Sunday, February 02, 2003


(the real kind)

Today I went to my first wrestling tournament since I stopped wrestling myself (yes, that's a very long time), and have mixed emotions and a few random observations.

On the Good Side:

1) Even those who've never wrestled should be able to enjoy a good match. It moves at lightning speed, there's no down time, and a wrestler with an insurmountable points lead can still lose in the final seconds (as happened twice today). Good wrestling is about the best spectator sport around.

2) Wrestling is also a damn fine sport to participate in. Not only is it a lot of fun, but it feeds something primal within us, something that wants to know how we stack up against our fellow man one-on-one.

3) Wrestling is the most egalitarian sport around. No expensive equipment is required; nor do you need a very big space to work with. Poor schools can compete on a level playing field with rich ones, and poor kids with rich ones as well.

On the Bad Side:

1) There's still a big problem (and I don't know what to do about it) with kids starving themselves to make weight. I remember being yelled at for having lunch when I was a teen, and I know damned well I'm not the only one. I had friends who'd gorge on burgers and then vomit it back up, and others who took diuretics. There's no way to stop this sort of shit completely, but coaches can certainly make the environment less friendly to it.

2) Wrestling is the most brutally Darwinian sport there is. Not only is there only one winner, as in all individual sports, but he wins by asserting physical domination over his opponents. Losing a wrestling match is the most dispiriting kind of loss there is. Not only can't you blame your teammates or the playing conditions to rationalize your defeat, but you (quite literally) have defeat rubbed in your face as you're pinned to the ground.

Random Observations:

1) Oddly enough, with the majority of wrestlers trying to hard to make weight, there are now a number in the upper weight bracket wrestlers who are really, really overweight. I saw a couple who probably shouldn't be involved in competitive sports in any way until they drop some serious weight. These guys wouldn't have even survived the practices I used to go through, and there's no way a doctor should've signed off on them wrestling.

2) It's a whole lot more fun watching the little guys than the big ones. Things move a lot faster and the technique seems a lot cleaner. The big guys seem to try to muscle each other into submission.

3) I don't know if coaching has changed, or what, but at times it looked like I was watching Greco-Roman. When I wrestled, we were taught to go for the legs before all else. Not only did we use the legs for take-downs, but hooking an opponent's leg with an arm and lifting was the preferred method for pinning. Today, I rarely saw anyone going for the legs once on the ground. They were just trying to use body-weight to pin instead of leverage. My coaches would not have been happy.

4) There's still no NBA/NFL-style showboating in wrestling, Thank God. Shakes hands with each other, shake hands with the opponent's coach, give your coach a little hug, and sit the hell down. Wrestling's old school, and so am I.