For those who have seen it... do you agree?
Film Review: Veritas
Jim Beezer, Staff Writer
The heart and fiery character of former Lehigh wrestler Jon Trenge are captured in Veritas, a feature-length documentary written and directed by Howie Miller. The film takes the audience through an emotionally-filled ride through Trenge's senior season (2005) as he trains to win the NCAA title at 197 pounds. Miller does an excellent job of building the character of Jon Trenge through interviews with family members, coaches, teammates, and opponents. The shear force and skill of Trenge are dynamically captured through live match footage, practice drills and weight sessions. His life events are strung together as if scripted for Hollywood.
Jon Trenge (Photo/Jeffrey Nolan)
Despite common knowledge, there is still a sense of hope as the movie begins: Trenge skipping rope alone in the Lehigh Wrestling room wearing nothing but biker shorts and 200 pounds of shredded muscle. A progression through his first three seasons sets the stage for his final season at Lehigh University. Included along the way are painful flashbacks to his NCAA finals losses to Cael Sanderson of Iowa State (2002) and Damion Hahn of Minnesota (2003). The movie climaxes nicely at the NCAA Championships, where Trenge finishes a disappointing third place after an upset loss to Sean Stender of Northern Iowa in the semifinals. The season-ending banquet and college graduation remind the audience that there is more to life than wrestling.
The word Veritas means Righteousness, Truth, and Integrity. While these virtues are the theme of the movie, it is Trenge's ongoing vision problems that consume the plotline. Therefore, the director is forced to use a rollercoaster ride of highs (two epic wins over three-time NCAA champion Jake Rosholt of Oklahoma State) and lows (match disqualification for unsportsmanlike conduct and suspension) as the landscape for this film. Despite the creative restrictions inherent in documentaries, Miller is able to artfully convey the beauty and emotion behind the sport of wrestling. High shutter speed cinematography (the same effect used in Gladiator and Saving Private Ryan) captures the explosiveness of Trenge as he pins an early season opponent. There are instances in the movie in which the camera loses focus as Trenge removes his glasses, giving the audience a sneak-peak at what if feels like to wrestle blindly.
As quick and strong as Cael? Reflecting on the movie and Trenge's career, the following thoughts come to mind:
? The lopsided loss to Cael Sanderson was a reminder of Cael's dominance and an introduction to Trenge's naivete ("I don't think he was quicker than me, or any stronger than me"). Nevertheless, both wrestlers still had lifelong dreams to pursue -- Sanderson as an Olympic champion and Trenge as an NCAA champion.
? Damion Hahn's win over Trenge in the NCAA finals was the turning point in his career and provided a longer lasting effect to Trenge due to the very nature of the defeat. Losing 4-3 in the third period, Hahn threw a lateral drop with only eight seconds left to steal the win and NCAA championship. The highlights brought back painful memories of Gerry Abas's meltdown against Lincoln McIlravy in the 1993 NCAA finals. For Trenge, the loss marked the beginning of long road ahead, which began with the "worst two months of (his) life". Meanwhile, the win for Damion Hahn transformed him from an underachieving bust to a Minnesota celebrity overnight, and gave him the confidence to succeed on both the college and international stage.
? The director chose not to include the 2003-2004 season as part of Trenge's journey. That season, Trenge took a redshirt in order to train for the Sidney Olympics (he placed fifth at the 2004 Olympic Team Trials).
Trenge removed his shoes and placed them in the center of the mat (Photo/Danielle Hobeika)
? I couldn't help but feel empathy for Jon Trenge, who is faced to deal with circumstances outside of his control. The adversity he faces on and off the mat has molded him into a man driven to succeed but grounded in humility. He continues to serve as a role model to young wrestlers in the blue-collar community of the Lehigh Valley. This type of character development should be branded as part of the wrestling experience, and advertised using more real-life documentaries.
? Following his third-place match, Trenge removed his wrestling shoes and placed them in the center of the mat. This gesture, common for athletes on the world and Olympic level, signifies the end of a wrestler's competitive career. For Jon Trenge, it marked his place in history as one of the best wrestlers never to win an NCAA championship.
Vertitas is a very entertaining and inspiring movie that would make a great stocking-stuffer for any wrestling fan. Note to the amateur wrestling community: real-life stories of guys like Jon Trenge are the best way to gain more publicity for the sport.
If you would like more information on Veritas and/or information on ordering the film, visit www.veritas-movie.com