Monthly Archives: December 2015

Alman on Kazushi Sakuraba

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This is an excerpt from a piece I wrote about MMA legend Kazushi Sakuraba

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Rizin Fighting Federation looked to bring back the wonder and pageantry of Japanese mixed martial arts that many fans fell in love with over the years when they watched Pride Fighting Championships and Dream. The promotion staged a two-day event, one on Dec. 29 and the other on New Year’s Eve – which is something of a tradition throughout the years.

For the promotion’s first event, they featured two Japanese superstars – one being the ONE lightweight champion Shinya Aoki and the other, MMA legend Kazushi Sakuraba.

Aoki quickly brought the fight to the mat where Sakuraba weathered some ground-and-pound, but the ONE champion pummeled the legend until the referee stopped the fight.

This was Sakuraba’s fifth-consecutive loss and like many fans of the man who was considered a cornerstone of Pride Fighting Championships, it was a little tough to watch. It wasn’t as tough to watch as when Marius Zaromskis knocked his ear off, but it’s close.

I’m not calling for Sakuraba’s retirement – he’s a grown man, he can make his own decisions. But if he wants to hang up the gloves, I’d have no objection.

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To read the rest of the story, follow the link.

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Colleen Schneider, Megan Anderson and others looking for win inside Invicta cage

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This is an excerpt from the piece I wrote this morning about several fighters competing at Invicta FC 15

The next Invicta Fighting Championships event, scheduled for Jan. 16 in Costa Mesa, California. While featherweight champion Cris “Cyborg” Justino is looking to make her third successful title defense against newcomer Daria Ibragimova – becoming the first Invicta fighter to accomplish the feat if she wins. However there are many fighters on the card who are looking to capture another – or their first – victory inside the Invicta cage.

There are fighters like Australia’s Megan Anderson (4-2 MMA, 0-1 Invicta) and Super Fight League champion Colleen Schneider (9-6, 0-1) who are hoping to capture that first Invicta win. Schneider was submitted by Irene Aldana in her Invicta debut back in February. She rebounded and comes into her next fight with Raquel Pa’aluhi with a three-fight winning streak.The Thoroughbred is pretty well-rounded and will provide a good challenge to Pa’aluhi who also rides a three-fight winning streak.

Schneider is a journeyman – well journeywoman – who’s had a lot of success wherever she fights and Invicta is easily a place where she can make her mark.

To read the rest of the story, click on this link.

Update from Alman

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Hello there writing and fight fans, this is trusty Al Stover. You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t posted anything in the past few weeks. There was some personal stuff going on, not to serious but I had to find myself and work on some things. Speaking of work, I recently started a new Sports blog dubbed “The Fighter’s Circle.” It’s where I’ll have a lot of MMA-related content and posts, which I’ll still try and post onto here.

http://fighterscircle.sportsblog.com/

I’ve also been working on some Pokemon-related things. I wrote a few fictional pieces before Christmas and entered them into a writing content. More on that later. My mom also bought me “Pokemon Omega Ruby” so I’ll hopefully have some Poke Posts up here as well.

I just wanted to thank you all for a great year and taking the time to look at, like and comment on my blog. I hope you all had a Merry Christmas – or a great holiday – and I hope you have a great New Year.

Update Sept. 20, 2017

Well folks, you have noticed it’s been a few months since I’ve actively posted on this site. I recently moved from Cheney to Ritzville for work purposes. After three-and-a-half years at the Cheney Free Press, I took the chance and moved west to work at the Ritzville Adams County Journal.

It’s similar to the Free Press in that it’s a weekly newspaper – both are owned by Free Press Publishing. However, the office is smaller and our coverage area is a little smaller. The Journal covers more towns, however they’re small compared to the West Plains and there’s not a lot happening in regards to development. Ritzville is small compared to Cheney but it has a rich history.

The transition has had its bumps but it’s been a good experience. The people in Ritzville are friendly and they say hello. Some folks don’t go beyond a hello, which can be frustrating. Some people think they know you as a person through your writing or from information others give them. There are people who I’ve met and gotten to know, but there’s still a way to go.

Part of this transition has been rough because I’ve spent a lot of time by myself. I was kind of a loner before, but I was always within driving distance to friends. Now I’m a good hour away from Spokane and I’ve had to find ways to keep myself entertained – which includes getting back into World of Warcraft and becoming familiar with some of the restaurants and the one watering hole in town. It’s been a combination of appreciating, loving and respecting myself and coming out of my shell.

I’ve also been writing fiction again, which has been a lot of fun and I’ll try and post some stories on here.

