Wrestling and gymnastics aren’t exactly two sports that you would combine together in the same category other than being two sports that get little to no attention when it comes to the Eastern Michigan University realm of athletics.
On Jan. 30, the two teams came together at an event that was coined the “Beauty and the Beast”. This event featured Eastern Michigan’s home wrestling meet as well as the gymnastics team’s first home meet of the season. What made the event unique was that both events happened simultaneously.
It’s a nice contrast between the two sports. In wrestling, you’re expected to pin your opponent to the mat or force them outside of the circle in a physical manner to score points. In gymnastics, scoring points in based on the athlete’s ability to perform a talent with punctuality, grace and cordiality.
As Eastern Michigan wrestling battled Northern Illinois University on the wrestling mat, the gymnastics team went up against Northern Illinois on the vault, beam, bars and floor.
“We’re not the first program to do this, I’ve been apart of five or six of these [joint competitions],” Eastern Michigan wrestling coach David Bolyard said. “This is a neat event and it’s definitely for the fans, and it’s a great way to get some people together, and some fan bases together that typically wouldn’t be.”
Bolyard was right about that as well. Fans from both Eastern Michigan and Northern Illinois packed the lower bowl of the event, whether they be wrestling or gymnastics fans. The attendance for Beauty and the Beast definitely beat out a typical attendance for an Eagles home basketball game.
“It’s a neat atmosphere more than anything. Obviously when it gets down to it we’re worried about taking care of business on our end and I’m sure it’s the same for them [the gymnastics team],” Bolyard said. “Once we start competing though, it’s about taking care of business.”
Coincidentally, the event and its contrast continued throughout the meets themselves. Gymnastics took a quick lead over the Huskies early in its competition, while the Eagles dropped their first points to Huskies on the wrestling mat.
The Eagles gymnastics team held a steady lead throughout the afternoon. Wrestling began to win a few matches, but was down 12-3 at one point.
WRESTLING RECAP: Wrestling drops fourth straight at Beauty and the Beast
But for the fans the event was very different than what they’re used to, but thought that the Beauty and the Beast concept was very unique and “cool.”
“This is really different,” Eastern Michigan student Ryan Bommer said. “I’ve never watched gymnastics in my life and I probably wouldn’t have if I didn’t come today. It’s pretty cool what those girls are doing over there.”
Another spectator, who was at the Convocation Center for the gymnastics meet was interested in the concept of two sports sharing one arena, even if they didn’t find wrestling interesting.
“I don’t really care for wrestling, I’m here for the gymnastics meet,” Eastern Michigan gymnastics fan Linda Reed said. “But the whole, put two sports together in one place is actually kind of cool, especially for the people watching.”
A “cool” event it was, though. At one time you could watch senior Anthony Abro, who is nationally ranked, take on his opponent from Northern Illinois. You could then look to your left and watch Kendall Valentin doing her floor routine, in mid-air doing a front-flip.
GYMNASTICS RECAP: Gymnastics improves to 7-1 on the season
It was something that Eastern Michigan athletics has had some trouble with in the past few years, and that is generating interest in an athletic event and turning that interest into attendance. There were plenty of fans in the Convocation Center for the Beauty and the Beast event, whether the spectators were there for wrestling or gymnastics, they definitely got their money, and evenings, worth.
“You’re combining two fan bases, which is always helping [with attendance],” Eastern Michigan gymnastics coach Jay Santos said. “But we did a lot of work, we’ve been really trying to get a good push to get people here and get them to a good event.
“I think this turned out really well, we handled it well. All in all, I’m pleased. I’m really happy with the crowd and I thought we had good energy [in the building] so I’m really happy.”
The contrast between the two sports continued all the way until the end, with Eastern Michigan gymnastics taking home the win by a score of 194.775-193.950. Eastern Michigan wrestling never recovered from falling behind, falling to Northern Illinois, 21-9.