Episode 43 of the Five Point Move Podcast (presented by Mat Talk Online) was released just before Christmas. Millersville University head coach Kerry Regner served as the main attraction; plus, he had not been a guest previously.
The whole thing made almost too much sense. Regner, a graduate of Northern Michigan University back in 2010 and former US National Team member, has remained quite engaged with Greco-Roman through the years. From his kickstarting of the Williams Baptist program following the Rio Olympics (a topic of some prominence in E43) to his longstanding relationships with many fellow athletes and coaches — and really, everything in between — Regner tends to offer plenty of valuable insights. But often as a college folkstyle coach, he is pigeon-holed. Regner is and has been covered elsewhere, it is just that these days, on-the-record questions about Greco for him on the part of other outlets are not a priority.
After Regner was booked for the show, the idea came about to insert ’19 World Team member Max Nowry (60 kg, Army/WCAP, world #3 at 55 kg, 5PM #3) as a “surprise guest”. Nowry and Regner overlapped at NMU for parts of two years, and have maintained a strong dynamic ever since. Another natural fit for the pre-Christmas episode: the thought was to do approximately 30 minutes alone with Regner, and then introduce Nowry; whatever happened next would just be organic banter and not in any way steered towards one topical direction.
But then Nowry brought up World Team Trials procedures.
When it comes to the United States Greco-Roman National program, procedures (i.e., the rules determining eligibility and formatting for Team selection tournaments) are usually met with some degree of concern or confusion whenever new addendums are introduced. It is not because the procedures themselves are confusing; rather, the catalyst for subsequent discussion involves the reasoning behind such changes, and hypothetical variables which may have helped influence the outcome.
It was no different for Nowry, with the minor exception that, in this case, he actually was privy to information surrounding the decision-making process for ’21’s event. And, he didn’t love it. That is not his fault, and he may not be alone. However, when Nowry looked to broach this matter with Regner on the show, he never really had the chance to verbalize his misgivings. That’s because Regner would not allow it to happen.
As a competitor, Nowry’s credentials are exhaustive. Three Pan-Am Championship golds, two US Open crowns, a University World title, multiple National Team appearances, a fifth from last year’s Worlds… His is a very long resume sprinkled with impressive achievements. It is also worth mentioning that before he had ever stepped foot on campus in Marquette, Nowry owned a couple of Fargo titles — from both international styles.
NMU figures heavily into all of this from a competitive/athletic standpoint, for it was during Nowry’s college years when he began to generate steam towards his ongoing Senior career. It is also important in terms of personal dynamics. Marquette is where he first met the majority of his closest friends, many of whom have gone on to become highly-reputable coaches. Spenser Mango, for instance, now presides over Nowry on the Army team. Joe Betterman runs Betterman Elite not far from Fort Carson, Colorado; and Nate Engel is virtually unavoidable in every wrestling discipline at this stage.
There are others, of course, like Jonathan Drendel, with whom Nowry once roomed on campus and was Williams Baptist’s first head coach, as well as Paul Tellgren, whom while not yet a coach eyes opportunities in that realm and is intimately familiar with Nowry’s myriad eccentricities.
Those on the outside of NMU’s eco-system who are accustomed to Nowry’s behavior would likely not be stunned to learn that he enjoyed a quick and smooth assimilation period when it came to making an impression on his NMU teammates as a freshman.
“I would say that it took about 30 minutes from his first step on campus,” Engel says. “I think the older guys took it well just because Max weighed like 113 pounds when he first got to Marquette, so they just treated him like their little brother. Everybody laughed and had a good time.”
Tellgren’s assessment of Nowry’s arrival on campus strikes a similar chord.
“I remember the older guys liked him immediately because he wasn’t sensitive, and I was the sensitive one. They called me ‘Sensi’ all the time,” recalls Tellgren. “But Max marched in there and was just Max. I would say that he got respect from the older guys right away because he had a different attitude, a different mindset. He’s always been the way he is from the first day I met him.”
“He was just a lovable little prankster,” quips Mango.
Engel offers a pronounced overview. “Max always came in working hard but he was a heavyweight stuck in a 55-kilo’s body. He liked to be a bully. He liked to assert his attitude in many different ways,” he concludes.
Not much has changed. Nowry, 30, is well-known within the Greco community for his sense of humor. It is nearly ever-present, and motivates a substantial portion of his off-the-mat endeavors. For instance, he and close pal Betterman have sporadically engaged in prank wars involving each other’s homes (and families). Nowry is apt to go to the same lengths if he feels an Army teammate is deserving of his comedic wrath. Engel, Mango, Tellgren, WCAP heavyweights… They are all members of what is, believe it or not, a growing club of individuals who have been forced to accept Nowry’s primary mechanism for building friendships.
And then there is Regner, the steadfast, no-nonsense coach of a Division II program and married father of two. At 36, Regner is still in laudable physical condition. What he isn’t, any longer, certainly, is conditioned to suffer what he sees as typical Nowry antics.
“He’s like a more-corny version of me,” observes Regner. “We like to mess with friends. I’ve been known to prank assistant coaches, so pranks are fun. They’re cool. But Max does it much more often than I do. He’s on the lookout for it.”
