Before I get started, I just need everyone to know that Cliff Keen had once had their own wrestling shoes. The Black Widows! They are the ones set as the main picture for this post. I once wore a pair for my Senior Year Wrestling picture, which if I can stir up, will at some point make its way onto this site. That is all, now enjoy some light reading about one of my favorite subjects. Wrestling shoes. In this addition, we take a walk through of my first namesake shoes, to my most recent. Enjoy!
A couple of weeks ago, it was brought to my attention that nobody had read my first piece on wrestling shoes. In no way, shape or form was I surprised. My first thought was, I'll just re-post it. My second thought was "Kevin, you idioit! This is another excuse to write more about wrestling shoes". So that's what I'm doing. I've mentioned before, I learned early in my wrestling career that the shoes are what makes the wrestler. Very rarely does someone wearing the Nike's that you can find at MC Sports beat the kid wearing the super old school Combat Speeds (the new ones mess up this whole premise though). Honestly, I know it isn't the shoes (at least I'm pretty sure), but rather having been around the sport long enough to order your own pair online, have a sibling or family member give you their old (and at this point probably bad ass) wrestling shoes. 9 times out of 10, those kids beat the kids in the Nike Speedsweeps.
This was my first pair of namesake shoes. The Kolat 2000's. I began wearing them about the same time that I started to consistently wrestle well (coincidence? I doubt it). Unfortunately, they fell apart after about a season and a half. I had attended two camps that summer, one of them at Boston University (RIP) for 24 days. Point being, their life expectancy was about what it should have been. This was the beginning of my general understanding that namesake shoes were the way to go. At some point (whether true or not) I became convinced that these monsters of the wrestling world gave Nike, or Asics, or Adidas their specificications for exactly what they felt would make the single greatest wrestling shoe ever created. "If this is what Cary Kolat wants, then it's clearly a superior shoe to any other", and I would go into every match with that confidence.
My next shoe choice were the Brandon Slay's. He had recently won an Olympic gold medal, and Adidas rewarded him with 1 generation worth of shoes. I went with the Blue, Black, and White because I was shortly going to be on my way to wrestle at Illinois College, a Division 3 program that had a wrestling team (that's all it took at that point). Great shoes though. Clearly Brandon Slay's EXACT specifications were exactly what I was looking for. Other than the lace guard, which I cut off. I prefer my shoes tied low so that I have more ankle mobility (keep that in mind Converse). Great shoe though. These lasted my entire college career. Keep in mind that I had made the switch to Central Michigan where I didn't make the team, so they didn't get much use other than intramural and about half a season of coaching back in Ann Arbor once I graduated. Again, great shoe. Light weight, tight fit, great grip, durable. Had the sole not broke in two, I would probably still be wrestling in these shoes.
However, the sole had broken in two, which left me in search of some new shoes. I happened upon the Cael 2.0's online for $39.99, so I snagged those up immediately. I had purchased the Slay's because he was an Olympic Gold Medalist, so I figured I would keep the tradition alive, and swoop these up. I had never considered myself good enough to go with all white shoes until this point (if you are wearing white shoes, you'd better not suck), but I was ready for them. I was back home coaching, and had lots of confidence after beating up High School kids day after day. These were my first full sole grip wrestling shoes. I loved the traction that they had, and the feeling that I had complete control over the ground beneath me. When I had first started wrestling, people talked up the "split sole technology", which at this point I had become convinced that was just a marketing ploy to sell more shoes (a genius one at that). I still have these shoes, they are in great wrestling shape, and would still be wearing them with more consistency, but I found these.
Wearing flamboyantly colored shoes means one of two things. You are either really good, or really bad. At this point in my wrestling career, I fall in both categories depending on who I am wrestling, so these are perfect. The modern day aggressors are essentially the same as the original "Rulons", which are the namesake shoe of Olympic Champion and Biggest Loser Contestant, Rulon Gardner.
In the spirit of complete disclosure, here was my thought process. "I see lots of college guys wearing that style shoe, and Rulon Gardner won an Olympic Gold Medal, and those colors are sweet. Doesn't Brent Metcalf wear those Rulon's? Yeah, they are awesome. I'm buying those. I better do it quickly because it says that it is for a limited time only!" That was 4 years ago, and they have plenty more where that came from (if you are curious, suplay.com). Anyway, they sit low on my ankles the way that I like them. They look rediculous (In a good way). The grip is great, and has hardly worn out, despite lots of use. I easily see why the aggressors are the shoe of choice for just about every wrestler who doesn't feel obligated to wear their own shoes, or their teams shoes.
That's all for this installment of the wrestling shoe corner. I would be interested in hearing if anyone has their own reviews of shoes, or if they think this is good, bad, entertaining, stupid. Shout it out! Next I plan on covering the JB Elite 2.0's, David Taylors new shoe, and a quick discussion on other brands trying to get in on the fun. Regardless, Rock On.