In the age of social media, many teams at both the collegiate and professional levels have seen a boost in creative designs.
The wrestling community has not seen much attention in that department, but strides have slowly been made. Enter Ross Bendik, a graduate and former club wrestler at Penn State.
He pursued his hobby of graphic design after trying to introduce the sport to his twin sons by creating wrestling icons on their toys for them.
“The first thing I did was paint some other Lego figurines like Penn State wrestlers,” Bendik said.
He decided to post some photos of his work to his Twitter page, WrestleChicago, and found a passion behind his creative ideas toward the sport. However, his artistic abilities could not keep up with the ideas Bendik constantly thought of, which led him to learn how to use many Adobe Creative Cloud programs.
Once he learned the necessary tools, Bendik saw further opportunities to bring his ideas to fruition.
“I can create whatever I want,” Bendik said.
While balancing a full-time job as a management consultant, Bendik has found graphic design to be a stress reliever.
“That’s why I kept at it, and that’s the way I kind of relax at night after [my] boys are in bed,” Bendik said.
As a hobby, Bendik has received high praise from a multitude of wrestling fanatics and personalities, such as Joe Kania from Fantasy Fight League. Kania said he believes Bendik’s contributions to the wrestling community are in high demand.
“Wrestling needs that type of content,” Kania said. “We’re seeing wrestling start to grow and more content creators developing stuff like this.”
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Connecting to a younger audience has been a struggle for a sport not recognized in the mainstream media — Kania described Bendik’s creations, like the college wrestling national championship visualization chart he posted on Twitter, as a gateway toward increased relevance for the sport.
“For people that don’t know anything about wrestling, there needs to be a bridge that makes them interested,” Kania said.
Cliff Fretwell, founder of Compound Sportswear and host of the Knarkill Podcast, said he recognized Bendik’s talent and reached out to him. His designs caught Fretwell’s eyes and provided an opportunity for Bendik to pursue a career in graphic design for Compound Sportswear.
“Me and him were emailing back and forth, and I was like, ‘I’m always looking for another teamwear designer to be a part of our team,’” Fretwell said.
Bendik has turned down Fretwell’s offer, but the potential for future collaboration still exists.
“His times are pretty strapped. I’ll just be patient,” Fretwell said. “Maybe he’ll be in my art department one day.”
Unfortunately for Bendik, some of his designs have been victim to both bootlegging and piracy. This caused the Penn State graduate to post a statement on his Twitter page warning people he does not make merchandise for sale.
“I don’t really sell anything. I’m not trying to sell a service or a product,” Bendik said. “It’s just something I do to decompress.”
However, Kania saw the piracy as a positive factor toward his designs.
“It’s more eyeballs on his stuff, and then when people try to find him, they are like, ‘Oh, this is where it came from,’” Kania said.
Moreover, Fretwell said he related to Bendik.
“Unfortunately, that’s a huge part of the digital world we’re living in,” Fretwell said. “It’s easy to steal and grab the copy, print it, throw it on a 3D model and put it out there like it’s yours.”
But, Fretwell said he enjoys the idea of Bendik promoting his designs on Twitter.
“I think it’s a breath of fresh air. Nobody’s done stuff like that,” Fretwell said. “It’s almost a children’s pop-up book for wrestling people.”