Columbia Star

It takes a special kid to wrestle




Wrestling is an interesting sport. I used to think cross-country was the most masochistic afterschool activity around, but the running shorts may have given way to the singlet in terms of the most torturous sports around.

Wrestling does have the advantage of a climate controlled environment, but that’s about it. It’s literally sanctioned hand-to-hand combat. They put these kids in spandex onesies and send them out onto a mat for the entire world to see. There’s no hiding behind teammates or even other matches (unless it’s a tournament). It’s just mano y mano.

Wrestlers train over two hours a day at least five days a week and then go to battle sometimes for six minutes and other times for six seconds. After it’s all said and done, they shake hands. The ref raises the victor’s hand in triumph, while the other guy has to stand and watch.

If some dude bounced me around the mat for any amount of time, the last thing I’d want to do is shake his hand. That takes a tremendous amount of guts, and that’s why I admire the heck out of wrestlers.

First off, I doubt my awkward teenage body would have found the courage to wear a singlet in front of a gym-full of people much less get my butt kicked wearing the thing. I probably would have wanted to run off, curl up in some corner, and cry for my mommy until my opponent’s mommy forced him to apologize to me for humiliating me in front of all those people. Thankfully, that’s not how wrestling works. These guys just shake hands and move on to the next match.

Looking back on my childhood, I probably would have appreciated my dad’s wrestling career had I not spent more time in a cradle hold than in an actual cradle. My dad was a North Carolina state champion wrestler in high school, but all he ever taught me was how to get pinned and tortured using various wrestling holds. As a consequence, I stayed away from the sport at all costs.

I guess the wrestling gene skips a generation because my son is in his fourth year with the sport at his school. It’s been an interesting adjustment for me, but it’s been a monumental adjustment for his mother.

His first year in a match, my son made the mistake of wrestling up a weight class, and his much bigger opponent literally bounced him around like a basketball a couple of times before practically bending him in half for a pin. My wife watched in horror and squeezed my hand harder than she did when she was giving birth to him.

She had to fight every “Mama Bear” urge to leap from the stands and rescue her son from his opponent. Thankfully, she stayed put because the beating my son was taking from that guy would have been miniscule compared to the ribbing he would have gotten from his teammates had Mommy “rescued” him.

That’s wrestling. It takes a special kid to do it.

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