Thursday, October 25, 2012

Jeff Blatnick (1957-2012)

Long before Kurt Angle won his Olympic gold medals and starting pimping them in the WWE & TNA, there was another American Olympic hero in Greco Roman wrestling.

Jeff Blatnick won titles at the regional & national level in the late 70's and was on the 1980 team that boycotted the Moscow Olympics. Recovering from Hodgkins' lymphoma, Blatnick won the gold in Los Angeles in 1984, but unlike Angle, who would follow Blatnick's footsteps to gold 12 years later in Atlanta, Blatnick opted against turning pro. He wasn't that fond of pro wrestling, anyway, even though he did make some appearances on AWA programming for ESPN.

When the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) launched in the 90's, Blatnick was on board as a color analyst, and why UFC ever let him walk away, I'll never know. Blatnick helped develop the rules that are in place, based on the regulations set forth in New Jersey.

In recent years, Blatnick returned to upstate New York, working as a varsity wrestling coach at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School. On Wednesday, Blatnick passed away at 55 from complications from heart disease.

Angle has bragged about wrestling with a broken neck in Atlanta in 1996. Small potatoes, compared to what Blatnick went through en route to the gold. The fact that Blatnick had beaten lymphoma on his way to the gold medal made him a bigger hero, bigger still for not compromising his own values and submitting to the lure of big bucks and a national spotlight. Today, Angle is a shell of his former self, coasting on past successes in TNA. Blatnick will be remembered as a hero, in more ways than one, and that's the way it should be.

Rest in peace, Jeff.

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