Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 20, No. 45, Ed. 1 Friday, March 12, 2004 Page: 48 of 72
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Gay wrestlers hit the matt and heat things up
PERFECT MATCH: Ron Ward, left, a Gay Games medalist, and Antonio Quirante, a former state champion, both of Los Angeles, spar at a San Francisco Golden Gate Club tournament in 2002.
Freestyle wrestling — practiced at the
Olympics, at Gay Games and most tournaments
in America — has long been a refuge for athletes
seeking a demanding winter sport. Yet, despite
wrestling's sexy image and revealing singlets,
relatively few wrestlers are openly gay.
With 17 gay-inclusive clubs in North America,
and more in Europe and Australia, wrestling in
the GLBT community has enjoyed a growing
reputation. But its ranks remain limited to a ded-
icated few hundred among the thousands of
adults who wrestle.
Those who initially think of wrestling as an
elevated form of playing are often surprised by
the physical demands of the sport.
"Many gay men associate wrestling with fore-
play to a sexual encounter or think it will lead it
there," says Mark Lavik of Rhode Island, who
runs New England's East Coast Wrestling Club.
By Jim Provenzano Sports Complex
And in a community where physical contact
usually implies sex, some gay men misunder-
stand the tactile male bonding.
"Both straight and gay wrestlers share a funda-
mental ease with the body and with body con-
tact," says Nick Zymaris of New York City's
Metro Wrestling Club. "Two wrestlers can start
putting each other into headlocks and going at it,
even if the non-wrestlers around, gay and not,
think it's weird."
Zymaris likes the blend of qualities that the
sport provides. At Metro, as with other clubs, a
team dinner usually follows a weekly or biweek-
ly practice. Participants' ages range from early
20s up to 50s. Although a few women spar at
some clubs, more usually join up just before the
Gay Games. Membership at all clubs increases
then, as grapplers seek a chance to travel as a
A stalwart of the wrestling community, coach
Gene Dermody has helped San Francisco's
Golden Gate Wrestling Club become a model of
diversity, tenacity and financial stability that
other clubs admire.
A former high school coach from New Jersey,
Dermody says that "camaraderie, fun, family
support and competition" keep him wrestling.
"Being gay was always a non-issue for me, as a
competitor or coach, over the 35 years of my
Although Dermody's been out since the earli-
est Gay Games, in the general wrestling commu-
nity he says he sees "a sort of 'don't ask, don't
tell' policy" with the many gay athletes who
aren't out. Members of Golden Gate have often
officiated and assisted at open tournaments
around Northern California.
Does this make for a safer — or more ambigu-
ous — environment for gay teenagers who take
up wrestling? Some wrestlers admit their love for
the sport grew with their coming out, and others
associate their first sexual desires with wrestling.
For example, Zymaris says that, at 21, he
learned a freeform submission style while living
in Greece, when one night of roughhousing with
a close friend became sexual.
"Just the realization that for the first time we
were touching each other in an erotic way, and
that what I'd only fantasized about was taking
place, was one of the best and most arousing
things about that first-time encounter," he recalls.
But some adult wrestlers never associated their
sexuality with wrestling. Before injuries inter-
rupted his nearly breaking an NCAA record
(unintentionally) of being pinned 15 consecutive
times, Roger Brigham wrestled as a lightweight
at Ohio Wesleyan University.
Fie later coached wrestling in Alaska from
1977 to 1986. While out in his private life, as a
coach, Brigham says he "never made it an issue.
I don't think anyone knew I was gay."
"Wrestling itself is not sexual for the competi-
tor," explains Dermody, who clarifies the differ-
ence between private sparring and club practices.
"It's impossible to become aroused if you're real-
ly fighting. For the observer, there are obvious
visual cues that are suggestive: touching, domi-
nation and aggression. Thinking about actually
wrestling, before or after a match, can be sexual."
While experienced grapplers know the differ-
ence, some like to blur the lines. Even before the
Internet exploded with underground tapes and
images of wrestlers in provocative positions,
mailing groups, erotica and videos testified to a
See WRESTLE on Page 51
GLBT FAb Four BowUng Club
DON CARTER WEST BOWLING CENTER
10920 Composite Dr., Dallas, TX
ew and inexperienced bowlers are being invited to form the Fab Four Bowling Club. The teams
consist of 4 bowlers. Bowlers pay a $10 registration fee and $12 per week. The fees cover
the cost of team shirts with your team's name on them, 3 games of bowling and a free pizza each
week. Every 4 weeks, the club plays different bowling games. The short club bowls 16
weeks. After the club is over, Don Carters West will host a FREE bowling party just for our
club and families. Shoes are available for rental from the counter for those needing to rent shoes.
The club will bowl on Wednesday nights
At 9 pm starting on April 7th.
The meeting will be April 7th at 8:30 pm.
When you are ready to join, call Jim Welch at Don Carters West
at (214) 358-1382 or email him your name, phone number, and
email address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
SiqN Up AS A.TEAM,
couple, or siNqlE!
Each team member will receive a
beautiful, new, Custom fitted bowling ball
-your choice of colors- blue, purple, or red.
DON CARTERS ALL STAR LANES DALLAS
10920 Composite Drive • Dallas, TX • 75220
9 Phone (214) 358-1382 • Fax (214) 358-4056
48 I dallasvoice.com I 03.12.04
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Vercher, Dennis. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 20, No. 45, Ed. 1 Friday, March 12, 2004, newspaper, March 12, 2004; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth238885/m1/48/: accessed June 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.