The real winner is not the champ

Last night during the finals of the 2010 Maryland State Wrestling tournament, I saw one of the most selfless and touching moments I’d ever seen while watching any sport.

When the 140 lb wrestlers began their match one of the other wrestling moms mentioned that one of the wrestlers was known to often hurt his opponents (and someone else referred to him in even less glowing terms), let’s call him Vince. Vince has a tattoo on his right thigh of the United States divided in half — one side red and the other blue. Not quite sure what that means. His opponent, let’s call him Caesar, also has a tattoo, but I think it is just his name on his back with a design below it.

I was actually more interested in watching my son get his 4th place award than watching the match going on in front of me. I used my binoculars to watch my son sitting on the podium and talking to various people who walked by while he waited for the 140 lb match to be over so he could get his award. Sometimes I would look at the wrestlers through the binoculars — mostly to see what their tattoos looked like and to check to see if their nails were clean (I have a really good pair of binoculars).

I’d gotten bored with the binoculars and was watching the match, the score of which was something like 8 – 3 in favor of Vince with 13 seconds to go,  when Vince somehow had Caesar in the air and either dropped him or threw him on the mat. The official called it dangerous (I knew that he said “dangerous” because he put both his hands behind his head). Then many things happened in swift succession. Caesar didn’t get off the mat. His coaches and the officials crowded around him. Vince ran around the ring, tore off his head gear, almost threw it on the ground before thinking better of it and then sat on the mat, holding his head and rocking back and forth. The crowd around us (we were sitting in the section housing Vince’s fans) began shouting at the officials and booing. A large group of people rushed down the stairs. Men in black (riot control?) rushed down the steps and shouted to the people in the aisles to sit down immediately, then escorted a man (who turned out to be Vince’s Caesar’s father) out of the stadium.

Riot Squad
Riot Squad

After quite a while in wrestling time, Caesar stood up, with the help of his coaches and slowly limped to the center of the mat where Vince joined him. Vince hugged Caesar tightly, let him go, hugged him again, wiped tears from his own eyes, then either Vince held up Caesar’s hand or Caesar held up Vince’s hand. The crowd cheered and stood up, applauding.

I asked a more seasoned wrestling mom what had just happened. She told me that if a wrestler does something dangerous and his opponent cannot continue wrestling the wrestler who did the dangerous move loses the match. Caesar could have won the match by not getting up and continuing to wrestle. He chose, instead, to stand up and allow Vince to win.

This really says something for the character of Caesar and I hope that by his example, Vince will learn about true sportsmanship and this experience will make him a better athlete.

News articles & other links about the event here:

Gators snap up a 3A-4A Crown

Four score wrestling state titles

Thread on Message Board

A video of the match (fast forward to the end if you want — it is really heartwarming)

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