But as much as I miss my hanging out with my friends, I don’t miss the drama. What I mean is there was a lot of drama surrounding a particular group of friends which led to a falling out between them. There was one person in particular who I’ve grown to resent because of things that have happened in our lives – I’ll put it this way, he and I are like family, but I would not want my child to date him. Now I’m no longer in the area where I have to choose sides or anything like that.

Now that I’ve settled in, I’ll continue to post on this site – my goal is to hit 3,000 before the end of the year. I probably won’t be doing lengthy news-type posts about MMA or wrestling, but I’ll have reviews and videos. I’ll also be posting more Pokemon stuff. I’m also going to focus on making the Journal better and helping my Editor meet her goals of what she wants to do with the paper.

Now I’m off to the office, but first I’ll catch that Magikarp at the Courthouse.

Gymnastics: Lady Blackhawks win first meet

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The Cheney High gymnastics team won their first meet of the season, Dec. 16, with 135.35 points. The other teams that competed at the meet were Ferris, Lewis and Clark, Shadle Park and North Central.

In the all-around scoring, Alexis Miller finished third overall with 28.45 points while teammate Katie Clemens took fifth (27.8)

“This time I think they were a little less nervous, having gone through it (competition) the first time,” head coach Jaelyn Gardner said. “They were able to really focus and compete. They were very excited to ring the victory bell at school.”

In individual events, Olivia Hovater finished second in both the vault (7.9) and floor exercise (7.55). Miller took third in the floor exercise (7.65).

Clemens took second in the balance beam (7.9) while Miller finished third (7.7). Miller was second in the uneven bars (7.25).

Cheney will travel to Central Valley, Jan. 6, 2016, to compete in a meet against CV, Rogers, North Central and Lewis and Clark.

With their first win under their belts, Gardner said the team still has some areas where they can improve. She added that the team has a more flexible practice schedule during Christmas break which will allow them to focus on fine tuning their skills.

“It also gives them a chance to let them practice new skills they weren’t able to at the start of the season,” Gardner said.

Within days before the winter sports season starts, the Cheney High gymnastics team finally has a head coach for its inaugural season and her name is Jaelyn Gardner.

Gardner has lived in the Northwest her whole life, growing up in Kennewick before moving to the West Plains over five years ago. She went to Eastern Washington University where she graduated from the college’s dental hygiene program.

“I would say I’m a dental hygienist by day and a gymnastics coach by night,” Gardner said.

In the summer, she learned about the job opening for a gymnastics coach at Cheney and was interested, but decided not to apply for it because of work. With winter sports around the corner, Cheney High School athletic director Gregg Hare reached out to her.

“He knew I was interested and offered me the coaching position,” Gardner said. “I thought about it and said ‘I’m going for it.’”

Gardner has been involved with gymnastics since she was 7 years old, competing on a private club team when she was younger. She attended and competed for Southridge High School in Kennewick, while balancing her school work, and went as far as districts, progressing to state in her senior year. Although she dabbled in other sports, gymnastics was her focus.

After she moved to the West Plains, Gardner coached at Mountain View Gymnastics in Airway Heights.

“I’ve always had a passion for the sport,” Gardner said. “I’ve always had fun doing it. I love to spin, tumble and jump. Most of my friends were on the team. I’ve always enjoyed being out on the mat and competing.”

Similar to sports like swimming, wrestling, tennis and golf, gymnastics has an individual element. Gardner hopes her passion and excitement for the sport will translate over to the team. She knows she’ll be getting a mix of gymnasts who have years of experience and athletes who have never competed in the sport. She’s also hoping to instill in her team a sense of responsibility, as well as help them build confidence in their abilities and each other.

“The girls can learn from each other and grow in the sport, and that’s kind of exciting,” Gardner said. “They’re high school students, so they’ll be juggling sports on top of homework and classes and have to work on time management, which will benefit them a lot, not just in sports but also in life.”

For its first year, the gymnastics team will practice at Mountain View Gymnastics Monday through Friday and Saturday mornings, though Gardner hopes the school can buy some equipment and have a space closer to campus for next year.

Hare said he “lucked out” when Gardner accepted the coaching role. He’s also glad the district was able to secure a facility like Mountain View. He added that Cheney will compete in the Greater Spokane League on a one-year trial basis.

“In building any program from the ground up, there’s a lot of learning and work going into it,” Hare said. “This (gymnastics) is a new thing for me. It’s exciting.”

In the first couple of weeks, Gardner said she’ll have a lot to cover with her team, including which events they’ll “best fit in.”

“There will be a lot of learning to get them ready for that first competition,” Gardner said. “There’s going to be a lot of learning for all of us, but I’m excited. I’m working to build a solid foundation and get this program rolling.”

