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The Creator of the Mike Madness Tournament – Matt Watling

As he sits at the desk in his bedroom, Matt Watling types away on his computer for what could be a variety of things. A rundown for his Watling and Owens radio show? Probably. Working on a story or editing another writer’s story for The Oswegonian? Yeah, could be that too. Or what about the school work he has for the Graduate classes he’s taking? That’s definitely sprinkled throughout his week. And depending on the time of day, the voices of Michael Kay, Don La Greca and Peter Rosenberg can be heard in the background. On top of all this, Matt created the March Madness-style tournament that has taken Oswego by storm, the Mike Madness tournament. 

This year’s Mike Madness tournament Final Four round starts on Monday, March 29th. The original tournament started last year, in the Spring 2020 semester. The first tournament was much smaller, and only consisted of six guys, all named Mike. The original six guys were Mike Marrano, Mike Velardi, Mike Smith, Mike Gross, Mike Giullesspie and Mike Gray. The winner was Mike Marrano. The tournament started because there was no college basketball tournament last year due to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It actually started the day that Governor Cuomo said that everyone was going home. I was in the Oswegonian office and I felt kind of goofy and thought it would be funny if we had a March Madness of our own and I couldn’t think of any names but Mike that fit the alliteration of March Madness.” The first year’s tournament winner was Mike Marrano. 

Since people wanted this tournament to make a comeback this year, Matt Watling had a lot of ideas for how we wanted to run things, but he did need help. Since people wanted this tournament to make a comeback this year, Matt Watling had a lot of ideas for how we wanted to run things, but he did need help. 

“My vision was to have 64 people across Oswego and obviously not named Mike. And then I was like, I don’t really want to do it because 64 is a lot, so I gave it to Mike Marrano, our inaugural champion, and he brought Pat along who also wanted to do it, so I sat back and took more of an advisor role.” 

Mike Marrano, who is in the Final Four of this year’s tournament, is now on the Mike Madness Committee along with Patrick Ochang, and actively tweets out the polls and results of the tournament on his Twitter. “Mike Madness was a fun thing to do when we were in quarantine last year. We all thought we should keep it going and have more people that wanted to be in it. It’s been very entertaining to see everyone be so excited about it too,” says Mike. Mike and Patrick (along with Matt in that advisor role) made some changes to this year’s tournament that include expanding the number of participants to just sixteen instead of sixty-four. “It was fun making the bracket and seeing the matchups, the randomized seeding really switched things up and even though most didn’t like it I feel like we ended up with a solid final four.” says Patrick. Randomized seeding didn’t come along without meeting some apprehension. Brandon Ladd was ranked at the sixteenth seed and he was not pleased with the bracket. It’s an inevitable result of randomized seeding, not everyone is going to be happy. 

This year’s tournament has caused some controversy. The way people went about getting votes and who voted for who are constantly being called into question. Match ups came down to the minute and there were many (and some people disagree on if they actually are) upsets. “Being in the tournament this year has been a lot more enjoyable than I thought it would be. Some people have been upset that others have taken it very seriously or are going too far but I honestly think it makes it more fun. Yes, it’s just Twitter polls but at the end of the day it’s a way for a group of people from Oswego to come together and have some fun.” says Luke Owens, an Oswego alumni who has advanced to the Final Four round of Mike Madness. 

Controversies from this year aside, the future of the Mike Madness tournament remains in question. Matt Watling wants it to continue under the right circumstances. Once March 2022 rolls around, there will probably be others who will want to run the tournament for a third year in a row. That all remains to be seen, as everyone on the current committee is graduating from Oswego this May. 

“I think that the only person who should take over is the champion. I think that would be the right step for it and I think their right hand man should take over with them.” 

And just as Michael Kay welcomes the listening audience to his daily afternoon drive-time radio show, Matt Watling is scrolling through Twitter, over seeing all the action from the 2021 Mike Madness tournament.

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