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