Michigan Daily - Sports Monday - October 2, 1989 - Page 5


by Jeff Sheran
Daily Sports Writer
When Bob Potokar began
wrestling nearly 14 years ago, he
walked onto the mat with fire in his
eyes and a hunger to win. His
motivation, combined with tremend-
ous talent, made him a three-time
high school state champion in Ohio,
a state steeped in wrestling tradition.
His brothers had perpetuated that
tradition before him, themselves
earning three state championships
when they were in high school. One
brother, Ed, followed through to
Ohio State, where twice he merited
All-American honors.
But Potokar left the Buckeye
State and came to Michigan,
expected not only to fill the
mammoth shoes he had created for
himself, but also to fill those of
national champion Kirk Trost.
Trost, currently an assistant
coach for the Wolverines, captured
the NCAA heavyweight title in
1986. Enter Potokar, the man to
keep the tradition alive.
The 240-pound heavyweight
won. But he also lost. And when
you wrestle last, possibly with the
outcome of the meet riding on your
performance, your losses are
Potokar notched a 24-16 record
overall and placed fourth in the Big
Ten last season, results any other
wrestler might boast about, but not
quite what everyone expected of the
high school superstar. And
apparently not enough to keep
Potokar motivated.
He decided not to return for his
fifth and final season with the
matter of being into it," Potokar
explained. "It just grew stale. My
heart wasn't in it anymore."
As with many difficult decisions,
there was no clear-cut incident that
convinced Potokar to leave the team.
"I guess you just call it burnout.
I've been wrestling since I'm 9 years
old. When you're not in it for
yourself, why do it?",


but nevertheless sought to view
Potokar's departure in a less earth-
shattering light. "It's not automatic
that a player comes back for a fifth
season. Plenty of football players
call it quits after four years. It's not
very uncommon," he insisted.
Sam Amine, Potokar's best
friend on the team, disagrees with
Bahr's attitude. "I think Potokar was
a big loss. Not that (his replace-
ment) couldn't do a good job, but
they could have pushed each other.
He should still be on this team," he
When asked if he felt any
disappointment about Potokar not
fulfilling all expectations, Bahr
responded, "Potential is a very dan-
gerous word. Bob's the only person
who knows what he can do. You
have to accept his accomplishments
at face value."
left wrestling, both he and the team
have some gaps to fill. The Wol-
verines possess a solid replacement
in sophomore Phil Tomek, who
finished 6-6 overall last year, but
whn hac imnr v.d tre d lnQ~

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Michigan rugby player David Perpich (right) straightarms defender David Weber. Weber, who graduated with
the business school class of 82, returned to Ann Arbor for a game between the current team and an alumni
The Michigan rugby team is rich in
history, dating back to the 19th century

Poto ka r


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since last season,
several teammates.

reI sICUJUly
according to

John Fisher, Potokar's teammate
for four years, and now a graduate
assistant for Michigan, understood
Potokar's situation. "It's fun when
you're successful, but success is in
the eye of the beholder," he said.
"Before Michigan, Bob had never
experienced losing in his life, kind
of like (former Michigan basketball
player) Antoine Joubert. Then he
goes up against the big boys, and
that sometimes takes the fun out of
it when you don't beat them.
Wrestling is a big commitment to
make when you're not having fun."
There were certainly no ill feel-
ings surrounding Potokar's depart-
ure. "Bob and I came to a mutual
agreement that it would be in the
best interests of himself and the
team if he opted not to return," said
head coach Dale Bahr.
Bahr felt the incident was
difficult for both parties involved,

Tomek captured the National
Espoir Tournament Championship,
and took second in an international
freestyle tournament in London over
the summer. He spent the remainder
of the summer practicing at the
Olympic Training Center in
Colorado Springs. "Phil is definitely
ready to step in," said Trost.
So it appears the Wolverines can
smoothly adjust to Potokar's
absence. As for the reverse, that also
seems so.
"I need twenty more credits to
graduate," Potokar said."After that,
I'll get a job and become a normal
person. You're not really normal
when you're in athletics."
He hasn't been normal for the
past 14 years. Will he enjoy it?
"Yeah, I'm happy about that. I'll
miss wrestling, but I can always go
back and relive it."

by Bill Girardot
Daily Sports Contributor
This past Saturday's Old Blues
Weekend celebrated by the Wolverine
Rugby Club was touted as the
thirtieth anniversary of organized
rugby at Michigan. In a sense, this
was and wasn't the true anniversary of
Wolverine Rugby.
Sure, the rugby club that cele-
brated this past weekend was born in
the fall of 1959. However, as avid
Michigan Rugby fans know, Wolver-
ine Rugby has had a long history that
actually predates the turn of the
Club member Mike Lisi and the
Michigan Rugby Newsletter have
spent a great deal of time researching
rugby at Michigan. Now a history of
rugby and its evolution into football
has become possible.
The first mention of football
matches at Michigan was in the
student newspaper of 1862. This
football apparently had little likeness
to the rugby or football that we have
today. The football matches of 1862
were nicknamed "rushes." Looking at
how the game was played, it is ob-
vious why the nickname took hold.
The "rush" would typically have
hundreds of students playing at a
time. Spectators also felt no
hesitation to join in the fun whenever
the urge hit them.
It was the chaotic sports world of
"rush" football that allowed the
growth of rugby. University officials
and newspaper editors across the
country condemned "rush." Rugby
was seen as a popular alternative.
In May of 1874, the first
sanctioned rugby match was played in
the United States with McGill Uni-
versity defeating Harvard. This began
a series of matches between various
eastern universities. However, these