Regner himself might not be “on the lookout for it”, but it takes one to know one. And when he appeared on E43 of the Podcast, the moment Nowry was revealed as the “surprise guest”, Regner’s patience level soon hit the floor.
The procedures for the ’21 Trials had just been voted on the week prior to E43, an occurrence that was fresh on Nowry’s mind. After several minutes of back-and-forth (most of which dealing with how Joe Uccellini came to be called “The Don” while at NMU), Nowry attempted to discuss said procedures and wanted to hear Regner’s opinion. The following (edited) transcript covers only two minutes of this part in the conversation, less than half of the volleying.
NOWRY: Let me ask you this question: after if the Olympic Games happen and there’s a World Championships, if you medal then that World Team spot is for you.
NOWRY: At that Olympic weight.
NOWRY: But if you’re in a medal match at the Olympic Games, and you’re either at the same weight class, the Olympic weight, or you move to a non-Olympic weight… You’re in the medal match and let’s say you take fifth. Do you think you should have a bye to the finals a month after (the Olympics) at the Trials? Or do you think having a bye to the semifinals is fair?
REGNER: Well, let me first say this: Tim, I can confirm that I was ‘Papa Bear’ at Northern Michigan. So, Max’s generation, I can tell them what to do, and they’d do it.
NOWRY: I was the hitman. I listened to you guys. I carried out hits. You and (Jake) Curby and (Jake) Fisher… Engel.
REGNER: Yeah, but not just them. Curby and Fisher, they kind of stuck to themselves in a lot of ways. But I invoke my opinion on a lot of things and I’m going to invoke my opinion on here. Like, as a frickin’ athlete, man… You’re an athlete, right? You should not be focused on any of this. The only thing that caught me off-guard is that you said you haven’t been doing pull-ups lately. It’s like, What the heck, man?
NOWRY: I do a lot of (resistance) bands stuff.
REGNER: Well, what the… Do frickin’ pull-ups, man. You’re gonna train, you gonna be an Olympic champ? You better be able to do 40 pull-ups. Like, what are we talking about?
NOWRY: Wait, hold up, let me pause you right there, because I get into this argument all the time with my heavyweights.
REGNER: Stop it. Stop it.
The tone had altered. Even prior to this stage of the talk it was easy to sense that Regner had been anticipating the potential need to stifle Nowry. Call it the nature of their relationship. But it was still loose, that is until Nowry sought Regner’s perspective on the procedures.
Regner’s response in totality, which included the word “pull-ups” cited seven times, and “rope climbs” or “climb rope” another three, was intended to redirect Nowry’s focus on his preparation for competition. The exercises were in large but a euphemism. To Regner, the issue at hand was less about a lack of pull-ups — and more about pushing Nowry away from being concerned with items outside of his control. A white flag was never waved during the exchange. Nowry shot back that he understood what his job entailed, and that he exhibited a firm grasp of the work needing to be done in order to make the Olympic Team.
Still, the sudden shift in the conversation was jarring for some listeners. Although, Tellgren and Mango were not particularly stunned with what they heard.
“He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t put up with a lot of stuff,” explains Tellgren. “He was the kind of guy who’d have fun and joke around with us, but Kerry didn’t put up with a lot of messing around. He was always that way, no-nonsense. Like, You can’t worry about that, be an athlete.”
“I’m not surprised,” says Mango of Regner’s side of the dialogue. “I mean, Max is going to wrestle no matter what and I wouldn’t say that he feels so strongly about the procedures. It is more that now he is on the board (Athlete Advisory Committee) and with the position that has, he wants to stand up for the athletes. But he’ll always go out and perform.”
Regner had another motive in his admonishment of Nowry: he, too, had once been an athlete who became distracted by tournament procedures and wanted his former teammate to avoid falling into the same mental trap. Later in the episode, Regner relented just a touch and said to Nowry, “I would tell you that my issue was that I worried too much about that crap. So yeah, if I go back, I’d probably give you my opinion. But it’s a different outlook now, you know?”
How It’s Going
It is now over a month since E43, the reverberations of the audio still being felt in a collection of Greco circles around the country. Nowry, who admitted to initially being taken aback by Regner’s comments, has decided to heed the coach’s advice. Shortly after the New Year, he shared a video of himself performing pull-ups off of a tree branch. Other videos have since followed (an entire audio/video documentation of this saga can be found at the top of this article).
To Regner’s credit, he was indeed serious about the concept of doing pull-ups. The way he sees it, pull-ups build important strength and muscular endurance in the arms, an obvious critical component for Greco-Roman competition. They can also be performed just about anywhere, so long as a suitable overhang is available. Rope climbs are the opposite, but their functional benefit in Regner’s mind is equally desirable.
“If you want to be in strong in wrestling, no matter the style, it’s pull-ups and rope climb,” he insists. “If you can’t do those things at a high level, how are you going to grab hold of somebody? And more so for Greco. Greco is so much about grip, there is so much hand-fighting. If you wrestle freestyle and folkstyle, your lungs are more vulnerable than your arms. But when you wrestle Greco, the first thing to go usually is your forearms.
“If you can’t hold onto a bar, if you can’t hold onto a rope and pull yourself up multiple times, you are not ready to be at the top.”