And here I thought I had seen it all.
Until I witnessed my first high school wrestling meet.
As (an epic absence of) luck would have it, my son was the first one to wrestle, and it was his first match ever, if you’re not counting the constant 5 boy wrestling meet that goes on in our living room.
To say this son (who shall remain nameless) was reluctant would be so much of an understatement that you would need to scream it at the top of your lungs through an industrial blow horn so that every mammal within 3 concentric zipcodes could hear. That is, except for all of the high school wrestling coaches whose ‘yelling voice’ could drown out your blow horn like it’s a tiny plastic kazoo.
“Why wrestling?” you ask? We expect each child to play one sport each season. Nearly all of them play soccer in the Spring and Fall, we have a football player, a karate devotee, a gymnast and now two wrestlers. When faced with the proverbial question of which sport he was picking as a 7th grader, this particular son wanted to wrestle, so I bought all of the equipment. All of it. Some very short time later (as in immediately after the first practice), he no longer wanted to wrestle, but was out of luck with his mama.
He’s a strong kid, built like a brick house. His brothers and friends call him “The Tank” because he’s well… a tank. He is pleasant, polite, smart, funny and really stubborn. He has been known to move so slowly to do household chores, that he actually turned back time.
So, the ref called his name and he went up to the mat, shook hands with his opponent and then they started…. WRESTLING!!! I couldn’t believe it! It’s what I spend half my life getting the boys to STOP doing in our living room, and now I am watching it on PURPOSE? “What have I DONE???? I wailed, as I plunged my head into my purse so that I could not see some kid try to bend my son’s arm three times around his body and hit him in the skull with it.
I felt the estrogen drain from my being as people cheered on both boys, all the while I heard some really familiar woman’s muffled voice “YOU BOTH ARE IN A LOT OF TROUBLE!!!”
You may not know this, but if you yell while your head is inside your purse, it’s loud.
But not as loud as some woman behind me screaming, “FINISH HIM OFFF!!!!!” “HOLD HIS NECK DOWN WITH YOUR ELBOW!!!!!!”
Finally the clock stopped and the boys detangled. I held myself to the bench with a sweaty desperate grip, lest I run down and grab my son, throw him over my shoulder like those women who pick up overturned buses when their kids are on board and run like hell from that smelly place.
Then they were back at it again- and then AGAIN! The third time, the ref who had been doing some crazy version of ‘the worm’ on the mat the whole time, held my son’s hand up and people clapped.
“I think that means ‘this kid with his arm up needs his mommy- please come get him right now?!!!” I told another, more experienced wrestling mom.
“No, it means he won.”
“Won what, his arm back?”
“No, the match.”
It took me a few days to recover.
Since that first memorable evening, I have attended a few more wrestling meets, one of which was a multi-school tournament with three mats of wrestlers competing at once.
The wrestlers may be hurling one another onto a deceptively thin rubber mat, but it’s the coaches I worry about. I’ve been brushing up on my CPR, because those men look like they’re one hoarse rant away from a full on aneurism with a cardiac chaser.
These coaches don’t look like they’re having much fun, but I know enough about the testosterzone to know that looks can be deceiving. So I called my friend, Bob Stulmaker, former Head Coach for Saratoga Section II Wrestling. He is a smart, funny, warm and remarkably calm man—I couldn’t imagine him blowing a giznot for ‘sport.’ I asked him what advice he had for mothers of wrestlers, and his words have made all the difference to me as I support my sons in what may be a sport they come to love and appreciate for the fitness, discipline and sense of personal accomplishment it can create.
Bob said, “Understand the sport, know the scoring process. That will help it look less frightening and chaotic for you. If you know what’s going on, you’ll be able to see your sons progress in their skills, and you’ll be able to track them learning and developing a difficult set of strategies and moves that help them succeed at this sport.”
I’ve been trying that, and while I sometimes still have to look (far, far) away, my purse stays on the bleachers where it belongs.
Are you a wrestling mom? PLEASE HELP ME! 🙂 I always love to hear your stories! @CoreyJamisonLLC
This blog was originally published by the Times Union and can be accessed here.