A sporting vacation

View of a sports writer's family vacation

Dave Price

Call it a hazard of the trade, but even on a family vacation to the Midwest, it seems there's no way I can ever get away from sports.

Just on the return flight home from St. Louis to Reno-Tahoe International Airport at noon on Sunday, there was no escaping talk about NCAA basketball, about all the bracket-crushing upsets, and of course, the Nevada Wolf Pack, who would arrive home from Seattle to a large gathering of well-wishers later in the evening.

Even four days before, waiting in line at 6 in the morning to pick up four tickets to board a flight to St. Louis, I was thinking only about my family's trip to Missouri to see our oldest son, Kristopher, graduate from U.S. Army Engineer School at Fort Leonard Wood. Again, there's no way for a sports writer to get very far from business because, standing in line front of us in line was longtime McQueen High School wrestling coach Shayne Wallace, who was flying back with the family of one of his former wrestlers, Ryan Bader, to watch the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in St. Louis.

Proud people waiting to go see their kids. You can't beat that for a family vacation.

Bader, a two-time state champion who graduated from McQueen in 2001 and now a sophomore at Arizona State, gave the traveling fans plenty to cheer about at the Savvis Center when he earned a fourth-place finish and All-America honors in the 197-pound weight class. Bader, a two-time Pacific 10 Conference champion, lost a narrow 2-1 decision in the semifinals to Minnesota's Damion Hahn (who went on to capture his second NCAA title) and then defeated No. 2 seed Chris Skretkowicz of Hofstra in the wrestleback semifinals en route to the fourth-place finish.

How exciting for the family and for coach Wallace, who began working with young Bader in the USA youth wrestling program.

Looking around the airport on the way to St. Louis, you could see various fans who appeared to be en route to the NCAA Tournament. There were lots of Oklahoma State shirts and caps - as expected the Cowboys won their second straight team title and 32nd overall - Cal State Bakersfield, Nebraska, U.C. Davis and Arizona State.

There were fans from other sports in the St. Louis area this past weekend as well because the NCAA Division III Men's Swimming and Diving Championships were held in St. Peters. And, of course, March Madness, especially with four teams coming to town for the St. Louis Regional finals this coming weekend, including the Wolf Pack.

Nevada's two wins were certainly noticed - especially by those who had Michigan State and Gonzaga advancing in their brackets - although there were a couple of times when I had to explain that this was Nevada in Reno, not Las Vegas. The main sports front page photograph in USA Today on Friday showed Nick Fazekas and Todd Okeson celebrating their win against Michigan State.

By the way, I did manage to escape from sports during the visit to Fort Leonard Wood (note: Major General Leonard Wood served as Army Chief of Staff between 1910-14 and later made an unsuccessful bid for the 1920 Republican presidential nomination). It was a major thrill to watch the graduation, which culminated 14 weeks training for Charlie Company (35th Engineer Battalion, One Station Unit Training). And it was a thrill to watch Pvt. Price and his friend Joe Rose, two young men who grew up together in Gardnerville, march on to the auditorium stage to have Corps of Engineers castles pinned on their uniforms.

Round trip ticket of Southwest Airlines between Reno and St. Louis: $318. Regular gasoline in Missouri: $1.60 (give or take a few cents). An adult tram ticket on the St. Louis Gateway Arch: $8. The opportunity to see your child step into adulthood: Priceless.

Dave Price is a sports writer for the Nevada Appeal


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