Swimming: Cheney defeats Prosser, Grandview

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The Cheney High boys swim team rebounded last week to pick up a couple of wins at home, Dec. 15, defeating Prosser (133-18) and Grandview (113-43).

Individual places from the meet were not available as of press time. Head coach Jennifer Hochwalt explained that there were “four meets going on at once.” The other two duals she referred to were ones featuring a Medical Lake High swim team, comprised of the athletes that practice with Cheney, defeating Prosser 45-21, and losing to Grandview, 65-31.

Highlights from the meet for Cheney include Trevor Babcock qualifying for state in the 100-yard freestyle in 50.92 seconds. Babcock also finished the 100 backstroke in 1:01.99.

Scott Nadeau completed the 100 breaststroke in 1:07.68, less than one second away from the state-qualifying time (1:06.90) and the 500 freestyle in 5:30.66.

Matt Christianson finished the 200 freestyle in 2:30.95.

Spencer Hagel completed the 200 individual medley in 2:44.63 and the 100 butterfly in 1:13.73.

Jacob Devine clocked in a 29.42 in the 50 freestyle.

On the Medical Lake side, Isaac Outheuthapanya finished the 200 freestyle in 2:40.45.

C.J. Krieger completed the 50 freestyle in 26.07 and the 500 freestyle in 6:02.02.

Tyler Edison finished the 100 breaststroke in 1:45.25.

In relay events, Devine, Noah Prophet, Tanner Gillingham and Elijah Walker finished the 200 medley relay in 2:23.13 and the 400 freestyle relay in 4:01.70. Babcock, Christianson, Nadeau and Joel Rice clocked in a 1:46.52 in the 200 freestyle.

For Medical Lake, Outheuthapanya, Krieger, Edison and Brayden Burress finished the 200 medley relay in 2:17.63 and the 200 freestyle in 1:57.59.

“I was happy with how the swimmers performed,” Hochwalt said. “I’m excited to see what they can do after Christmas break.”

The Cheney team begins 2016 with a meet in Pullman, Jan. 5.

Update Sept. 20, 2017 – This would be my last year covering Cheney boy’s swimming at the Cheney Free Press. It was a good season for the team and they had some good athletes that year. Like any program, there were some hiccups and like any team on spring break, you had times when you weren’t practicing – or in my case covering a team. Still, Jen Hochwalt does a hell of a job with both of the swimming programs in Cheney. I hope she has a lot of success in both the boys’ and girls’ swimming season.

Wrestling: Blackhawks defeat Cardinals

It was another busy week for the Cheney High wrestling team who earned a nonleague victory over West Plains rival Medical Lake, 43-33, Dec. 15, and had four wrestlers finish in the top 5 at the Cadet Classic, Dec. 19 in Yakima.

Being down 12-0 to the Cardinals, the Blackhawks picked up three consecutive wins, including Zack Nguyen’s 9-4 decision at 132 pounds and pins from Cameron Wiseman (145) and Francisco Martinez (152). After Boedy Taylor (170) earned Cheney another pin, the Blackhawks won their next four matches via forfeit.

“It was great to see Cameron get that win,” Cheney head coach Brad Rasmussen said. “Martinez and Taylor did great too. Our kids battled from top to bottom. It was unfortunate we didn’t get to see our big guys wrestle theirs, but what can you do?”

In the Cadet Classic, formerly known as the Eisenhower Mat Classic, Michael Ferguson (220) finished second in his division. Nguyen (132), Devon Waterman (195) and Garrett Pederson (285) were third in theirs.

After a first-round bye, Ferguson pinned Othello’s Alexis Mendoza in 40 seconds, then defeated Davis’ Christian Reyes, 8-2. Peninsula’s Chance Stolz pinned him at 2:42 in the championship match.

“Ferguson wrestled well,” Rasmussen said. “He was winning that match (against Stolz) until he got caught. The loss is good for him and it will motivate him.”

Pederson pinned Sunnyside’s Jarrod Perales and Granger’s Oscar Ibarra on the way to the semifinals where Davis’ Sam Grover defeated him, 2-0. In the third place match, Pederson defeated Eastmont’s Dan Alderson, 3-1.

Waterman had a successful return to action. After a first-round bye, he defeated Othello’s TJ Martinez, 8-4, then lost to Granger’s Juan Zamora via pin in the semifinals. He defeated Toppenish’s Damon Mattern via a 13-0 major decision.

“It was nice to see Devon have a good return to the mat,” Rasmussen said. “Garrett wrestled tough and lost a heartbreaker in the semifinals, but he battled back.”

