Wrestlers support wrestlers and there’s no better example of that than when Anthony Cassar’s teammate turned “rival” tuned in to catch his MMA debut.
In the buildup for Cassar’s pro MMA debut, Extra Rounds host TJ DeSantis interviewed the incoming heavyweight, asking why wrestling fans who don’t watch fighting should tune in, followed by why fight fans who don’t watch wrestling should tune into his fight. The line of questioning was humorously rounded out with DeSantis asking Cassar why Iowa Hawkeye fans should tune in.
Cassar laughed and gave a small jab to Iowa fans before sincerely stating, “the wrestling world is a small community and at the same time we stick with each other, so I would expect them to ride with me.”
Bypassing the line, “they’re used to seeing us winning and it’s not going to change much,” former Nittany Lion turned UNI Panther turned Hawkeye Brody Teske was the lone wrestler to weigh in on the statement on UFC FIGHT PASS Instagram.
“I ride wit @ant_thechamp_cassar. He a real one. But Go Hawks!” Teske wrote.
While he may have shared the mats with Cassar his freshman year, it was still interesting to see a Hawkeye absorb the tongue in cheek attack to show support for a rival in navy blue.
“There’s definitely history there with Cael Sanderson being a four-time National Champion at Iowa State and then what he’s built at Penn State it’s storied history that’s going to be there for a long, long time, and then the storied history of University of Iowa, the tradition is so far deep. It’s so far beyond my time so I can’t speak on any bad blood,” Teske said.
Teske would go on to explain that tension between fanbases is largely due to the tradition of winning shared between both programs. While he doesn’t feel the resentment that the fans do, he feels the exact same intensity when the two schools face off year in and year out.
“They’re number one in the country, we’re number two right now and that excites any wrestling fan,” Teske explained. “Basically, we’re fighting for a belt. Everybody’s going to tune in. It’s going to be the highest viewed pay-per-view card of every year.”
All that aside, Teske admits that Cassar was right and that he’d always support a wrestler in their future. As a lifelong fight fan and childhood friend of Matt Hughes’ son, it wasn’t far out of his way to fire up UFC FIGHT PASS and turn on iKon FC 6 when Cassar took the cage.
Love or hate on the mat, when the NCAA chapter of your lives come to a close, rivalries (usually) tend to close with it.
“As a wrestling fan, that s*** gets put aside and you root for the wrestler,” Teske said. “It’s kind of on the same terms of, if you don’t know who the two fighters are but one of them is American and the other one’s not, you kind of ultimately have to go for the American. I think that’s how the wrestling world goes about it.”
Teske had reason to celebrate but little shock when Cassar submitted Idrees Wasi in the first round. Can’t help but be happy for a fellow folkstyle gunner, but it was largely the debut matchup Teske expected.
“It was no surprise,” Teske laughed. “It’s early in their career they’re obviously going to be matchmaking for success, building their name and their brand and getting their experience. They’re a part of great teams. They’re not just going to throw them in with the wolves right away. We want to be prepared. You have to respect the game.”
Cassar himself spoke on the support, and while he wasn’t surprised that Teske took the time out of his day to tune in to his fight, he was grateful, and has specific goals of bringing MMA glory not only to himself, but every American wrestler.
“It’s something you’d always hope for, but I definitely appreciate it,” Cassar said. “At the end of the day we’re all cut from the same cloth if you’re a high-level wrestler. I definitely feel that strength and support with the community. As I approach this new field, we all kind of think the same thing and respect who we are. I definitely feel strength in the wrestling community.”
As of now, it’ll remain more of the same. Teske will continue repping the Hawkeyes but supporting wrestlers, rivals or not, on days he’s not in the lineup. Best wishes to every competitor, but when the singlet is on, there’s a one-track mind and every wrestler understands it. It’s this exact understanding that bonds Teske and Cassar, rivalry or not.
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