After a tough weekend that saw Maryland wrestling blown out by two top-three opponents, head coach Alex Clemsen took his team to a local sports bar and grill in State College, Pennsylvania, to watch the Super Bowl Sunday.
Following his team’s loss to No. 2 Penn State, Clemsen rented out a private section at the restaurant to give his team its own viewing area to enjoy the championship game and play pool.
His wrestlers spent the week leading up to the match cutting weight, so Clemsen set up a buffet style dinner at the restaurant for them to eat and relax before their next official weigh-in on Sunday.
“Wow, he really set it up for us,” 125-pounder Brandon Cray said as he walked into their private section.
He recalled seeing a lot of pool tables for everyone to play at, a giant table for the team to eat as a big group and of course a lot of televisions to watch the Chiefs bring home the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Although Kansas City ended up beating the San Francisco 49ers, 31-20, the scoreboard was not always in its favor. Down 20-10 going into the fourth quarter, Clemsen, a Moberty, Missouri, native, was not worried that quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chief’s offense would come back to win. But Clemsen’s 8-year-old son, Porter, was in shambles at the time.
“At the end of the third quarter he was real disappointed, he was almost teary-eyed,” Clemsen told Testudo Times. “I was like ‘Porter we got Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson. We have so many weapons that can score so fast. We are only down 10, we just need a stop.’”
Sure enough, Hill caught a 44-yard pass that set up a touchdown soon after, giving the Chiefs all the momentum.
Super Bowl LIV had its ups and downs for Clemsen, and the fact that the team’s athletic trainer, Michael Ziemianski, is a huge 49ers fan made the night even more exhilarating with a friendly rivalry.
“We had some good jovial banter all through the fall and during the playoffs,” Clemsen said. “We knew one of us was going to be really salty at the end of the night.”
Clemsen mentioned that none of his wrestlers were fans of either team competing, but he and Ziemianski’s fiery comments fueled their enjoyment.
“It split that half the team wanted to see me be salty and Mike might be able to talk smack to me, and half the team wanted to see Mike be salty and me get to talk smack to him, Clemsen said. “It definitely created a good atmosphere.”
Cray was one of the wrestlers eagerly waiting to see whether his coach or trainer would end the night without a win.
“It was funny,” Cray told Testudo Times. “There was an intensity about it that made for a fun time.”
When asked about the evening and the 49ers’ performance, Ziemianski simply said, “I have no comment.” He was clearly still somewhat upset and in no hurry to talk about his team’s big loss.
And Porter was not the only member of Clemsen’s family in attendance. The head coach’s wife, Lindsay, and his 9-year-old daughter, Payten, accompanied him on the trip to support the Terps at the match and then root on their hometown heroes. Clemsen was also able to take Porter to wrestling practice, take him swimming and eat dinner with the team.
“It is really special,” Clemsen said. “I’m really glad Lindsay could make that sacrifice.”
The Super Bowl event was a big hit for Clemsen, his family and wrestling team. Not only did the Chiefs’ win it all, but the outing served as a well-needed break for the program as a whole.
“It was a really cool experience,” Cray said. “We think of this team as our family, and he treats us like it.”
“It was good to just break bread, relax and let your hair down a little bit,” Clemsen added.