Wrestling is a hard sport. Hard on the parents that is. I’ve watched my son wrestle since he was in first grade….I’ve seen him worked over and I’ve seen him get his hand raised at the end. It’s difficult and it’s wonderful all at the same time.
And you know what is the hardest part of all watching your kid wrestle? You can’t do a damn thing. You can’t give him that extra energy, you can’t make him see the other kid’s weakness, you can’t do anything but watch them work through it all on their own. Which is both the worst thing and, simultaneously, the best thing. Because that’s the really great thing about wrestling…those kids have to do it by themselves. No one else can prepare for them, no else can take the mat for them, no one else can deal with the defeats, and no one else gets to take credit for the wins. It could just be one of the very best ways to prepare the next generation for all the losses and wins of life.
And just like any sport, there are a lot of cliches about how hard the sport is, how much heart it takes, how much skill it takes…yada yada yada. Here’s the thing…with wrestling, it’s all actually true. It is the hardest sport out there. Those kids train every day like it’s game day, every practice is a tournament, every time they step on the mat it’s to prove themselves. And it’s just as much mental as physical. Wrestling is uniquely weird in it’s combination of team & individual, physicality & mental sharpness, heart & attitude, respect & confidence.
So…what brought on this praise for a sport that I myself have never participated in but have watched in a most animated fashion from mat side for years? Well, I spent last Saturday watching the JV mats at the tournament in Sandy and I found myself looking at the sport with fresh and curious eyes. One thing I’ve always noticed with the sport, and kind of hated, is that it either breeds great sportsmanship or total asshole behavior. Seriously. There is no in between. I’ve seen some awesome examples of young men respecting their opponents and yet I’ve also seen more than enough examples of wrestlers (or their parents) acting like horrendous assholes.
But that day I just watched the matches that were going on in front of me and I found myself smiling. First of all, you have to know that JV has a wide berth of talent levels within it’s label. You have the kids who have never wrestled before and really don’t have a clue what they are doing but then you have the kids who are just one step from varsity, they just have that one guy that they can’t beat for the varsity spot. So, I found myself watching a very amusing match where basically the boys just kind of ran into each other and hoped one of them would fall over, followed by a very well executed match between two guys who were clearly vying for their respective varsity spots at their respective schools.
And what I decided on was this: wrestling really is unique. And not just because of the reasons I listed above. It’s truly unique because it takes in all kinds. Seriously, so many different stereotypes were represented on those mats, it was pretty cool. There were kids who were ripped and kids who were not; little tiny guys that wrestle at 103 pounds and big heavy guys that wrestle at 220; kids with crew cuts and also an amazing amount of white-boy afros; geek kids and loner kids and Mr. Popular kids. There were so many differences and yet they were all there, working toward the same goal: To be their best. That made me smile.
And then there were the boys who were wrestling on Wyatt’s mat, all from different schools, who all stood around encouraging and talking to each other while they waited for their weight brackets to be called. Laughing, talking, giving each other props for their wrestling, and discussing the food they wanted to eat after the tournament. An astounding lack of assholery. And that made me smile a lot.