Yard Wrestler Confession


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.”

“What happened?”

“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.


7 thoughts on “Yard Wrestler Confession

  1. Tonya Hamilton says:

    I actually had somebody tell me they had witnessed this yard wrestling match a couple years back. It may have been the small statured principal. I didn’t believe it! I’m sure it is something those onlookers will never forget!

    • David Gillaspie says:

      It was a lively one, that’s for sure, and you don’t always find people who know how to get after it the right way. One of my high school teammates and best friends used to get into it out in the yard. One time it got started in the living room and went out of control in a hurry. I blocked and shifted then hipped him onto his couch.

      The legs broke off the couch and made a big sound. His wife threw us out to their backyard in the rain where we continued until he landed on the surface root of a big tree. We called it a draw, but the tree really won.

      The other side of the coin is the non-wrestler who says, “Could you show me how to wrestle” and they think it’s some sort of grab and tickle. This guy was a big bike rider and needed to show he could hang tough since I rode with him up every hill he attacked. I said no to the wrestling, but he kept after it, finally saying, “I think I understand why you won’t show me how to wrestle. You don’t know how.”

      The lesson ended up being fair, but harsh, with medium crossfaces, cradles, and half-nelsons done hopping side to side on the floor while he tried to say something. He got up very angry and purple faced and asked what the heck I thought I was trying to prove. The answer was the same one every new guy in the room gets, “That was the warm-up. Now we start wrestling class. You ready?”

      He was never the same as a friend, but then, he wasn’t a wrestler.

      When I tell my mom these sort of stories she thinks they happened recently and asks why I’d do anything so foolish. I can’t wait to tell her I lifted 320 lbs on the bench yesterday. That ought to confirm my status as family kook, otherwise it’s back to the yard wrestling, which is much more dangerous.

  2. Having raised two wrestlers, one now a wrestling coach, I laughed and nodded at every word. Well done. And, for God’s sake, fix your wife’s yard.

    • David Gillaspie says:

      The yard took a beating, one of many, but it’s recovered nicely. My own mother raised two wrestlers and when I told her about the yard match she asked, “Why would you do that?”

      I should have had a better answer than, “Why not?”

      Thanks for coming in Vonnie.

    • David Gillaspie says:

      Google Lee Allen to see what a career in sports is supposed to look like. This man got it and created a trail of others who got it, too.

  3. David Gillaspie says:

    I read and reviewed Wrestling With The Devil. Will post the review later this week.


    The author is my yard wrestling opponent’s spouse and the daughter of a legend.

    Check it out now and later.

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