Robin Ficker resurfaces at Maryland wrestling
I was sitting in the stands during Maryland's wrestling match with American on Friday night. It was time for the Terps' brilliant All-American, Hudson Taylor, to take the mat. As Taylor readied himself, a guy in the front row of the stands, holding a Maryland flag, stood up and started yelling, in verse.
"Girls run and hide; brave men shiver," he yelled. "Get ready, here comes the Hudson River!"
Not necessarily standard wrestling fare. Little did I know at the time, but this noisy wrestling fan turned out to be none other than legendary D.C. basketball heckler Robin Ficker, the man who once needled Michael Jordan, became friends with Charles Barkley, caused the NBA to change its fan behavior rules and then stopped going to Bullets games after the team moved downtown.
Ficker is a longtime wrestling fan--his sons wrestled in high school, with youngest son Flynn going on to wrestle at Cal-Davis--but he was never known for his Maryland wrestling fandom. Then he ran into Terps assistant Todd Beckerman while working out at Cole Field House earlier this season. Ficker knew Beckerman from his DeMatha days, and the coach told Ficker he might enjoy checking out a match. So Ficker went to see the Terps wrestle at Navy late last month. And, being Robin Ficker, he did so vocally.
"We didn't know who he was," 133-pounder Steven Bell told me. "We thought he had a stroke or something, he was saying crazy things."
"I kind of just thought he was some crazy guy," said heavyweight Patrick Gilmore. "It was like, 'Oh my God, what is this guy saying?' "
"I thought he was just an anti-Navy guy, that he was just cheering against Navy," Maryland Coach Kerry McCoy said. "It was like haha, funny."
The next day, the Terps hosted Duke. And Ficker was back, with his cheers. Josh Asper was "the Aspirator." Mookie Golden got serenaded with "That guy's silver and you are Golden." "We want more, We want Gil-More," Ficker chanted for Patrick. Ficker promised "high Nielsen ratings with Bradley Fighting Vehicle Nielson
Nielsen." He'd call out "Roll him over in the clover" when asking for pins, tell the Terps they were "perpetual motion machines."
This got to be too intriguing for Taylor, who finally approached Ficker in the stands.
"I couldn't stand the mystery of not knowing who this guy was," Taylor told me. "I went up to him, and I was like, 'Who are you? Who sent you? What book did you fall out of?' "
Ficker told him his name. Taylor Googled away. Soon, the entire team had a vague understanding of their celebrity fan, his history and his heckling resume. And they mostly approved.
"I kind of like it," Bell said. "It adds a little bit of excitement to the match, a little bit of laughs."
"I love it," Gilmore agreed. "It cracks me up. I think it makes some people uncomfortable, because It's not a usual thing for a wrestling match, but I like it. It adds a little spice to the match."
"Awesome," summarized Taylor. "You see very aggressive, passionate parents, but he's having a lot of fun with it. That's sort of what it's about, I think. I really like to have him come. It's a nice change of pace for us."
McCoy, the coach, said Ficker is "good for the sport," and Ficker already has plans to follow the Terps to the ACC championships in Raleigh and to this weekend's match in Charlottesville. And yes, he's already working on his material.
"The Lees of Maryland and the Lees of Virginia," Ficker told me. "The Lees of Maryland include strongly, quickly, manly, victoriously. And the Lees of Virginia include Robert E. Lee, slowly, Cavalierly, etc. we're going to have a little fun."
Which, Ficker said, is the whole point.
"You know, what's wrong with being vocal at a wrestling match?" he asked. "The opposing coaches are pretty vocal, trying to get their guys going. I admire their conditioning and I'm there to celebrate their victories, of which there have been a number, and I hope there are a lot more....Look, that's recreation time. Why not have a little fun?"
(And before any Maryland wrestling fans yell at me for publicizing Ficker over the wrestlers, give me another day.)
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