The Season From Hell (How Our Team Learned to Swim)

August 26, 2011 at 10:36 pm (High School Sports, Middle School Sports, sports, Uncategorized, Wrestling) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

My favorite Uncle was a Marine who served in Viet Nam, and who, when he returned from war, went into law enforcement.  He was a gruff man on the outside, but loving and very protective.  He taught his two kids to swim at the tender age of five by walking them out to the end of a pier and just throwing them off.  It still sounds horrifying to me, and I could never wrap my head around the concept when my cousin would talk of how she and her brother learned to swim.  “But”, she says, “we didn’t sink, and he was right there to help us if we struggled”.  “And……we learned how to swim”.  Indeed.

Last year was my oldest son’s freshman year of High School.  His Middle School coaches were a gym teacher and a former football coach (from MY time in the same Middle School, 25 years ago), neither of whom were wrestlers.  They meant well, and taught some basics, but our freshman team came to the High School very unprepared.

Our Class A school, who has more wrestlers on “Trophy Row” than any other sport, had a wrestling team of 15 last year.

We started out with a few more, but three upperclassmen quit the team before the first meet for personal reasons.

One of our heavyweight upperclassmen was ineligible to wrestle all year long, until the very last tournament.  He was over weight.

The night of our first meet, one of our other heavyweights broke his leg during warm ups.

At one of our first tournaments we had a boy break a cervical vertebrae and another suffered a concussion, within minutes of each other.

It seemed our poor gimpy team could endure no more.  I think we lost every one of our team meets, because we were so empty in weight classes, there was no way we could catch up to some of the schools with bigger teams.

I think very highly of our High School coaching staff.  They are top notch, and have extremely impressive credentials.  You couldn’t help but feel bad for them as much as the boys, given the circumstances of this season from hell.

Not only did these coaches have a shrinking team of ill-prepared Freshman, the kids had to share their practice room with the competitive cheer team.

That’s right, I said…… Competitive.  Cheer.

The boys kind of thought this was a good gig at first, until they started actually trying to hear what Coach was teaching them.

Despite the bumps and bruises, and what was stacked against them, (literally, in pyramid form), they had promise. They had raw talent, and they had heart.  And if they didn’t have heart when the season began, they sure had it by the end.

Our Coaches had no choice but to throw these kids off the deep end.  The only other option would have been to drop out of the events we were scheduled for, which was of course, a non-option.  Wrestlers wrestle.  So out they went, every Saturday morning and some Wednesday nights, getting torn to shreds.

I’m not going to pretend like we had this amazing “come from behind to win it all”, season that would make a perfect cheesy Hollywood script.  I’m not even going to pretend it was easy to watch.  In fact, it was downright torturous at times, watching these kids go up against bigger, stronger, older and far more experienced kids match after match after match.

They lost, and lost often.

A couple of times, it was all I could do to not let my son see  tears welling up in my eyes for him.

Our wrestlers were learning how to wrestle just like my cousins learned how to swim.  Coach walked them by the hand to the end of a pier, and threw them off.

And just like my cousins, they didn’t sink.  And just like with my cousins, the one who led them to the edge and threw them off was right there to help them if they struggled.

At the end of the season, these boys held their heads high as they ALL received their first Varsity “letter”.

This year shows much more promise for a winning season.  We’ve got a lot of new freshman coming up, who had some very good coaching last season by new coaches at the Middle School.  And thanks to  a deal made by our Senior state placer, that if he went out for football, the football players would come out to wrestle, I think our numbers will be up as well more to where they should be.

But I don’t think any of this small group of now-Sophomores will forget what they went through last year.

I hope they don’t.

 

 

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