After losing to Davis’ John Sowers, 9-8, in the opening round, Nguyen tore through the consolation bracket, pinning Davis’ Uriel Acevedo, Granger’s Case Graf, Eastmont’s Thomas Jones and finally Eisenhower’s Juan Isadoria in the third-place match.

“Zack had a rough road after that first loss,” Rasmussen said. “For him to go through that says a lot about his mental toughness.”

Saul Bautista (120), Wiseman (145), Martinez (152) and JW Merriott (182) were 1-2 in their brackets before being eliminated in the consolation rounds. As a team, Cheney was ninth out of 18 teams with 82 points.

Cheney sent several wrestlers to the Tri County Classic, Dec. 22, at Central Valley. They’ll finish the calendar year at the Freeman Invite, Dec. 30.

Rasmussen said the team will try and spend as much time on the mat as possible during Christmas break, focusing on conditioning and technique.

“We’ve been so close to scoring more points and winning big matches,” Rasmussen said. “But I think this team is tired of being close. We’re ready to get after it and win.”

How the Seahawks got their groove back

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This is from my Crunch Time column from the Dec. 24 issue of the Cheney Free Press.

Christmas came early for Seattle Seahawks fans.

Despite a rocky 4-4 start to the 2015 regular season, the Seahawks bounced back to a 9-5 record, including the recent 30-13 win over the Cleveland Browns, to clinch a wild card spot in the playoffs and make their fourth straight postseason appearance.

Sure, Seattle hasn’t been dominant for the majority of the season like they were in the last two years, but many would argue that all they needed to do was get to the postseason.

The Seahawks had their fair share of drama at the start of the season. Quarterback Russell Wilson, who signed a four-year deal with the Seahawks worth $87.6 million, now had to prove he was worth the money the franchise is paying him. Strong safety Kam Chancellor held out the first three games due to contract issues but later returned to the team. Of course, who can forget wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who has caught 10 passing touchdowns in the last four games.

One Seahawk that fans had high expectations for was tight end Jimmy Graham, who the team acquired from New Orleans. Graham had 48 receptions for 605 yards and two touchdowns. He suffered a torn right patellar tendon in Seattle’s 39-30 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and is lost for the season.

One facet of the team that has grown over the season is the offensive line, which had a combination of rookies and veterans coming into the season. The O-Line had taken their licks early on but were able to adjust. The bye week gave Seattle’s offense time to regroup.

Fans and writers are talking about Wilson’s “hot streak,” in which he’s thrown 19 touchdown passes in the last five games — including three TDs in the game against the Browns — as they should but let’s not forget how the O-line has stepped up to protect him. As a coach once told me, the players on offensive line are the “unsung heroes” of the game.

Seattle’s running game has had its fair of ups and downs. Running back Marshawn Lynch started the first six games before being sidelined for sports hernia surgery. According to reports, Lynch won’t be at practice this week and the earliest he’ll return is for the final regular season game.

Undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls picked up where Lynch left off, having four games where he ran for over 100 yards, including a 209-yard game against the San Francisco 49ers. He suffered a fractured ankle in the Seahawks’ Dec. 13 game against the Baltimore Ravens and is also out for the season. Rawls had 147 carries for 830 yards and four rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown in his successful rookie season.

With Lynch and Rawls out, the Seahawks have had to rely on Christine Michael, Bryce Brown, and fullback Derrick Coleman to carry on the ground attack. In the game against the Browns, Michael had 16 carries for 84 yards, Brown adding 43 yards on nine touches and Coleman contributing 10 yards on five carries.

Seattle’s defense continues to be strong. They are second in scoring defense, allowing 17.7 points per game, second in total defense, third in rushing yards allowed and fourth in passing yards allowed.

The Seahawks wrap up their regular season with a couple of games that are sure to be barn burners. One is against the St. Louis Rams, who beat Seattle 34-31 in overtime in their first regular season game, Sept. 13 and the NFC West champions and current No. 2 seed, the Arizona Cardinals, who defeated the Seahawks 39-32 after they came off the bye week, Nov. 15.

Fans and writers are already saying Seattle will have a shot at the NFC portion of the playoffs, but folks shouldn’t be counting their eggs just yet. While reaching the postseason is one thing, winning the whole thing is different. If Seattle can keep their wild card slot intact, they’ll face the No. 4 seed and NFC East champions, either the Washington Redskins (7-7) or Philadelphia Eagles (6-8) — who play each other this Saturday. They still might have to contend with the Green Bay Packers, the Cardinals, and the undefeated Carolina Panthers.

But if Seattle can make it to the Super Bowl, they’d be the first team to make it to three consecutive Super Bowls since the Buffalo Bills (1992-94).