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Continued from page 19 Blatnick (far right) broadcasts the 2012 Beat the Streets dual for NBC at Times Square in New York. Larry Slater photo.

Jeff was one of the most human people

with the same attitude and passion and got his health back. Jeff told me about it in person. Jeff made a comeback in wrestling, trying to make the 1988 Olympic team. His comeback fell short, but it was equally impressive to me in his desire to return and his attitude about life. During his comeback, I was at the U.S. Greco-Roman Open, which was being held in his backyard. I can’t remember if it was in Albany or Schenectady, but it was in his home. During the tournament, I was in the middle of a conversation with Jeff Blatnick, when he stopped talking, bent over, and turned over a penny. I asked Jeff what he was doing. I’ll never forget his answer. It went some- thing like this. “When you pick up a penny that is heads up, it is good luck. When I see a penny and it’s heads, I pick it up. But if it is tails, I turn it over and leave it for the next guy.” All I could think about was Jeff’s amaz- ing approach about life. This is a man who beat cancer twice and he was look- ing out for other people. I’ll never forget that moment. I have never looked at a penny the same way since. When I came to USA Wrestling in mid 1988, Jeff was already active with the organization. As a national television commentator, especially when it came to Olympic wrestling, we worked together often at events. I helped him with research materials and background on our sport and its athletes. Jeff also served on a USA Wrestling committee in which I was staff liaison, the Marketing Committee, and he was full of ideas on how to help the sport.

I knew. He made mistakes, just like us all. Jeff took some flack within wrestling because he was not always completely accurate when he did his television com- mentary. Sure, Jeff made mistakes, but unlike you and me, his mistakes were on national television. Jeff wasn’t one of those slick people. He was straight for- ward, honest, sincere and caring. Jeff seemed to live life fully, and I appreciated that part about him. Jeff wasn’t afraid to do new things. In the early years of mixed martial arts, Jeff was very active with the UFC, serving as an announcer and taking some major leadership roles. He saw something spe- cial about that sport, way before the gen- eral public learned to enjoy MMA. He can go to heaven knowing that he was a pio- neer in a new sport that became tremen- dously successful. For many years, Jeff has been a com-

mentator at the NCAA Championships. I have been to them all since 1983. For some reason, on the Tuesday or Wednesday before the NCAAs, usually at the host hotel or a nearby restaurant, I would run into Jeff, along with ESPN pro- ducer Jerry Daniels (a former Connecticut high school coach) and Jerry’s high school coach, Dennis Siegman. They would always invite me to sit with them, and I always did. Sure, we talked some wrestling, but we also talked a lot about other things, catching up on family and life things. I always looked forward to seeing those guys. USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender and I got an interesting email today from Mike Moran, who served for

decades as the top public relations exec- utive for the U.S. Olympic Committee. Mike was there with Jeff during his Olympic journey and he shared a memo- ry with many of his friends in the Olympic family. You may know that Jeff was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team which could not compete in Moscow due to a U.S. government boycott. Apparently, Moran was there when they ran into former president Jimmy Carter, the man who decided to keep Team USA home. Moran introduced him as an Olympian and Carter asked him if he was on the 1980 Hockey Team. Jeff responded that he was a wrestler on the summer team. Moran reports that Carter said, “Oh, that was a bad decision, I’m sorry.” What an amazing story. I was at a USA Wrestling staff function at a restaurant a few hours after we had learned of Jeff’s death. ESPN Sports Center was on the television. We saw on the story list on the left side that it said, Jeff Blatnick 1957-2012. We asked the waitress to turn it up so we could hear it. In a positive way, the announcer gave information on his amazing life, showed video from his Olympic victory, and gave stats about his achievements in sports. When it was over, somebody raised a glass and everybody lifted whatever they had in front of them, toasting a true hero, Jeff Blatnick. Let’s try to remember to celebrate

Jeff’s life during this sad time. Jeff was my friend. He was a friend to wrestling.

He was a friend to so many people in wrestling.

That I will always remember. USA Wrestler 39

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