COLUMBIA — His allegiance was apparent before he said a word.
Waving a University of Maryland Terrapins flag, Robin Ficker wore tie-dye shorts and a lavender shirt with “Be a Terp All-American” printed on the front.
That’s not to say that Ficker wasn’t vocal as well. He was often the loudest person in attendance during the Missouri wrestling team’s 27-13 win against Maryland on Sunday morning. He stomped his black boots on the wooden floors of the stands as he shared an array of chants with the Hearnes Center crowd for four hours.
Ficker traveled 950 miles to claim his front row seat at the regional rounds of the Cliff Keen National Duals, and he was going to ensure his presence was felt.
A Maryland native, Ficker, 69, is a highly regarded attorney with a well-known reputation. In the sports community, Ficker has a reputation that is equally well-known. To many, he is the most passionate and notorious heckler in the Washington, D.C., area.
Throughout the 1990s, Ficker was a National Basketball Association season ticket holder for the Washington Bullets (now named the Wizards). From his seat behind the opposing team’s bench in the USAir Arena, Ficker would heckle the visiting players. He often researched the team’s roster the night before to ensure that his taunts were as up-to-date and accurate as possible.
Former NBA player Charles Barkley thought so highly of Ficker that Barkley flew him out to Phoenix during the 1993 NBA Finals. There, Ficker sat behind the bench of the Chicago Bulls and heckled their star player, Michael Jordan.
Despite his infamy in NBA player circles, Ficker’s first love was wrestling. He relates the sport to what he does in the courtroom as a defense attorney, sparring and always attempting to outmaneuver the prosecution in verbal combat.
“I was 'King of the Pits' in hand-to-hand combat at West Point (United States Military Academy at West Point), and everyone there wrestled,” Ficker said Sunday. “I love wrestling. I’m a romantic.”
Ficker, who has a law office down the street from the University of Maryland, became a Maryland wrestling fan out of necessity.
For years, he had watched his two sons wrestle. He loved the environment, the competition and the sense of pride he felt when his sons won. When his youngest son graduated from the University of California-Davis in 2004, however, Ficker needed a new team to get behind.
One of Maryland’s coaches knew Ficker was a wrestling fan and invited him to one of their meets. Ficker has rarely missed a Terrapins meet since, sharing his chants at meets as far away as Missouri.
“Alexander the Great! He conquered China, he conquered Tibet and now he will conquer Missouri!” Ficker shouted as Maryland’s Geoffrey Alexander took to the mat to wrestle senior Nathan McCormick (27-2) in the 133-pound match.
Although McCormick defeated Alexander 3-1, and Missouri won the next four matches, Ficker’s enthusiasm never faltered. He views himself as the wrestlers’ only teammate when they’re on the mat, and it’s his job to encourage them.
So his chants continued.
When Maryland won its first match against Missouri, Ficker pulled a bugle out his bag and played what resembled “Reveille.”
When Missouri heavyweight senior Dom Bradley (29-0) prepared to win by default, Ficker walked toward the mat feigning as if he would wrestle Bradley himself, drawing laughter from the crowd.
This was a common theme. Although Ficker was a visitor chanting against the home team, he made the Hearnes crowd laugh for four hours. This in large part has to do with Ficker’s philosophy. He says his whole purpose is to have fun, entertain the crowd, keep his remarks clean and get a vicarious thrill through the wrestlers.
“I’m imagining myself out there,” Ficker said. “And it’s clean fun.”
Unfortunately for Ficker, Maryland did not conquer Missouri on Sunday as the Tigers beat the Terrapins and went on to defeat Purdue 27-15 in their second dual of the day. With the victories, Missouri won the regional round of the Cliff Keen National Duals and advances to the final round of the tournament next weekend at the University of Minnesota.
Maryland beat Wyoming 20-12 in the consolation dual.