In Kiewit Gymnasium where the Hastings College BroncoWrestlers practice, a picture frame holds Brad Cusatis' old wrestling shoes andheadgear. Each day, every wrestler sees the mementos of a teammate who diedtragically in September 2012.
"He was obviously a really big part of our program," saidGrant Harrill, a junior who was Cusatis' teammate for a year and a half. "Hewas essentially the heart of our team. I think this is a great idea, honoringhim by naming the tournament after him."
On Saturday, January 11th, the Hastings CollegeBronco Wrestling team will host its second annual Cusatis Open at Lynn FarrellArena. Wrestling starts at 9:00 am.
Like the shoes and headgear, the Hastings College BroncoWrestling team chooses to use this meet as motivation to accomplish its goalsas a team and also as individuals.
Connor Blanco, a redshirt Junior who competed with Cusatisfor two years said, "Not only winning the tournament is a big deal, but knowingit is the Cusatis Open and he was a part of our family, winning it might pushus or motivate us to do better."
Cusatis remains an inspiration to Harrill.
"Ever since he passed, I've kept him in my head as I amwrestling," Harrill said. "He has left a lasting impression on me, and heis always in my head."
Sophomore Blake Fruchtl described Cusatis as "a pit bull,mean, in your face kind of a wrestler."
"We all have a chance to compete and he doesn't. It justgoes to show how lucky we all really are," said Fruchtl.
Throughout the last year, the Cusatis family and theHastings College Wrestling team have stayed in contact.
Blanco hopes Cusatis' spirit lives on through thistournament, not just in the minds of Hastings College wrestlers but for otherscompeting.
"Hopefully the champions of this tournament will realizewhat Brad did for our team, what contributions he could have provided by hissenior year," Blanco said. "Hopefully they will realize that he was areally good guy."
Heading into the weekend, the Broncos have been workinghard, trying to get back into shape after the long holiday break.
"We came back this last week and had two-a-days Wednesdayall the way through Sunday," Fruchtl said. "I think a lot of us areexcited to be competing."
"I know we've been hitting it hard, and we're still prettysore, but I think Coach [Shawn] Kelly has gotten us to a mindset and a focuslevel to where we can do pretty good," he said.
Courtesy Hastings College Sports Information