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Behind the lens

Wrestling team videographer Tommy Bennett offers perspective on success of Jason Grimes and Jeric Kasunic

Behind the lens

Where the team goes, the camera goes, and where the camera goes, the cameraman goes. Kneeling next to the wrestling mat at nearly every meet, AU senior Tommy Bennett gains a unique perspective of the team, one that comes from behind the lens.

This weekend, Bennett will travel with the AU wrestling team again as the videographer, this time to St. Louis for the NCAA National Championships, where he will have the chance to watch AU wrestlers Jason Grimes, Jeric Kasunic and Josh Terao compete one more time this season.

None of the three wrestlers have competed in the national championship prior to this year, and for Grimes, nationals will be his final folkstyle meet as an AU athlete. While the NCAA’s will be a unique experience for all three of the AU athletes, Grimes is used to competing in new environments.

He hails from Georgia and has wrestled all over the country in different collegiate national tournaments and Greco-Roman competitions. Grimes said the environment doesn’t necessarily influence his approach to his matches, he just focuses on competing.

“It’s no different on the wrestling mat,” Grimes said. “It doesn’t really matter where you are necessarily, just focus on the mat.”

His senior leadership will be valuable to his two teammates, Kasunic and Terao, as they each battle for the chance to advance deeper into the tournament. Terao heads into the tournament ranked 11th, while Kasunic and Grimes will each wrestle athletes with significantly higher seeds.

Terao’s high ranking makes him a possible All-American favorite, but Bennett said Kasunic and Grimes, who are known for their success as “pinners,” could still be contenders in the national tournament. Earlier this season, Kasunic and Grimes earned media attention for their ability to earn falls, a match-ending move that requires putting an opponent on his back, and their speciality in this area is a unique skill that could serve them well in their coming matches.

“There are certain guys you know that aren’t really pinners, I’m not going to name names, but that’s just not how they're built,” Bennett said. “But Jason and Jeric, all bets are off. So I think that’s what makes the team fun in matches.”

Bennett’s role as team videographer for the last two years has allowed him inside access to the team and a “holistic” perspective on group dynamic and training partner relationships, including that of Jason Grimes and Jeric Kasunic.

The AU wrestling team is built around the idea of family and competition, Bennett said, and that competition can include anything from GPAs to track workouts to pins.

“It’s a competition thing, and you see that with Jeric and Jason too,” Bennett said. “Jeric got like 10 falls each of the last two years, and now Jason started out hot. [AU head wrestling coach] Teague [Moore] makes everything a ‘you’re competing all summer, you're competing all fall.’ Now in the season, it’s kind of a competition in that way as well.”

The two athletes, Grimes and Kasunic, share similar goals when it comes to matches, Bennett said. Both athletes use their size and positioning in matches to try and earn a pin, and their skills help the team pull out wins in close matches.

The athleticism of the two wrestlers has caught the attention of their coach as well as the NCAA, as Grimes earned a position on the top 10 “Most Dominant Wrestlers” list earlier this year. Kasunic has also been ranked among AU’s top pinners, trailing Grimes by just two pins as of Jan. 7. Bennett said the ability for these two wrestlers to find success isn’t talent or perfectionism but rather a burning desire to keep fighting and working for the win.

“They aren’t like hanging their heads if they don’t get a pin, but I think they just have another gear, where if they get close at all, they’re going to get it,” Bennett said. “A lot of the guys don’t have that killer instinct, so I think it’s more that.”

Grimes’ sentiments echoed Bennett’s to a degree, but he said his reason, and Kasunic's reason, for fighting to pin his opponent was much simpler: end the match as fast as possible.

“I would say, for the team, we just like to get on and off the mat, so if you pin them you get off the mat a little quicker,” Grimes said. “That’s kind of our motivation.”

The bond that Kasunic and Grimes share as training partners will continue through at least another several weeks as the two athletes prepare for the NCAA Championships. Beyond March, though, Grimes does not know what his career will hold. Kasunic, on the other hand, will continue to build on the skills he has picked up from his older teammates as he competes throughout the remainder of the season. His competition mentality and “killer instinct” will propel him forward; and Bennett will likely be there to capture the success on film.


sscovel@theeagleonline.com