Wrestling is an intense sport. It takes mental toughness and the ability to dominate your opponent physically on the mat to be the best.
The late Jeff Parker, a former Buffalo Bulls wrestler, gave everything he had while wrestling at UB and gave even more in his fight against cancer. On Sunday afternoon, UB Athletics and the current squad will do their best to honor his fight.
"When events like this happen, they're usually done for a reason," said head coach Jim Beichner. "You don't usually take a bad guy who had a bad name and bad character and start a ‘Takedown Cancer' event around his name…He was a great student, he was a good wrestler, and he was a great friend. He was a person you just wanted to be around. Every single picture ever taken of Jeff, he was smiling."
The Bulls (8-8, 1-3 Mid-American Conference) will host Northern Illinois (5-10, 1-4 MAC) for the second annual Takedown Cancer event at Alumni Arena. Buffalo has struggled in conference play this season, and this event could be the perfect motivation the team needs to take things up a notch.
Team motivation is by no means a reason for the event, but Beichner hopes his team is able to rally around the fans and the day.
"I hope, because of the fans and stuff like that, our guys get an extra boost," Beichner said. "The intention is to raise money for cancer, raise money for Carly's Club, and to raise money for Jeff's foundation."
Parker was diagnosed with cancer in the spring of 2009 and just like he did throughout his wrestling career, he fought ferociously until he lost the battle on May 22, 2010.
The original idea for the event was to raise funds for Parker in case he needed extra money for treatment. He was able to pay for most things because he had good insurance, but Beichner and company wanted him to have everything he needed.
Parker didn't want the event to be about him. Even during the toughest times, he maintained the selfless attributes that came to define him. He wanted all the proceeds to go to Carly's Club, which supports children diagnosed with cancer and their families, so that other people who suffered from cancer could get some financial help.
This attitude is part of the reason Parker was awarded the "Ideal Bull" award. It goes to the person that best exemplifies top performance in every walk of life.
Last year, the event raised over $30,000 and continued to exceed some of the wildest expectations for people involved. The proceeds went to Carly's Club and The Jeff Parker Foundation. This year, the wrestling team reached out to Carly's Club and will give additional financial assistance to specific families in need.
There will also be wrestling at the event, and the Bulls hope to build some momentum heading into the MAC Tournament. Buffalo has dropped three of its last four MAC meets, and Beichner is looking for his team to start moving in more of a winning direction.
Beichner looks forward to this year's event and to all the future events to help take down cancer.
"It's important to us because Jeff was close to us," Beichner said. "Hopefully it's something we can put on every year."