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Editorial: For Whom The Bell Tolls

Editor Nolan Schmidt unpacks why Bison Illustrated choose to focus on the NDSU wrestling team for November’s issue.

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I have always been intrigued by the sport of wrestling. Much of that interest stems from growing up with WWE Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown on my television screen. Not a week went by where I wasn’t tuned in to the antics and entertainment of the various professional wrestlers. My personal favorite has, and always will be The Undertaker. His aura and persona had such an impact on me for some odd reason. It was the theatrics, the darkness of his character and the overall mystery of him, I weirdly related to it.

It also helps that I’m a relatively weird guy, so I was engrossed with weird things like a guy jumping out of a casket to attack another human. When those lights went down and you heard that bell toll, you knew something magnificent was about to occur. I still get chills thinking about it and I get goosebumps now when that same bell rings in the Fargodome on third downs. It transports me to a late-90s and early-2000s nostalgia, which cannot be replaced by anything.

Yes, I know professional wrestling is scripted, a machine created for a television audience and a masterfully choreographed extravaganza. However, you will never be able to look me in the eyes and tell me guys like The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin or The Rock were not athletes. They were, despite their profession somewhat demeaning that in a sense. In fact, some of the greats were once fantastic collegiate wrestlers (Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar and NDSU’s own Bob Backlund too).

One thing that has always impressed me about professional wrestlers and The Undertaker, in particular, is their longevity and staying power. The Undertaker, whose real name is Mark Calaway began his professional wrestling career in 1984, 34 years ago. Though he has been written off several times and has been forced to “retire” due to injury, he’s still wrestling. In fact, he had a match at a Pay-Per-View event in early October, he’s 53-years-old. Say what you will about professional wrestling, but 34 years of jumping off steel cages, getting thrown through tables, getting buried alive (seriously, that happened) and getting beaten to holy hell takes its toll on a human body. Still, Calaway continues to do it, even after accomplishing everything in the realm of professional wrestling (17-time champion).

The Bison wrestling team is a lot like Calaway. The only difference is that their moves are not scripted, the blood is real, they see real injuries and they experience true successes on a dual to dual basis. Well, that and collegiate wrestling looks a lot different compared to the WWE.

In professional wrestling, there is such a thing as an Iron Man match. Competitors face off for 30 or 60 minutes and whoever attains more pins in that time frame is the winner. It is meant to imitate what happens throughout an actual wrestling match (at the collegiate level or otherwise). Oddly enough, the best Iron Man match ever had two NCAA champions in it, Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar. Regardless, the end result is still not as physically tasking nor is it as rough, because, you know, the moves aren’t real.

NDSU wrestlers go through three periods totaling seven minutes in all. Some matches may go into overtime, which adds time on top of the seven minutes they have already wrestled. It may seem swift on paper, but it is far from quick for a wrestler.

The end result is not sexy. True wrestling matches do not end in a Tombstone Piledriver and an official counting to three as the offensive wrestler symbolically puts his opponent in his grave. The end is a wrestler who has been physically, mentally and emotionally superior in relation to his opponent. Hence why his hand is raised in symbolic recognition of that fact.

The Bison wrestlers go through an Iron Man match at every single practice and each dual they compete in. They’re not doing it for hundreds of thousands of fans either. We wanted to portray how tough, gritty and committed these guys are, the result is this month’s issue. I think we succeeded because the photos within this month’s magazine are badass, in my educated opinion.

The Undertaker may have left you with nightmares, but the Bison wrestling team is a living, breathing nightmare, not an illusory character.

The bell tolls for thee…

Editorial: For Whom The Bell Tolls
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