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‘One Maryland’: Beauty and the Beast event unified Maryland wrestling and gymnastics

The two Terp programs got out of their comfort zones as they prepared for the fourth annual event.


Maryland wrestling normally prepares for dual meets with sparring and grappling on the mat, but head coach Alex Clemsen added something a little different into the mix before his squad faced Northwestern on Feb. 16.

The Terps usually have to be quick on their feet, ready to adjust and attack at any moment. But ahead of the fourth annual Beauty and the Beast event, gymnastics head coach Brett Nelligan encouraged them to slow down and take their time on a balance beam — that was until it became a wrestling match.

Nelligan was instructing a few of his gymnasts, along with redshirt sophomore Kyle Cochran and redshirt senior Jahi Jones to maintain “straight arms” as they inched their way down the beam. But upon Nelligan’s request to turn and walk the opposite direction, Jones leapt to the opposite beam and tackled Cochran onto a blue mat, causing the Maryland gymnastics head coach to throw up his arms in a joking indication of dismay.

The event allowed these two, very different, athletic programs to come together and learn about each other’s sport, while also uniting their fanbases. And in the week leading up to it, they got together with their media departments to shoot video clips to get closer and promote the event for fans.

“[Beauty and the Beast] is such a unique event,” Nelligan said. “Not many other sports have the opportunity to combine like that. It is a lot of time and a lot of extra effort from marketing, media and promotion teams.”

Needless to say, the wrestlers were a bit out of their element trying to channel their inner gymnasts.

“It’s pretty cool not only to just explore a different sport, but to be able to jump on a trampoline and be on the beams,” redshirt senior Jaron Smith said. “We were joking [around] in the video, but some of that stuff is really hard to do. It gives you an appreciation for another kind of sport.”

The promo videos were a mix of talent and humor with both the gymnasts and wrestlers. Nelligan certainly got a good laugh from putting together the promos.

“It was really funny, we had a blast doing it together,” Nelligan said. “Clemsen put them in wrestling stances and showed them a few of their techniques.”

One promo showed the gymnasts in the wrestling room in their wrestling stances and as soon as Clemsen would turn his back on the girls they would do begin to do flips.

The wrestlers and gymnasts were also quizzed about their knowledge of the opposite sport on camera.

“The questions we got asked and acts we did on video were very funny,” Cochran said. “It really raised everyone’s energy.”

The event, which garnered so much unique promotion this year, was conceptualized about seven years ago.

The wrestling program — led by head coach Kerry McCoy at the time — first approached the gymnastics team with the idea in the 2013-14 season. Other schools were starting to hop on the Beauty and the Beast trend, and Maryland thought it would be beneficial for the programs here to have the event too.

But it never worked out that year due to scheduling conflicts. The programs compete side-by-side in Xfinity Center, forgoing their usual atmospheres, so both need to have a home match that lines up — and the basketball team needs to be away or not have a game.

“The first year we tried and the dates didn’t fit, we couldn’t get it to work,” Nelligan said. “Coach McCoy was very adamant about doing it, and it turned out to be a huge success.”

And on Jan. 9, 2015, it finally happened. The night before the event Nelligan was watching a basketball game at Xfinity Center when a promo video came up on the jumbotron.

“The people behind me were like, ‘Oh that’s so cool, we gotta go to this tomorrow,’” Nelligan recalled.

He said the first event was a success and the audience loved the atmosphere that came with combining the two programs. And Nelligan said when told his gymnasts that they were doing the event again this season, they were very excited.

“Getting to hear the crowds going crazy throughout the event when either side would do something great, like when a wrestler would get a pin or a gymnast would land a perfect flip, it was just awesome,” Nelligan said.

Although Maryland wrestling’s dual against No. 24 Northwestern ended up in a loss, the wrestling program was able to spread its culture while also learning a little bit about gymnastics.

With the amplitude and marketing of the event, Smith hopes that this event continues to grow and increase the size of the Maryland wrestling community.

“It’s cool to intermix fans,” Smith said. “We had some gymnastics fans that probably have never seen a wrestling match before and vise-versa for the wrestling fans and a gymnastics meet. ... Maybe next time we will get some of their fans at one of our events even if it’s not joint and maybe some wrestling fans will go to theirs.”

And for Clemsen, a first-year head coach in College Park, the event amplified many of the ideals that drew him to Maryland in the first place.

“It shows, when we throw around a tagline like, ‘One Maryland,’ that we mean it,” Clemsen said. “We are one athletics department, we are one athletics program... Together it’s a great setup and it’s good to give different environments and see different things.”