June 11, 2012 by David Gillaspie
Every wrestler has been on the grass.
There’s always someone who needs to give it a try when they find out you wrestle, used to wrestle, or just went to a wrestling match.
“Let’s wrestle” isn’t the best invitation to jump for when you don’t know the person saying it.
After I learned a few tricks on the mat, my older brother, a non-wrestler but good athlete, needed to see what he could do.
To the front yard!
After a gentle takedown I rode him and cranked on him until he wanted to change.
Call it round two.
He was up, I was down, and I switched him, rode him, and cranked on him some more. Big brothers are great to work on the yard, but not so good at playing the victim. He didn’t like my crossface the first time, something about pulling up too hard on his nose with my wrist bone, the one below the thumb.
Since my dad was watching me put grass stains on his football playing son’s face, he said he wanted some too, except he wanted to box.
Warning: Never Box Your Dad
We pulled on the big gloves and the old man punched me out. He moved like I’d never seen before. He jabbed and danced and slid around like he knew what he was doing. And I was a seventeen year old punching bag.
After he decided I’d had enough, he called it a day and had a cigarette. I didn’t land one punch, but threw many. He was untouchable.
The lesson learned? You never know the sort of weapons your opponent has in his bag, even if you’ve known them all your life.
Bigger lesson? Your father will not, and should not, let you win just because you’re his kid. You’ve heard whiners say things like, “My dad never let me win anything.”
If you’ve grown up and have kids, or plan on it, will you let them win? Will you give them a false sense of themselves? If you do, they’ll know you tanked to avoid hurt feelings.
I never boxed my dad again, way out of my league, but the yard wrestling was a different matter.
Fast forward from seventeen to thirty-seven, married with young kids who would be wrestlers. My front yard was a beautiful collection of plants, lights, and decorative gravel walkways. My wife had a vision and together we built it.
One Saturday the doorbell rang. I saw two men at the door. Too old for a Mormon visit, and the wrong gender for Seventh Day Adventists, I stopped hiding and opened the door.
The smaller man was a local grade school principal, the other a stranger.
What not to say to strangers
The guys were there on a fundraiser for the district, if I remember right.
“Hi. Sure I remember you. You’re the principal,” I said to the little guy. “Who’s your pal.”
“He’s a wrestling coach,” the principal said.
“You coach wrestling?” I asked the other guy.
“I do,” he said.
“So you know how to wrestle?” I asked.
“Yes, I do.”
“I’ve heard coaches take it easy on their wrestlers these days. Are you one of those coaches?”
“No, that’s not how I coach,” he said.
“There’s only one way to know. We go two out of three on body locks. Score a point for locked hands around the other guy. You probably don’t do this on your team, so I’ll take it easy. Do you understand the rules?”
“Then let’s go.”
Ordinarily you might expect the other guy to start out with caution. I did. Caution lasted about two seconds, then I was all about defense. This wrestling coach started at 100 mph and kept his foot on the gas. We flew around the front yard stomping plants and kicking over lights.
We pummeled each other for underhooks, pushed faces back, grabbed two on ones, dragged arms. He was more than enough challenge for anyone, but I baited him by leaving a little room between my elbow and side. Turns out he was baiting me, too.
He faked an underhook by stabbing his arm inside just far enough for me to clamp it with my right elbow before pulling it out and wrapping it around my arm. I didn’t notice he had wrist control on the other side, which he released for the tightest arm-trap bear hug I’ve ever felt.
The next feeling was a crunching sound, followed by a knife-like sensation on my next breath. I knew I’d popped a rib.
“Not bad, coach. Let’s call it a draw. I’ll get that fund raiser check, then I’ve got to get busy out back. We’ll finish our two out of three locks when I have more time.”
My wife came out and gave them a check. I saw her face. Not a happy face. It was something about the front yard looking like a pathway for migrating wildebeests. Crushed and broken aren’t words used to describe thoughtful landscaping.
Once we got inside the house she said, “What was that all about?”
“Two wrestlers, honey. It happens.”
“I think I broke some ribs.”
“No, what happened to my yard and when are you going to fix it?”
“As soon as I catch my breath, honey. I’m thinking next week. I’ve got some ribs going on.”
“Serves you right.”
“Maybe I ought to get them looked at?”
“Maybe you ought to grow up.”
“Yes, maybe. Maybe that’s what I ought to do.”
“Do I need to take you to Urgent Care?”
“Well, that’s what a grown up would do. What would a wrestler do?”
“I give up.”
“Wrong answer. Wait a while and see if things clear up. Feeling better already. See?” I said, raising my arms and hiding that particular agony.
“If you can do that, you’ll be fine.”
“That’s what I think, too. Do we have any ice?”
Moral of the story
When a local high school wrestling coach shows up on a fund raising visit, just write the check. It’s not like a basketball coach you can challenge to a game of horse, double or nothing.
If a wrestling coach accepts the challenge to compete, run inside and lock the door.
They can’t lose on your front yard, and they won’t.