The Faces Of Wrestling

November 19, 2011 at 12:12 pm (Amateur Wrestling, High School Sports, High School Wrestling, sports, Wrestling) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

It is interesting to me to observe the boys as they finish up conditioning and gear up for the official practice season to start.  I have such love for our team, each and every kid.

The freshmen, with the ‘deer in the headlights’ look on their faces and on the faces of their parents, both who will need coaching, mentoring, guidance, and friendship.   Most of them did not participate in youth wrestling, and one or two short middle school seasons is all they know of how this goes.  They know they love the sport or they wouldn’t be back.  What they don’t know is that High School wrestling is Middle School wrestling’s, insane, ugly, angry, big brother.  They haven’t yet finished up a practice where the whole team has been worked to the breaking point, where they thought in their drama-laden teenage minds that they might truly die, and are listening to coach’s after-practice talk panting for air, faces red from exertion and sometimes tears.  They haven’t yet gotten a glimpse of their future opponents and the skill level and strength they’ll be going up against.  They haven’t stepped into a tournament circle and had to shake hands with someone they know is going to mop the mat with them, but they have to try to stay alive anyway.  But they’ll learn, just as all their teammates have learned before them.

The seniors, who’ve seen it all and just have that ‘senior’ air about them.  They personally know the kids they’ll be going up against, because they attended camps with them and have been wrestling against the same kids for the last three or more years.  They know their opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, and their opponents know theirs.  It never fails to amaze me how these boys can do it; converse, joke and laugh with a kid like he’s an old friend while they are warming up to do battle with each other.  But that’s also one of the many reasons I love this sport.  There’s a special look on the faces of our seniors.  It’s one of excitement for this to be their most memorable season, a little bit of cockiness knowing that they are top dog, and hope that they’ll leave a legacy talked about in the locker room for years to come.  I’m confident this look will change by seasons’ end, to one I don’t care to think about right now.

The juniors, who look and feel a lot like the seniors.  There is wisdom there, but they also know they are still paying some dues.  The juniors are fun to be around.  They are the most jocular of the group.  They are not “green”, but they have not yet reached alpha status, either.  And it’s all good with them.  There’s no pressure to be the leaders, and they’re not at the bottom of the totem pole.  They’re just happy to be there.

And last but not least, the sophomores.  I have a special place in my heart for the sophomores on our team.  Maybe it’s because my son is one of them.  My post The Season From Hell (How Our Team Learned To Swim) gives some insight into the tough year our sophomores endured last year.  I have seen them walk in to the practice room with new resolve.  They know something this year that they didn’t know last year.  Some of them stayed active in wrestling and did summer camps, some of them didn’t……all have grown, both physically and emotionally.   You can see it in their walk, hear it in their matured voices, but most of all you can see it in their eyes.  There is no more fear, no more uncertainty, only knowing.  There will be no surprises this year for these sophomores.  They know they can handle whatever comes their way.  And I have every faith that they’ll handle it all with grace and style.

I’m so excited for the season to start, and I hope that the look of a loving mother and ardent fan supports them in the ways they need it the most.

Wrestle smart, gentlemen, wear the look of pride and victory.

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Things I’ve Learned-Advice For the Curious

August 19, 2011 at 6:41 am (High School Sports, Middle School Sports, sports, Uncategorized, Wrestling) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

It was suggested to me that more Moms need to learn how to get their kids on the mat.  So if you’re thinking about letting your son (or daughter) wrestle, here’s what I wish someone would have told me when I was new:

Nutrition: 

Your son will learn more about nutrition than any career dieter you know.  He’ll know exactly how many calories or grams of food he can consume and in what time frame.  Let him do it, as long as it doesn’t get unhealthy.  Harping on him will only make him carry this out in secret.  Better to be involved as an objective observer.  It’s another part of wrestling.  While this is not one of my favorite parts, we’re not going to change it.

Tournaments: 

First, know that schedules are useless.  Tournaments rarely start on time, and there is no way to predict when you’ll be leaving.  Don’t expect to know when your child is wrestling, because he’ll go when it’s his turn.  That’s all.  You can sometimes figure it out by what weights are wrestling at the current moment.  But don’t quote me on that.  As a structured person and lover of schedules, this was probably the most difficult thing for me to contend with at first.

