Made in China: OPRF’s wrestling website

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The first of a four-part series on Oak Park-River Forest’s No.1-ranked wrestling team begins today at pioneerlocal.com/oprfwrestling. OPRF coach Mike Powell has enlisted the aid of Brian Tideman (pictured right) as webmaster to create one of the best websites around for an individual high school sports program. Tideman’s OPRF wrestling site is chocked full of information with updates on the latest dual meets and invitationals for the Huskies. His site also keeps complete stats on every wrestler.

The amazing part is that Tideman (pronounced Teed-a-mun) does it all from his apartment in China. Tideman plans on coming into Chicago for this weekend’s Class 3A Maine East Sectional meet and will remain for the state individual and state dual meets in the next few weeks.

Staff writer George M. Wilcox exchanged emails with Tideman on how it all comes together.

Q. So what are you doing in Qingdao, Shandong, China?

A. Through happenstance, I knew a friend who helped me get a value deal to fly to visit Qingdao and Beijing in May of 2011. On my trip, I visited my good friend and former OPRF classmate, Conor Gallogly, who lives and works in Qingdao. He began pestering me about teaching in Qingdao, and I spoke with a representative at an international school. In the end, and after much worry, I decided to try working here. I really like it.

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Q. Do you even speak Mandarin or Cantonese?

A. It’s Mandarin. Cantonese is a language used primarily in Hong Kong and other areas of southern China. It’s surprising how much one can get by without mastering a language. At the international school, there is a network of foreigners who do help me. Plus, I have made many friends who are bilingual. That being said, I am slowly studying the language when I have time. As you can imagine, there are ample opportunities for practice.

Q. How tough is being a webmaster for oprfwrestling.com since you are thousands of miles away?

A. Don’t you mean kilometers? Seriously, though, it’s not that difficult with one big caveat. I have a passion for the website, and I love writing the reports, inputting the stats, making the pages look professional, and so on. In years past, I saw everything live. I took many pictures, I wrote about stories I saw, and it was much easier to get a hold of completed dual sheets and other bits of information. Living in China, I’m at the mercy of things being reported to me. I have a few Huskie helpers, but it’s agonizing to wait days for results.

Q. Your stats are very detailed. Who sends you updates after every dual meet and invitational?

A. I take pride in the statistics. Accuracy is paramount. When I lived in River Forest, I took the stats myself and inputted them in a wrestling statistics program. After I type in the specific results, the posting of the stats is easy. Just look and type. During this season, coach Mike Powell or other staff members email me the PDF versions of each dual and tournament. I may not get them immediately, but I get them.

Q. How are you able to return to Oak Park too watch postseason wrestling, or are you flying back and forth?

A. I adore OPRF wrestling, and I’m lucky to have a winter break at my disposal. In the 2011-2012 season, my schedule allowed me to watch much of the Huskies’ run up until the regional tournament. The rest of the action I had to follow on the internet. This year, Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) is later in the season, so it lines up perfectly with the 2012-2013 postseason. I’ll be here through team state, and then poof…I’ll be gone.

Q. How did the website come about in 2008?

A. In my high school days, I loved wrestling. I wrestled as a freshman, but I decided to sit out the next years. Regardless, I helped (former coach) Niall Collins with statistics and other errands. A few years ago, I volunteered to help out with the Little Huskies, the youth program. That didn’t stick for me, but (assistant coach) Paul Collins saw a website that I created to highlight our conference, the West Suburban Conference. Paul and Mike Powell spoke, and they invited me for coffee: “It’s time. We need a website.”

Q. The website has everything about the program, even Little Huskies info. Did you expect the site to get so big when you started?

A. Absolutely. I made it that way. My aim was to be comprehensive. From the get-go, I had a thorough list of wrestling rules, standings results, rankings, you name it. All of this, by the way, was from scratch. Don’t ask me to think about the number of hours…. I have added and amended some pages, of course, but I take pride in giving your eyeful all it can handle. I archive all of the stories, so you can relive it beginning in the fall of ’08. My goal is to run the best high school wrestling website in the country. I may not be there yet, but I’m certainly well on my way.

Q. What is your connection to OPRF and the wrestling program?

A. As I stated earlier, I was an absolute rookie when I decided to try wrestling in the fall of 1994. I played football, and many of the other boys wrestled. So, I decided to be like them. I tell you, wrestling is a great sport. I’m so fortunate to be a part of this amazing wrestling program. The individuals go above and beyond, they really do.

Q. Has the design of the website changed over the years much?

A. Mostly, no. I have added some color or flair. I’ve also resized pictures and text. I’m moving in the direction where less is more, on size that is. On length, oh no! I’ve had so many strikes of brilliance that I can’t nearly imagine. What I like is that I am learning what I enjoy, and I think it’s appreciated in the wrestling community. I hope it’s clear that my love comes through on the site. You gotta love the Orange and Blue, how can you not?

Q. Do you handle everything, from writing copy to adding links and embedding video? Is there anyone to help you?

A. The people that help me are the people who send me photos, links, and stories. I’m sad to say, but I just don’t receive as much as I’d like. To be honest, the website is very centered on Varsity. I’d like to report on the other levels, but I can only really follow Varsity. I can’t report on what I don’t know. Emerson “Mack” Bolen has been a huge help during these years. He sends me photos and writeups of key duals and tournaments. Few other parents help out, too, but it may just be a matter of time before their enthusiasm for OPRF wrestling wanes due to their child’s graduation. I write the stories, I invent the headlines, I manage the displays, I update the pages. Because of this, there’s great freedom in what I create. It is a little daunting at times, but I can be very creative.

Q. How long do you think you can keep the website going?

A. Wow. I want to do this. When I came to China, I told Mike Powell, “Mike, I want to continue the website.” His reply to me, “Brian, I don’t think anyone else can.” I want to be somebody who is recognized for 25, 30, 35 years as a coach at the high school. I want to be the longest tenured coach at OPRF – be there through thick and thin. Okay, I want to be the second longest tenured coach when Mike Powell is still rockin’ it at 100, but you get the idea. This all being said, I don’t know my future. It is a global world, and perhaps if I have a family some day, I’ll have to make a decision. But look, we are the Orange and Blue Wrecking Crew. We embody Huskie pride. And we live in relentless pursuit…always. This much I know.

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