May 2, 2012 by David Gillaspie
You choose a sport, or the sport chooses you. Either way you’ll find out if it’s a good fit.
After finishing a post on school fights, I realized how wrestling chose me: I wanted maximum competition without maximum whining.
Before wrestling I hung out with guys who tried to act tough. They did their best, but they weren’t up to the standards of the wrestling room. They didn’t become wrestlers.
The guys I fought in Jr. High/Middle School didn’t know anything about wrestling. Neither did I, but I knew enough about fighting to get it over with fast. That was the main rule.
After I started wrestling, fighting in school, or after school, lost all interest. Keeping up in a wrestling room is all the fight anyone needs. It’s also a calling card if someone is looking for a fight. Who wants any of, “You might be in a bad mood, but he’s a wrestler. If you fight him you’ll be in a worse mood after he scrubs the parking lot with your face.”
The harder the sport, the tougher the participants. Wrestling friends know how to be tough. They don’t whine, complain, or blame anyone but themselves when they lose. Those are characteristics you want in a friend you can count on.
- The following was published in the Oregonian. (Scroll to the bottom of the link page.)
At my school, tough guys used to fight. Junior High in the early 70’s included seventh, eighth, and ninth grades and a wide gap between the early-developing and late-blooming kids.
If an eighth grader fought a ninth grader, they were feared and respected.
One day it was my turn.
If I agreed to fight, I’d be a tough guy. All I had to do was show up.
The time was after school. The place was a clearing in the woods across the street.
I showed up late. The circle of students was already there. My opponent was in the middle. I don’t know if he wanted to fight, or showed up from peer pressure like me.
The kid in the ring had brothers. He had to know how to fight. I had brothers and we mixed it up. Fighting a brother is different, especially if you share a room. That seemed to temper the level of violence and forgiveness in family fights.
I’d never won a brother fight. I was thirteen. I wasn’t about to lose a school fight, even if I didn’t want to fight.
My opponent may have had the same feelings. He had rules he explained before we started.
“No hitting in the face,” he said.
“And no kicking in the privates.”
I agreed and we squared off like MMA guys in the octagon. We circled and faked. I threw a fake punch at his face and he raised up. I kicked him. When he leaned over I punched him in the face and he fell down.
Fight over. Now I’m a tough guy.
A few days later a classmate prank-called my house. Since my mother liked listening on the other line, she heard what the boy said. It upset her very much.
The next day I asked the guys what I ought to do. Their solution was always the same. I had to beat the kid up or risk losing tough guy status.
The caller was in my home room. I walked down the desk aisle to confront him. His friend stood up first. I gave him a push and he socked me. I threw a one-two counter punch, one accidentally thumbing him in the eye, the other bloodying his nose with a loud pop.
Before I could get to the other kid, I heard the teacher’s chair move. He was a male teacher known for putting head-locks on out of control students. I spun around and yelled what the kid had said about my mother. It was a very profane curse. I yelled it again to avoid the embarrassing head-lock. These were words never spoken in class.
The teacher told me to be quiet.
My punishment was helping the kid I punched, then cleaning up his blood. I decided then to be a friend instead of a fighting tough guy, thanks to Mr. Pruhsmeier.
Joe, I’m sorry for kicking you in the woods. Bob, I’m sorry for hitting you. Are we even?