Category Archives: Wrestling

Way to go Helen!

helen-medalI’ve not posted about wrestling in a long time because my favorite wrestler has gone on to bigger and better things. This past week, though, I’ve been back in the wrestling state of mind. It has been a long time coming, but one of Montgomery County’s own wrestlers, Helen Maroulis, made it to the Olympics and made Olympic history by being the first US female to win a gold medal.

Why did I care so much? Mostly because she and Andrew grappled a few times in his freshman year. I remember the first time. We got to the meet and saw that Andrew was up against a girl. It felt a little odd, and I remember hearing, “Andrew’s wrestling Helen” repeated a few times that day. The next time he was up against her, it was not so strange and by then I’d learned more about her. She had a brother who was also a wrestler, she was very good.

Here is Andrew wrestling Helen at Counties:

Here he is wrestling Helen at Regionals:

She beat Andrew each time he wrestled against her but when she was wrestling others in different meets I, and all the moms of our team, not-so-secretly cheered Helen on.

After she left our county to train more extensively I followed her on Twitter and Instagram. I was disappointed when she didn’t qualify for the London Olympics, and delighted when she qualified for the Rio Olympics. I told everyone who would listen about her and Andrew’s history with her.

helen-lapOn Thursday of last week I stopped what I was doing to watch her win the quarterfinals, the semifinals and finally the finals. I cried tears of joy when she ran her victory lap around the arena, the US flag trailing behind her.

We most likely never exchanged a word, but I am claiming the right to feel proud to have been in the same room with her and watching her wrestle as a young teen.

 

The end of an era

Andrew and his coach Wrestling ended officially last weekend with the annual Wrestling banquet and honors ceremony for the team. For us it was the final banquet, and very bittersweet.

Wrestling is over for Andrew. He has no plans on wresting in college and, as far as I know, there are no wrestling “pick up” matches in which former wrestlers can participate if they get the urge to wrestle — unlike many other sports such as basketball, baseball and football.

Andrew as a young wrestler I don’t have a lot of regrets, but one I do have is not being interested in Andrew’s sporting life earlier. I rarely went to any of his soccer or rugby matches or basketball games when he was young, and while I probably went to more wrestling events because they were inside, didn’t go to most of them up through middle school. I understood none of the rules of any of the sports he liked and was not interested enough to try to learn. I’ll never get those days back for a re-do.

Andrew warming up before a match Once he got into high school and was chosen for the varsity wrestling team as a freshman, I began to take an interest. I volunteered to redesign and manage the team website and attended most of the meets and tournaments throughout his high school career.

I learned the rules, screamed directions to the wrestlers with the best of them, and cursed out the referees’ poor calls like a pro. I developed an appreciation for all of the sensory assaults experiences one encounters at a wrestling tournament: the shrill whistles, loud buzzers and screaming fans; the scent of hundreds of sweating adolescent bodies mingled with the odor of chemicals used to sanitize the mats; the backache from sitting for hours on hard, backless bleachers; the sight of constant movement on the gym floor under unforgiving gymnasium lighting; the taste of whatever unhealthy foods were sold in the concession stands.

Andrew hugging his coach after his very last wrestling matchI am so proud of my son and what he accomplished these four years as a wrestler. I believe that much of what he’s become as a young man (a delightful, smart, charming, kind, thoughtful, strong young man) is due to his experience on the wrestling team. I wrote about his coach a few years ago — but it was even more than that. It was his team. His teammates. His opponents. It was the whole experience that helped shape him.

That he took first place in the county and region and fourth place at States are admirable as is his inclusion on the local newspaper’s “first” team, his whopping 115 career wins and being chosen for the coach’s award, but even without these honors, I would have been proud of him. They’re just added value — icing on the cake.

Here’s to the end of wrestling — the end of an era for us. We’ve got a lot of memories and a whole lot of photos. Here’s my favorite, to the left even though it sometimes makes me sad to view. He’s hugging his coach after his very last wrestling match of his high school career.

Confessions of a Wrestling Mom

I didn’t always like wrestling. In fact I might have hated it. I didn’t like any sport, even the sports my son participated in. Oh yes, I’d occasionally attend a wrestling meet or tournament or soccer game or rugby match, and even watched Andrew play basketball a few times, but being raised in a family in which sports was not important, I didn’t like going to any of those events. It meant shrill whistles, or loud buzzers in a smelly gymnasium in the case of basketball and wrestling; or chilly, even rainy weather in sports played outdoors like soccer and rugby. It meant either being ignored by other players’ parents or having to participate in dreaded “small talk” with them.

I didn’t understand the rules of most of the sports, but could figure out the ones that involved a ball. The team had to move that ball from one end of the field to the other and put it through some sort of goal. That way the team would score points. I did not understand wrestling at all. Two kids of similar weight would roll around on the mat while an adult with a striped shirt made strange hand signals. They’d get up sometimes. Sometimes one would get on his hands and knees while the other one put his arm around the opponent’s middle. They’d roll around some more and eventually the time would end and one of the kids would smile and the other would cry, or at least look very sad.

Although Andrew started wrestling in elementary school, I didn’t have any interest in it until he was in high school and was chosen to be on the varsity team. I attended all of his matches that first year and most of the tournaments. I got to know the parents in the bleachers and began to learn what the referee’s hand signals meant. I even learned about scoring. I learned that a take-down was worth 2 points, as was a “reversal”. I learned that if a wrestler held his  opponent in such a way the opponent’s back formed an acute angle with the floor the wrestler doing the holding would get “back points” — the amount depending on how long they held the opponent there. I learned that a pin (or “fall) was worth 6 points, but the match could be over before 3 2-minute periods if one player earned 15 more points than his opponent and that was called a “tech fall”.

That year I also volunteered to redesign and maintain the team’s web site, which helped me learn the rules. I learned the names of the wrestlers and usually went home with throat raw from cheering the players as they “grappled”.

I never expected to love this sport. The bleachers are still uncomfortable — especially after sitting on them for 12 hours or more. The gymnasiums still smell like old socks and are usually far too warm. The buzzers and whistles (and shouting fans) are still loud. All that, often combined with glaring overhead lights, makes for a sensory over-stimulation not often found outside heavy-metal rock concerts. Yet, I love it all — sights, sounds, smells, physical discomfort. It energizes me. I’m proud to be a part of it and proud of our wrestlers and proud of my son.

This weekend we sent 7 of our wrestlers to the state tournament and last night 4 of them placed in the top 6 in their respective weight classes. (Andrew took 4th place)

My son -- 4th best 145 lb wrestler in the state of Maryland

[Please note: Several females wrestle, but I used typically masculine pronouns.]