Mrs. Lankford Pins Wrestling
Wrestling: A Mother’s Perspective (Warning: I am sentimental, and sometimes cheesy).
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I have a love/hate relationship with wrestling. I love the intensity of the sport. Two competitors are on display, no holds barred, battling it out, pushed to their very limits. Six minutes becomes an eternity, and there is no one else to blame for the outcome. I also love that my son, Harrison, loves wrestling. How can I not love something that he loves? Actually, that is not very good logic. I strongly dislike video games, and he is a big fan. I also hate wrestling with a passion. I have seen my son and other mothers’ sons pretzeled, pinned, squashed, and stretched. I have counted the seconds as I have shouted, “Short time. You can make it” in hopes that he can avoid the dreaded pin. I believe that I actually ingested part of my sleeve on numerous occasions as I have looked on, horrified, as my child, my beloved son, has suffered on the mat while I was powerless to do anything but bite my sleeve and holler.
And boy, do I holler. A fellow West Ashley High School wrestling mother and I decided this year that we would make a list of the terrible things people say at wrestling matches. Here are a few of my favorites. I may have said one or two of them myself.
“Grab his leg.”
“Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.”
“Push his neck…or his head…or his leg…or his [insert body part]”
“Stuff the head.” (I am not kidding. I heard this one last night).
“Hard. Hard. Hard.”
“Turn him. Turn him.”
“Drag him back in.”
“Tie him up.”
And for those who know their wrestling moves, you occasionally hear one of these:
“Run the half.”
Sometimes a spectator will advise the wrestler to “let him up, so you can get your two.” In other words, it is worth letting the opponent get 1 point for an escape if you can easily knock him down again for 2 points. What a brutal cycle!
I have also learned that white wrestling singlets are a bad idea, and that wrestling singlets with a map of the state of SC on the back are a particularly bad idea. The coach who chose that design was not thinking about the moment when a heavyweight would be leaning over with the state of SC displayed prominently on his rear end. Just saying.
What kind of world is this wrestling world? What happened to playing nicely? Why would my son try to pin someone else’s kid? Whose idea was this sport anyway? I am now on my third season as a wrestling Mom. It would be my fourth season if my baby had not torn his ACL during football practice (last play of practice, by the way) during his sophomore year. Don’t even get me started on that one. Harrison, and I have to admit, his parents, grieved the loss of that sophomore wrestling season. He had made it to the JV State Finals during his freshman year, and he had such high hopes for the next season. But, as I have said to him and to myself often, “It is what it is.” And he made the best of things. And since then, and now as a seasoned wrestling Mom, I have realized that I actually like a lot of things about wrestling because of the life lessons it teaches.
I like the way a match can turn on one bad move. A wrestler can go from winning by points to being pinned in a matter of seconds. Wrong moves have consequences, in wrestling and in life. Every move counts.
But, every wrestler is going to make an occasional mistake. No matter how good you are at something, you are going to lose once in a while. Even the best wrestlers lose now and then. Losing keeps you humble, and humility can be a really good thing. And there is always the next match—a chance for redemption.
One of my favorite things to see is the way two wrestlers battle hard, maybe for the whole six minutes, and then, after it is all over, they shake hands, maybe even hug, and they part friends (with the exception of the kid Harrison cross-faced a bit too hard). There is no long-term animosity, just appreciation for the competition.
And then, I guess this is the teacher in me coming out, I cheer inwardly when a coach immediately puts his arms around his wrestler after a match and shows him what he could have done differently. Instant feedback. When he grabs you here, you can slide this way and…you get the idea. Sometimes a coach drops to the ground to illustrate a way to escape. It is a beautiful thing to see—I know, this is cheesy. I have seen this interaction on the mat over and over again, and it always reminds me that coaches have such power to influence for good.
I only have a few more weeks of my son’s final wrestling season, and I have to admit that I am a bit sad. I will miss the unusual shouts from the spectators, the intensity on the mat, and the lessons about life, but I feel confident that Harrison will carry them with him always.