Sunday, March 7, 2004

Good Sports: Trio train for the fight of their lives


Rich Franklin/West Chester, Kerry Schall/West Chester, Josh Rafferty/Western Hills

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The rules of engagement forbid eye-poking. There's no biting, no fish-hooking an opponent's jaw, no spine-striking, no head-butting and absolutely no finger-breaking.

Spend five minutes with Rich Franklin, Josh Rafferty and Kerry Schall, and you'll see why full-contact fighting doesn't always warrant a bad rep.

"When the sport first started, there were basically no rules. Now it's a competition using martial arts that makes it safe for the fighter," Schall said. "It's so exciting, but it's something that's so hard to explain."

Mixed martial arts integrates various disciplines, including boxing, kickboxing, wrestling and jujitsu. Fighters rely on mental and physical strategy to force their opponents into submission.

[img]
From left, Josh Rafferty, Neal Rowe, Jorge Gurgel, Kerry Schall and Rich Franklin are ultimate fighters.
(Meggan Booker photo)
Franklin competes at the sport's elite level as a top light-heavyweight in Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder dealt TKOs in his first UFC fights in April and November.

Schall, a super heavyweight at 6-3, 295 pounds, directs International Combat Events, an amateur showcase at Tori's Station in Fairfield March 19, while fighting on the side. Rafferty, a 6-1, 185-pound middleweight, competes in smaller pro tournaments.

All three were active in high school sports but sought alternatives to mainstream athletics. Franklin, who was smitten after seeing a fight in Indiana, first competed in 1998 as an amateur.

"It's unlike any sport, because you have to be good at a lot of different things. You have to box like a boxer, kick like a kickboxer and grapple like a wrestler," Franklin said.

Although the fighters' only protection is gloves that leave their fingers exposed, none of the three has suffered a major injury. In 21 professional fights, Schall said his worst affliction was a black eye.

Together the three train a combined 65 hours a week. Maintaining endurance for the typical three, five-minute rounds isn't easy, but Rafferty said 90 percent of fighting is in your head.

"It's the hardest sport I've done in my life," Rafferty said. "And I've tried everything."

GREATER CINCINNATI HANDBALL ASSOCIATION/FOREST PARK

The Cincinnati club produced five champions at the Ohio 2004 Handball Championships in Cleveland Feb. 20-22. Casey Mayo (Dayton) won the Open Singles, Paul Baker (Loveland) won the 50-plus Singles, Will Straw (Dayton) and Jim Krailler (Pleasant Ridge) won the 50-plus Doubles, and Jim Whol (North College Hill) and partner Marty Clemens clinched the Open Doubles title. "We always have a strong showing, but this was an extraordinary amount of champions," said Bob Hiance of Fort Thomas, a GCHA player and club board member.

The GCHA helps support the Miami University club handball team, which in its second year won the United States Handball Association Division II national championship last week at Southwest Missouri State. Thirteen students competed for the title, and senior Amanda Smith was named Miami's first national champion in the women's C division. "Our goal this year was to win Division II, and next year our goal is to play ourselves into Division I," sophomore Isaac Laughlin said.

KINGS COMETS/MASON

Back after five years, the Kings Comets of the Mid-Continental Football League have revived under president, general manager and coach Brian Wells. The Comets, a minor-league developmental team, will hold tryouts April 9 at Wall2Wall Soccer and will play 10 games next fall with home games at Princeton High School. Most of the players who have committed to the team hail from Tristate colleges and high schools. Among the players are All-America offensive lineman Nate Moore (Mason High School, University of Dayton), Nik Buckmeier (Elder, Eastern Michigan) and Justin Frisk (Highlands, Thomas More). Former Cincinnati Swarm linebacker Nick Rice (Thomas More) was the first to commit to the Comets on Jan. 4. "It's a chance for players to get better and get more film. They can show they are still at a high competition level," Wells said. Interested players can reach Wells at coachwells@kingscomets.com.




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