Our wrestling team won first place at a tournament last night — our second first place of the season. We’ve got a great group of boys — they’re all polite to adults, kind to each other and, of course, hard workers.
I’ve posted about J. D. before — after our last tournament win. He’s the guy who just began wrestling this year as our heavyweight. I wrote about how he learned the sport quickly and easily and placed first in his weight class at the first tournament. Well, he did it again last night. He pinned his formidable opponent in a tough match.
But the thing about J. D. — for me anyway — is not his wrestling ability. It is his kindness. It is his huge heart that can be seen in so many little ways — from his hugs when he wins (or when his teammates win) to his words of encouragement to his teammates as well as wrestlers from other teams he’s defeated in previous matches. (I heard him heard shout, “Use your strength!” to a wrestler he’d beaten in a close match earlier in the day who was wrestling for 3rd place on a mat in front of him.)
When a teammate hurt his shoulder, J. D. was happy to hold the bag of ice on the injured shoulder so the teammate could use both hands to eat. When my son won a difficult match, J. D. wrapped his arm around him, and gave him a brotherly hug. He is always giving. Always.
What I didn’t mention in the last post was the fact that J. D.’s had a tough go of things. He’s being raised by a single mother and now lives in a shelter with her. When I first learned about his housing situation I wondered if they’d be staying in the area or moving soon, as so many of the shelter kids do. I hoped he’d be sticking around, at least through the end of the school year. I hoped that perhaps a college wrestling scout would see him and perhaps offer him a scholarship somewhere. I don’t really know his circumstances, but a scholarship couldn’t hurt, right?
Last night, though, I found out that J. D. is what is called a “5th year senior”. I guess because he’d moved around a lot, he needed more credits to graduate. He was supposed to be able to stay at the school through May and graduate, but now, for some reason, he is being made to graduate in January. That means that after next week he’ll be gone. Gone from the school. Gone from the team. Gone from our lives.
I am angry about this. Not because he was a winner. Not because his leaving might make us more vulnerable to better heavyweights on other teams, but because I will miss him. His personality. His kindness. His caring about everyone — teammates, parents of the teammates, his opponents, his coaches. The world. How could it hurt to let him stay at the school for 5 more months? His leaving will hurt J. D. and everyone whose life he’s touched this year.