October 26, 2010 by David Gillaspie
Some say wrestlers are born; others say they are made. Either way, there’s a path that leads to one place, the wrestling room. Get on it.
You might be a wrestler if…..
0. You’re really good at dodge ball, one of the last standing in most games. You anticipate the direction the ball goes by watching the thrower’s body language. It’s not like you’ve got a check list, you just have feeling for where the ball is going, even with the sneaky mis-direction winger.
You don’t bite on fakes or react with more movement than necessary. You move with compact precision and return to your ready position quickly after each throw. You’re a slow runner with quick reactions and excellent hand-eye coordination. You wonder if these skills apply to more than dodge ball.
The answer is yes.
1. During playground contests, you hang from the monkey bars longer than anyone else and climb the tether ball pole the fastest. During a game of tag, you guard the base and push everyone else away. They can’t get by you because you seem to push them at their balance point and change their direction, which usually sends them down on the ground.
Again, you don’t think about pushing others down, they just fall from where you push. Your judgement of the tipping point isn’t a learned thing. You have the power.
There’s one place to refine your inherent skills.
2. In other sports you are too short or too light. At least that’s what other’s tell you. On the football field the coach puts you in on Special Teams so you get some playing time. Special Teams feels like Special Ed, and you know the difference because you volunteer in Special Education classes.
You try cross-country and like the runs, but you are slow. The experience makes you realize runners can condition their legs all day, but they’ll lose if they don’t condition their lungs.
Same with wrestling. The pace breaks many competitors.
3. You have a brother in your house with an attitude. You want to take him down a few notches, but worry about his self-esteem. Besides, your parents have a no-fight rule since the last time you broke the furniture. Your brother always takes the last milk in the container, shakes the last cereal out of the box. He puts his dirty clothes ahead of yours in the laundry line.
If your dad gives you and your brother a job, the two of you flip a coin for best two out of three and the loser has to do it all himself. He loses, then won’t do it. In fact, he won’t even do his share. You want to help him change his ways without hurting his feelings.
A half an hour in a basket cradle makes all the difference.
4. You have a new friend and the two of you walk to the store. A known bully stands in your way. Instead of crossing the street with you, your new friend confronts the bully. From the other side of the street you watch your new friend push the bully’s left elbow across his body, pick a knee, make the bully hop to keep his balance, then foot sweep him to the sidewalk.
Your new friend walks across the street and joins you. The bully gets up and shakes himself off. He’s not so mean the next time you see him. You ask your pal to show you the trick.
“Outside drag,” he says, “like Lincoln MacIlravy.”
5. Your football team has a decade long losing streak and a turnstile of losing coaches; the basketball team isn’t much better and it’s run by a hairy legged white man in short shorts. Since he’s an English teacher he speaks in complete sentences and coaches in complete sentences. The team doesn’t win games, but they are as well-spoken as the debate team.
You attend a winter sports assembly where the wrestling team plays the basketball team in a game to twenty-one. The wrestlers win and take a howling victory lap before rolling out a mat and demonstrating an array of Greco-Roman throws for the crowd.
You hear the oooos and aaahhs and sit amazed how everyone pops up after each throw.
How hard can it be?
6. You strain your shoulder during a Special Teams play. It pops when you try to tackle someone on a punt return. Football is done and you don’t want an english class on the basketball court. You’re tired of losing and thinking maybe sports aren’t for you because you need a win. You think about quitting all sports and concentrating on school, which means you’ll have plenty of spare time to find trouble or for trouble to find you.
Once your shoulder feels better, you check the wrestling team’s win-loss record and blink your eyes. They have a sixty-five match winning streak? State champions? John Wisti won a title after two years of wrestling? Gary West got a wrestling scholarship to University of Oregon? Robin Richards placed second in the Junior World Greco-Roman tournament in Japan after winning Oregon’s Triple Crown his junior year?
They know how to win. Coach Dave Abraham finds guys he can win big with. You test your shoulder and head to the off-season evening workout’s he holds after football practice.
7. You go to the old gym and walk up the steps. Turn right down the hall past the team dressing rooms, the PE lockers, the teachers’ office, and the training room to an area you’ve never seen. From the top of the double-wide staircase inside the gym you look at the scene before you. It’s not a basement, but it is downstairs. You wave to your pal who dropped the bully.
An orange mat covers the floor like bad ’70’s carpet. Small mats wrap around support posts. You walk down and the coach blows his whistle, a tri-tone deal that sounds like something an English Bobby blows during a movie crime chase.
Tonight’s crime happens when assistant coach Fred Lucas tells you to take a single.
You are clueless.
“Grab a leg”, he says. You reach out and touch his knee with both hands, slightly creeped out.
“Grab a single and put your head in there,” he says. He hops forward on one foot and pushes your head against his thigh. You feel manly leg hair on your cheek and you’re ready to leave this freak show just as he sinks in a whizzer and sprawls.
He slams you face down on the mat so hard your head bounces. On a playground the next thing would be a fistfight; in the wrestling room you do it over again. You notice your shoulder stopped hurting. You pop up just like the guys in the assembly after getting thrown hard. You look around the room and notice everyone doing the same thing you’re doing.
“Let’s go,” Fred says, “do it again.”
This time you grab his leg in a death grip and plan to drive the crown of your head through his hips and run him up the stairs on one leg if he doesn’t go down.
The coach blows his three tone tweeter. You lift the leg you’ve got the strangle hold on as high as you can and foot sweep the coach like your pal did the bully on the sidewalk.
You go home later and your mom notices a bruise on your face and one on your arm that looks like fingerprints.
“Don’t worry about it,” your dad says, “he’s a wrestler.”
And you are.