Trenge movie Veritas powerful, moving
DATE: 6/25/2007 8:00:00 AM
By Jason Bryant
The name is simple, effective and defining for Jon Trenge. The very definition of veritas is a singular word ? truth.
The movie ?Veritas,? directed by Lehigh Valley native and former University of Virginia wrestler turned filmmaker Howie Miller echoes that definition as it shows the journey of Trenge, in his senior season, striving to become an NCAA wrestling champion.
Full of setbacks, both on the team and individual level, ?Veritas? follows Trenge from his hard-charging style and aggressive on-the-mat nature to more complete, grounded human being ? all in pursuit of a national championship that had eluded him the three previous seasons.
The documentary has been screened at major wrestling tournaments like the NCAA Division I Championships and the NHSCA Senior Nationals, but this past weekend's screenings took place in a setting Trenge knows very well ? Lehigh University ? at the South Side Film Festival.
Miller, who like Trenge, wrestled for John Toggas at Parkland High School in one of the nation?s hotbeds of scholastic wrestling, started the filming documenting the wrestling season at Lehigh in 2004-05.
But why Lehigh?
?I grew up in the Lehigh Valley and always been proud of the wrestling tradition here,? said Miller. ?Lehigh University, the season that we followed them, had several local athletes, had a very successful team. Going into the beginning of the season, (Lehigh) was ranked second in the country and I also knew about Jon?s story and a few of the other guys on the team and thought it would be a great opportunity to make a movie that represents wrestling in a positive way.?
?Jon was one of many guys on the team that had interesting stories,? said Miller. ?Travis Frick was on the team, his father was a national champ for Lehigh, we followed Troy Letters who was a national champion and trying to repeat and Cory Cooperman.?
?All those families deserve a lot of credit because it is an invasive process,? said Miller. ?These guys work their entire lives for these goals, and we?re there in the locker room. Jon?s story really evolved and became the most interesting stories in the post-production of the film.?
Miller?s wrestling background was also a big reason the documentary came out powerful, riveting as well as emotional.
?It helped a lot in terms of telling the story and when to film and when it wasn?t appropriate,? said Miller. ?More than anything, it helped just because it was a hard pursuit. My training in wrestling, like many wrestlers, prepares you for life.?
As far as the actual movie is concerned, legendary Lehigh announcer Bill McCoach had a simple message.
?It?s a movie about the good, the bad, the ugly, and back to the good again,? said McCoach.
Even before Miller chose Trenge?s story from his year-long filming of the Lehigh team, Trenge?s story was well-documented in the wrestling world.
Tears in his retina, the nerve layer that sends light to the brain, ended his freshman campaign. Doctors told Trenge he?d never wrestle again, but Michael Trenge, Jon?s father, fabricated a pair of protective goggles and affixed them to Jon?s headgear.
He then finished second to Cael Sanderson after pinning his way into the finals in 2002. His junior year, he gave up a takedown to Minnesota?s Damion Hahn with three seconds to go in the finals in Kansas City ? prompting Trenge to get a tattoo on his right leg with the word ?Veritas? adorned with an eye dotting the ?i? and the inspiration for the movie?s title, Veritas.
?If you look at it,? started Trenge. ?I got that (tattoo) after I lost to Damion Hahn.?
?I should have won nationals my freshman year, I got injured. Should have won the next year and Cael Sanderson came up. The next year, I blew it with three seconds to go, so screw it. I?m working harder than anybody out there and it still ain?t happening.?
?I stopped training, I stopped caring,? he explained. ?Somewhere in my thought process, I forget what it was, I said I?m going to do it, it?s the right thing to do, I?m going to train and do everything right because it?s right, not just because I win.?
Said Trenge: ?I changed my whole personality.?
From opening scene to closing credits, ?Veritas? is a powerful, powerful film.
For Trenge, the movie?s message isn?t about him. It?s not about saying ?look at me, I?m in a movie.? The message is about more.
?I?m glad I had to go through it, so I could learn about myself that way. Now, I?m more educated about how to react to certain things,? said Trenge on Saturday following the second showing of the film at the festival.
?Not everybody gets to win,? said Trenge. ?At every weight class at nationals, there?s like 30 guys and only 10 win. What about those other 290? They all work hard, train hard in this sport. They have dreams and aspirations, just because they don?t win, doesn?t mean they?re losers.?
?This is kind of a film that goes out to all the other guys, the ones that work hard and maybe don?t make it this far,? he said.
Trenge?s father was also very prominent in the film and he feels the message, too, is less about the individual being profiled than it is the overall message that came out of the finished product.
?So many kids are in sports and only a couple people win,? said Michael Trenge. ?Everybody?s got their own little story, everybody?s got things wrong with them, it just kinda brings out the human side of the sport.?
That?s a moving point for Miller.
?This is the first wrestling film that I?ve ever done,? said Miller. ?I always wanted to do something that could help the sport and help people that didn?t know about the sport see it in a positive light and not make a movie that was focused on weight loss or other aspects of the sport.?
?? Just the reality of it and also the beautiful hard-working pursuit of wrestlers achieving their goals.?
What?s rare about the movie is that nearly everyone, at least in the wrestling world, knows Trenge?s final outcome ? a third place finish at the 2005 NCAA Championships in St. Louis.
While watching ?Veritas,? the thoughts about Trenge?s finish to the season become less important, almost as if it didn?t exist, even though subconsciously, you know what?s going to happen.
But it wasn?t the real story being told.
?I, like a lot of the fans, we wanted the story with a happy athletic ending, but I think we have a story with a happy ending nonetheless,? said Miller.
?I?m very proud to be a part of the movie, I?m very touched by Jon?s story and it?s just something that I hope will reach the wrestling community and reach others and give them a better perspective of wrestling,? said Miller.
?We have received positive feedback from people who played many different sports and they really identify with it and enjoyed it and what?s more rewarding is people that say they?re not sports fans that can identify with the human story, which is really the most compelling part of Veritas ? I hope.?
And Trenge?s overall thoughts?
?I?m happy with the ending,? he said. ?If I would have won, it wouldn?t be a movie I want to watch a second time.?
But what about the movie? What details were good? What about the content?
Those questions can be answered by watching it, because the only word that comes to this writer?s mind after watching it (twice already in 24 hours), is simply ?powerful.?
?Veritas?, which is is set to be available in DVD format on the movie?s official website www.veritas-movie.com.