More on Tournaments:

Don’t bring a book, you won’t read it.  I still always carry one in my bag for an emergency that might stop the action, but I have not opened it in all the tournaments I’ve attended.  You will be too busy rooting on kids you don’t know nor ever will.  After every tournament I come home and empty my bag and think “Why do I keep packing this?”  Yet in it goes, every Friday night.

Do bring:  Tylenol, Aleve, Tums….it’s good to have a general sampling of everything that’s in your medicine cabinet.  Hey, it’s a long day, you never know what could happen.  There will be someone who needs something you brought.

You can spend your free time at the food table, eating, catching up on gossip, or cleaning up after the kids who’ve eaten.  You’ll do a lot of cleaning.  You can also spend time studying the brackets posted on the wall.  (Haha….I joke.  I can’t figure them out either.  Just ask the nearest male.  They always know how to make sense of these.  I truly feel there is some kind of estrogen filter applied when they create these).

A little daunted by the prospect of a tournament?  The dual meets make up for it.  They are easy, fun, and short.  They start out with a different weight class every time, and while I have no idea how they decide who starts, at least you know when your kid is wrestling.  My kid’s at 103.  If they start with 119, I know he’ll be second to last.  Easy!

It will be difficult to watch:

It’s hard to watch your kid out there being twisted up like a pretzel.  It is also hard to watch him inflicting pain on another kid.  If you don’t have the stomach for it, I don’t know what to tell you.  He’ll be ok, that’s all I can say.**  My Mother, who never misses any of my sons other sporting events, has never been to a wrestling match.  She can’t handle it.  As a mother, you will just have to put on your big girl britches and deal.  We’ve done harder things.

**Wrestling is actually a pretty low-injury sport.  I know some ER nurses and doctors, and they tell me they see very few wrestlers, because they are so well conditioned, and the injuries are not usually ER-worthy.

Off season:

Your son (or daughter) might want to attend camps and clinics.  Let them do as much as you, your child, and your checking account can handle.  Trust me on this one.

What else can I say to someone who might be interested……support your coaches, get to know your fellow wrestling families, and let your kid educate you.  My son has taught me a lot about what he does and why he does it.  It’s awesome bonding time.

Above all, enjoy it.  Toward the end of the season you might be asking yourself what kind of psychotropic meds your doctor can hook you up with to deal with this one more week.  But when it’s over, you’ll miss it.

Here’s a nice page to look through if you’re still on the fence: http://www.yeshivawrestling.com/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1&Itemid=3#dangerous

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Just Breathe

August 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm (Wrestling) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I learned to breathe when I was in my late 20’s.  Really breathe, and make it work for you, not the automatic breathing that keeps you alive. When I had my kids, I discovered through the miracle that is Lamaze, that focusing on your breathing will get you through nearly anything.  I’ve used it ever since to get me through anything from a tough day at work, to relaxing enough to turn my mind off for sleep, to avoiding a tearful breakdown during the Puffs Plus commercial.

My oldest son is smaller than most.  He weighed in at 86lbs dripping wet when he tried wrestling for the first time as a 7th grader.  It had been a couple of years since he’d been involved in a sport, because the size differential got to be too much for football.  Baseball bored him, even though he showed promise there.  So I was relegated to watching his younger brother play baseball and basketball, sighing resignation that my oldest might not play sports anymore.

I encouraged him several times over the years to try youth wrestling, because I knew he was scrappy and had a good temperament for the sport.  He declined.  I let it go.  Then he wanted to check it out as a 7th grader.

I thought I knew what I was in for.  I watched a few wrestling matches in high school, and even kept score for the team as a sub on a couple of occasions.  I felt well versed enough to venture into this new world with him.

I would pick him up from the practices, and watch them doing their drills and super-tough conditioning, and was impressed in an “I don’t want to know too much about this” sort of way.  I was, after all, a single Mom who was trying to let her son go through the rite of passage of the Men’s Locker Room on his own, without too much Mom-volvement.  I knew the coaches would take care of him, and not push him past his limit. They wouldn’t do that, would they?  That crazy neck exercise that I can’t bear to watch is good for him, right?  Just breathe…..Coach has it covered, Mom.

