Once a year, hundreds of the best wrestlers across the country come together for the NCAA Wrestling Championships. Hundreds of thousands of fans watch them compete, while thousands more tune in across the world. Five Trilix Video Team members travelled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to share their stories during the 2019 championship March 21–23.
In just seven days among 110,000 fans and 330 athletes, our video team shot and produced more than 40 pieces. Their videos captured the dedication wrestlers and their families have put into the sport. The clips featured the energy and adrenaline filling the city. The recordings also portray these student athletes’ highest passions at the pinnacle of their careers, providing all viewers — wrestling fans or not — with inspiration.
Here’s how we did it.
Telling their own story
This was our sixth year representing NCAA Wrestling. Trilix sent cinematographers James Drescher and Chad Adams along with producer editors Kyle Stoutenberg and Rachel Yancey to Pittsburgh to produce more than 40 pieces in just seven days. Freelance Producer Eric Beck also participated. The team produced five letter videos, two featured pieces and 40 evergreen clips during which student athletes answer questions about their careers and championship matches. Finding the stories to tell takes much longer.
Chad and James research the athletes and stories they’ll feature about a year in advance for NCAA Wrestling and Baseball, our other NCAA client. This year was no different.
Our video team started letter concept videos four years ago. The letters, which allow wrestlers to dictate their own stories, often serve as motivational messages athletes write to themselves. Self-motivation is especially important for wrestlers who can’t rely on a coach or teammates on the mat, James said.
“We like to get those stories that are just a couple of feet deeper…that are on the fringes of sports and life. We want to get the stories you have to go after.”
One letter piece our Video Department produced featured four-time All-American Willie Miklus. During the biggest competition of his life, Willie sat in front of Trilix cinematographers, head bent over a letter he wrote to himself. He was reflecting on his childhood and career as a student athlete before competing in the NCAA Wrestling Championships.
Willie, a former wrestler at Southeast Polk High and an Altoona, Iowa, native, wrestled at Missouri before transferring to Iowa State University for the 2018–19 season as a sixth-year senior. His father, Garry, had battled amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — or ALS — for about three years, and Willie wanted to be closer to home. At the end of February, his father was able to see Willie compete in Iowa State’s senior night before his death on March 4. Footage of that senior night with Willie’s father is included in Trilix’s video. Willie competed in the NCAA Wrestling Championships in Pittsburgh — his last chance to compete in a wrestling match as a student athlete — just about two weeks later.
To share this story, James contacted a friend whose children wrestle at Southeast Polk High School and know Willie’s family. James asked if Willie would like to talk about his experiences, and he agreed to be the subject of a letter video. The finished piece went viral, garnering 500,000 views in less than a week. In comparison, a letter video from last year’s NCAA championship received 1.1 million views over a full year, Rachel said.
Another letter video our team produced during the championship featured the bond between Ohio State University wrestler Myles Martin and his father, Greg. Greg had written a note to Myles, and the video overlays separate clips of them both reading the letter. Greg and Myles’ stepmother also are pictured in clips cheering from the stands. It’s difficult to watch with a dry eye as viewers are reminded of the parent or role model who championed their own passions.
It’s about the community
Though letter videos are deeply personal, nostalgic and emotional, our team produced a few videos that are downright adrenaline-inducing. The finals hype video released the day of the championship finals fits that bill.
To get the footage, Kyle shot drone video footage of the Pittsburgh skyline with closeups of area architecture and steel workers that are the backbone of the city. Energetic music pumps up viewers’ adrenaline. The piece de resistance for the video is when viewers see World Wrestling Entertainment professional and Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle reading the script Trilix’s video team produced. Chad worked for months to build a relationship with Angle, who is also from Pittsburgh, to secure him for the video.
To capture all the footage, our Video Department has one cinematographer shooting the athletes on the mat, another capturing the crowd and others completing question and answer videos of the athletes. NCAA gives Trilix cinematographers privileged access to the athletes. Trilix has a video room right off the mat, allowing our team to get shots of wrestlers moments after they compete. It also allows our team to build rapport with athletes across the nation.
For the last five years that Rachel has been traveling to NCAA Wrestling Championships, her efficient editing skills have been put to the test. Most editors would need 48 hours or more to edit the videos our team produces. Rachel can complete them in a day. The team’s approach to storytelling shines through.
“What we’re really there to do is expand the brand. Part of that is growing wrestling. It’s not just about what happens on the mat or what the score is, it’s why people love the sport and the attitude the athletes bring. It’s about the community,” Rachel said.
Because of our relationship with the client, NCAA Wrestling allows Trilix to pursue many stories we choose. They also trust us to work with them on additional video ideas the client proposed during the championship.
“During the championship, there’s content and media everywhere,” said Brett Adams, Trilix’s chief marketing officer. “Anyone can stand there with a camera, but it has to be impactful. We bring those stories together in an effective way. We rise above and pull the right story and help the clients distribute their message.”