On his first day as a senior at Boston University, former BU wrestler Peter Ishiguro said there are certain places on campus he feels he needs to avoid this year because of the memories they provoke. After the BU Wrestling team competed in its final match last spring, Ishiguro said some facilities, that were once commonplace in his daily schedule as a wrestler, are now just too emotional to return to.
“It’s like breaking up with a girlfriend,” Ishiguro, a College of Engineering senior, said. “There are just too many places that remind you of what you once had.”
When I first met with the wrestlers at the entrance of Case Gymnasium, Ishiguro and his teammates shuddered at my suggestion of possibly going down to their old practice room in the basement for this interview.
“We can’t go back there,” Ishiguro said, as his fellow teammates somberly nodded in unison.
Other places on campus that the wrestlers said they now try to avoid include their locker room, which used to serve as their home base during the season, and the Eilberg Lounge, where former BU Athletic Director Mike Lynch abruptly told them last year that the university was botching their program.
On April 1, 2013, in what some wrestlers thought was just a bad April Fools Day joke, the team was told that the university was going to disband their decades-old Division 1 team – hours after the news had already been circulating online. In a statement issued by the university shortly after the decision, officials claimed it would cost the university “an immense infusion of resources, including major facility enhancements and additional staffing, would be required” to bring the team to a championship-caliber level.
Almost immediately after the controversial decision went public, a campaign to save BU Wrestling spread rampantly, not only around BU, but across the nation as well. Yet, even with the immense support from fans, alumni, and fellow wrestlers, BU Wrestling competed in their final home match against Sacred Heart University in February.
In a normal year, the official wrestling season would start mid October. The month leading up to that, Ishiguro said, is usually spent in morning lifts, captain’s practices and routine team meetings. Now, as the 2014-2015 school year begins, the former team must grapple with the reality of no longer having wrestling practices to structure their day – a routine many of the wrestlers became used to since starting the sport as a young kid.
“Today I was sitting with Pete after I was done with class at noon, and I just didn’t know what to do with myself,” said former wrestler Matt Belikov, a School of Management junior, who started wrestling 14 years ago.
Ishiguro said it’s been hard to find motivation to exercise outside of the scheduled practices and lifts he became used to in his last three seasons as a BU wrestler.
“After the season ended, everything just went to shit,” Ishiguro said, looking around at his fellow teammates. “I don’t know about you guys, but I put on like 35 pounds.”
Vince DeBlasio, a College of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said he and his teammates are constantly looking for a mat to wrestle on, since they can no longer use the mats that were once on their own campus.
“We all keep trying to wrestle, anywhere we can,” DeBlasio said. “It’s almost like a habit to keep going back to it.”
More than a year after the decision was unexpectedly made to cut the program, the former wrestlers said the pain of the loss hasn’t gotten any easier. One of the worst parts of this situation, they said, is they feel it’s still unclear as to why exactly BU decided to cut the program, despite a flurry of requests for a more direct answer.
“Wrestling isn’t an expensive sport,” Belikov said. “Our practice room was a corner room, and our locker room was a hand-me-down… all you really need to wrestle is a mat.”
“Our facilities weren’t great, but everyone was still happy to be there,” added Belikov’s teammate, Colin Saunders, a junior in SMG.
As our interview came to a close, and we were still sitting on the stairs of Case Gym, a floor above where the former BU wrestlers used to spend countless hours a week conditioning and perfecting their techniques, I asked if any of them had gone back down to the room since their mats were ripped off the ground in June.
My question was met with a brief moment of silence until Saunders broke it with a somber admission – “I have,” he said.
“How was it?”