What I would later learn was that his first match would nearly be the death of me.  Not him, me.

He was struggling with his grades, as many 7th graders do, and missed the first couple of dual meets.  He got his grades up, but for the next two, he wasn’t able to wrestle because there was no one in his weight class.  I missed one or two for work, and the short Middle School season was nearly over.  Talking it over with Coach, he mentioned that there was a tournament coming up, and he assured me I’d be able to watch my son wrestle then.   Finally!! And then, a sigh of relief!

I was so excited as I was preparing for this, what I was sure to be the best day of my sports Mom life in recent memory.  I knew how hard my son was working, on his grades and in the wrestling room.  I happily made my dish for the “team table” the night before, charged up the batteries in the video camera, and packed my first ever Wrestling Mom Tournament Bag complete with Advil, a good book, and granola bars.  I was ready!

I found my way to the school on the frozenMichiganroads, and was just this side of literally chirping with excitement.

I walked into the huge gym, full to the brim with screaming people and wall to wall wrestling mats.  What?  How was I ever going to find my son?  When does he wrestle?  (No one seemed to know).  Where do I find out what time he’s going?  (No one knew). Howcome no one can tell me when he’s wrestling? (Because they just can’t?).  This was not what I expected, at all!  You’d think that with such a big tournament there’d be a little organization!  How can there not be a schedule?  Just breathe, you’ll find your way around, and it will all work out.

As I was wandering around confused and disoriented, like I had entered a different dimension, I wondered how I’d ever make sense of this.  Then, I saw out of the corner of my eye, my son’s father jogging toward me.  (This man never hurries.  For anything).  “He’s getting ready, he’s going to wrestle in about two minutes!”  He huffed.  “What?  Where?  What?  Where do I go?”  I felt so helpless!  I followed him blindly to a seat with a perfect view of my son’s upcoming match.  Where is he?  Oh, there he is, at that table….ok, good.  Excitement is returning at this point, and I breathe another sigh of relief.  Knowing how I get at my boys’ sporting events, I told myself to keep calm and not scream.  We are indoors, after all.  I even asked my son prior to this day if I could cheer for him.  “No” was of course, the answer.  Keep calm, don’t scream, don’t embarrass him.  Got it.  Be calm and breathe.

After my son and the other boy put on their ankle cuffs and lined up, the ref blew his whistle and the two went at it.  They circled each other a couple of times, and then wham!  My son took his kid down.  They fought.  And they fought.  And they fought.  The other boy never got up, or what I would later learn to know as an escape.  My son ended up pinning him after wearing him out with some hold I still don’t know the name of, the Butcherman’s Passout-Choke Hold of Death I believe.  (Kind of illegal, my son told me later, but the ref didn’t call it, and it was working).  Mm-hmm.

As it turns out, I didn’t need to remind myself to verbally behave, because I was having a hard enough time reminding myself to breathe.  About 30 seconds into the match, I realized I hadn’t even taken a breath.  I thought I might pass out myself!  I was white knuckling my purse and about all I could do was blurt out my sons’ name every 10 seconds or so.  ANDREW!  ……..ANDREW!  This of course was extremely helpful.

I have still to this day never experienced anything quite like the intensity of a wrestling match.  I feel like a seasoned wrestling Mom now, after three seasons, and keep checking the calendar to see if it’s November yet, excited for my fourth.  It’s almost inexplicable, the feeling you get when watching your son wrestle.  Whether he’s winning or losing, it’s always the same.  It’s a crazy mixture of fright, adrenaline, pride, agony, happiness and/or sorrow.  And you run that gamut over and over; anywhere from 20 seconds (or less) to three long, agonizing periods that could last the longest nine minutes of your life.  That’s your heart and soul out there on the mat, giving his whole heart and soul, and not much else in life compares.

And even though I’m a self-proclaimed “seasoned wrestling Mom”, I still have to remind myself to breathe.

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