Thursday, April 5, 2007

Ex-Hawkeye wrestler still fighting

By Eric Mandel

Having an Iowa wrestling background goes a long way in making student-athletes more focused, prepared, and responsible adults in the future. Rarely, though, does it lead to a career in fighting.

Ryan McGivern is an exception.

McGivern, 27, wrestled on the Hawkeye mats from 1999-2001 before his ROTC and engineering workload proved to be too much, forcing him to simply work with the team his final two years.

But the end of McGivern's Division-I athletics tenure was only a precursor to his future brawling career - he is now a member of the up-and-coming mixed martial-arts organization the International Fight League.

"The things [the Iowa coaches] were telling me then, I am starting to understand now, and am starting to apply now," said the Bettendorf native. "One of the things [Iowa coach Dan] Gable used to say was whatever you think your limit is, to push past that. Now I know when my body wants to be tired, but I just push past it, and that just keeps pushing your bar back."

Besides the flip in the 6-foot, 185-pounder's mentality, his endurance and stamina bar are set at an all-time high.

During a stress test measuring the fighters' fitness, he was placed on a treadmill that increased both in incline and speed every three minutes. The longest a person had lasted was 15 minutes before the heart rate spiked or the participant gave up.

After 20 minutes, there was a crowd of doctors and nurses whose jaws nearly scraped the floor, as McGivern's heart rate remained steady, and a mere average workout sweat trickled onto his smiling face. The machine shut itself down at 21 minutes.

He'd passed.

While working as a general engineer for the U.S. Army by day, the former Hawkeye trains with his Quad-City Silverback teammates and coach Pat Miletich for the first full season of the fight league.

The league consists of 12 teams - from the Portland Wolfpack to the Tokyo Sabres - pitting them against one another in a season-long competition. The league is a combination of the passion and intensity of mixed martial-arts competitions made popular by the Ultimate Fighting Championship, along with the team concept of a wrestling dual-meet. The fusion allows fans to root for the team in their area, and in its inaugural year, the ratings are higher than the Ultimate Championship's at the same point in its development.

"There are very few things in the world that everyone can watch, no matter the language," said Miletich, who is renowned for creating his personal fighting technique, Miletich Fighting System. "Soccer is that way, car wrecks with car racing, and the same goes for a good fight."

Miletich, born in Davenport, says the team concept is what puts the International Fight League ahead of the Ultimate Championship and professional boxing in both the short-term and long-term.

"They need big stars," he said. "After Ali and Tyson went down, it wasn't much without the exciting fighter, and pay-per view dollars struggled. With team matchups, there is no way around it. The team still rolls on even when individuals go down. It has longevity and a stabilized situation."

On Saturday in Moline, Ill., McGivern, Miletich, and the rest of the Silverbacks squad hope their tireless work translates into success. After dropping their first match of the season against the Los Angeles Anacondas, 3-2, they will host Ken Shamrock and the Nevada Lions at the Mark of the Quad Cities this weekend.


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