Daytona On The Mat


February 15, 2010 by David Gillaspie

(2 points, dark)

Wrestlers know their sport crosses all sport boundaries; the other sports don’t.

The most unlikely place to find wrestling is NASCAR, but there it is. 

That’s Bobby Allison ankle-picking Cale Yarborough after the 1979 Daytona 500.  You could call it a couple of hillbillies scuffling around, but that’s too simple.  Besides, that foot up in the air can only mean one thing. 

Circle left, pick right. 

Take a measured step to the left, pulling your opponent along with a wrist or elbow tie until he does the same step, (an underhook goes too deep.)  Fake the pull-step once you’ve got your opponent in step with you, and kneel down to take the foot moving toward you.  An experienced wrestler knows when they’ve been fooled, and lurch back before you pick their ankle.  Watch-out for the ‘accidental’ kick.

Cale Yarborough was a Golden Gloves boxer according to  If that’s true then he knows how to take care of himself.  Knows about being shifty.  He is a racer.  I believe he’s a Golden Gloves boxer without fact-checking. 


Because of Bobby Allison’s helmet.  Bobby Allison knows Cale Yarborough knows how to fight.  That’s why he kept his helmet on.  Chin down, helmet on, ankle pick.  It’s a low risk move.  Probably had a collar tie with his left hand that accidentally slipped to the neck.  If Cale kicks, he hurts his shin and falls down.  If he doesn’t kick, he gets picked. 

Taking two at Daytona.

You see a defensive end in football rip or swim with their inside arm, you see him hook under an opponent’s arm and lift, or wind-mill his arm over the top and push back. 

Wrestlers see arm drags and standing switches.   So should you. 

Seventy-three hits a switch if he drives his left elbow inside his guy’s tricep with his swim.  If he swings around instead of chasing the ball, he scores a reversal.

 When seventy two yanks nine by with his rip / arm drag / underhook, he could take him down for another two instead of chasing the ball.  Their game is chasing the ball; wrestling’s game in their game is the forgotten part.   

Where you see a basketball player foot-fake with a jab step before taking a shot and draining a three, a wrestler sees a set-up.

Compare the basketball ball shot and the wrestling shot and decide which one is the real ‘dagger to the heart’ basketball announcers love to call.  

For one, you jump and release a ball toward a hoop with a net dangling underneath; for the other, you launch your body in a human wave toward an opponent. 

For one, you figuratively nail a symbolic spike in your opponents collective chest to break their competitive will; for the other you drive your real forehead through their real chest.  (memo to moms: it never goes through.) 

Do that often enough and you know how it ends; a bruised and broken will that takes more than a juice box and an orange slice to fix.  And you need it fixed today.    

A basketball fight usually means big mouths wide open and chest bumping KG style; it means slap fights and sucker punches.  It works for them.  Basketball conflict does not mean keeping a gun in your locker, but apparently no one told Gilbert Arenas. 

Add more wrestling, hold fewer guns. 

At least baseball shows real skills.  The basics are there.  Counter the headlock by sagging, or lock up with a hip punch and give some air time.  That wasn’t what Robin Ventura had in mind when he charged the mound on Nolan Ryan. 

He should have. 

Instead, a forty-six year old man bulldogs him with one arm and brands his melon with the other before the catcher breaks it up.  Nolan Ryan quit baseball after seven no-hitters, twelve one-hitters, and eighteen two-hitters. 

If Robin Ventura wrestled better he wouldn’t have been a part of the six-hitter Ryan put on his dome without leaving the mound.  Ventura gets the boot and Ryan throws hittless ball the rest of the game. 

It’s embarassing to see.  Wrestling skills should be mandatory in all sports.

Except hockey.  They’ve already got sticks and red beards.  That’s enough.


One thought on “Daytona On The Mat

  1. […] to the roots of sport, the roots of competition.  Mention Nolan Ryan’s headlock on the pitcher’s mound.  Don’t mention the […]

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