matches were always marred by con-
troversy since none of the universi-
ties seemed to play by the same
To end the conflicts that
inevitably popped up at every match,
the universities joined together to{
form the Intercollegiate Football
Association in March of 1876. This
was the first college football athletic
league in the country. This league set
guidelines for the size of the field,
numbers of players, and scoring.
Rugby did not take long to spread
westward to Michigan.
By 1876, rugby was adopted by
Michigan, which also accepted the
uniform rules of the eastern
universities. Early on, Michigan
played rugby only as an intramural
sport, but by 1879 the Wolverines
were ready to enter the arena of
intercollegiate sports. Michigan
headed west to Chicago to play
mighty Racine College in May of
1879. Following this match,
Michigan took on the University of
Toronto in November. This close
game, played near the banks of the
Detroit River, ended in a tie even
though most spectators agreed that
Michigan dominated the match.
The next year the Michigan and
Toronto held a rematch, which this
time went to the Wolverines. More
important than the score, however,
was the evolution of the rules.
The rules of 1876 had specified 15
men per team, but this match only
allowed 11 per team. Also, for the
first time, a position was designated
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as the quarterback, an innovation
attributed to Yale. Rugby was slowly
changing into modern American
By 1881, Michigan was one of the
few teams in the country that was
devoutly hanging on to traditional
rugby rules. When the Wolverines
travelled east that year, they
encountered a totally different game.
Michigan was presented by even
more radical changes in their next
eastern tour in 1883. The ball had
changed shape, becoming smaller and
more similar to the one that is used
in football today. Also, the poss-
ession rules had changed signifi-
For all practical purposes rugby
had vanished in the east and had been
replaced by a rudimentary form of the
football we see today.
Michigan attempted to buck this
eastern trend for several years, but by
the end of 1883 even Wolverine.
rugby had met its demise.
It took 75 years before rugby
would again be played competively at


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First-year wrestler Joey Gilbert (top) controls his teammate in wrestling practice.
starting spot at 134 pounds, the position vacated by three-time All-American John
graduate assistant withthe team.

Gilbert is vying for the
Fisher, who now serves as a

Continued from Page 1
The 1989 Sentinel is dedicated to senior Joey Gilber' whose historic
athletic achievements can serve as the biggest source of motivation for us
Joe's personality and character make him a unique combination of
leadership and maturity. I find Joey to be a very hardworking, honest, and
sincere individual. I love Joey Gilbert. Thanks Joe. -Andrew wrestling
coach Tom Lahey
Joe's a true champion. He dares not only to dream but to work toward
making that dream a reality. He's just a special, special, wrestler, and a
special person-Lahey
Gilbert was recruited by several schools around the Big Ten, but wasn't
heavily pursued by Michigan until the spring of his senior year.
According to Michigan coach Dale Bahr, the Wolverines didn't really
recruit Gilbert until the spring. Then, a parent of a Northwestern wrestler
telephoned assistant coach Joe Wells to tell about Gilbert's interest in
attending MichigAr.
Once the Wolverines displayed an active interest in Gilbert, he realized
that Michigan was the perfect place for him. Michigan offered Gilbert things
that some other schools that recruited him-Indiana, Purdue, Michigan
State, and Minnesota-couldn't.
"Some of the other schools that recruited me were, like, 'Here is the
gym, what do you want to do tonight?" Gilbert says. "When I went to
Michigan they took me to all the counselors. They're really interested in
school, they're really on you about that. "
Now, Gilbert takes full advantage of Michigan's Learning School

who take it for granted. Joe has worked real hard to be successful and really
wants to earn his degree."
Says Gilbert of college: "I kind of look at it as a fresh start, a chance to
catch up. There are a lot of people overwhelmed by it-their coming to a
big school. It makes me feel good to be in a school with all these kids. I
think I'm holding my own all right."
Gilbert is holding his own in the wrestling room as well. He is expected
to be the only member of Michigan's frosh class, rated second nationally,
not to be redshirted. If he wins challenge matches against fellow frosh James
Rawls, and junior Jeff McCollom, he will wrestle at 134 pounds, a spot
oco ied last year by four-time All-American John Fisher.
Fisher feels his replacement may be equal to the task of following up on
his success.
Said Fisher: "I haven't really wrestled with him, but he seems to be real
tough, real eager to learn. He has the desire."
"I think I came to Michigan at a really great time," Gilbert says. "I like
the atmosphere here. The athletes are really into wrestling. And just because
this is such a great academic school it makes me feel good about myself.
When I go back home they know I have to work. They know how tough it
is academically. They know how hard it is, how you just can't go out and
"Not too long ago, a kid came up to me and said,.'Hey Joe, you're going
to Michigan? I thought you were in those weirdo classes,' and he's not
doing anything now."
The jibes and insults may not have stopped, but Gilbert doesn't pay too
much attention to them now. His bus ride is just beginning.

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