I’ve become a fan of the Hamilton Heights wrestling program.
It surprises me to write that because wrestling is as far from my peace-loving, non-confrontational psyche as the Arctic Circle is from Antarctica.
If you’ve never been to a meet, trust me when I say there can be more twists, entanglements and which-way-is-up holds in a 6-minute match than you’d see at a weeklong contortionist convention.
Yet, after spending approximately 15 years chastising my nearly 17-year-old son against rough housing, I now find myself yelling, “Sweep his legs.” “Flip him over, Christopher.” “Hold him down.”
Let me tell you: Soft, teenage flesh makes a heck of a slam when it hits hard rubber. I can’t help but wonder how a wrestler’s knees feel when he gets thrown to the mat after being lifted shoulder high into the air. My knees hurt in empathy all the way up in the bleachers.
Invariably, that’s when my eyes squint, my face grimaces and I mutter a parental “ooooo,” no matter what school the far-flung wrestler represents.
I’m not the smartest wrestling mom, mind you. In fact, the matches make about as much sense to me as advanced calculus. (Who am I kidding? Make that basic calculus.)
I rarely know who’s winning until the ref raises one boy’s arm. And it wasn’t until “my” third meet that I learned how to read the scoreboard. I’m starting to recognize when points are scored – still no idea how points are scored -- and I do know that when the ref slaps the mat and one side of the gym starts clapping, it’s a pin.
I also know that the boys work extremely hard to prepare for their matches. Practices can be exhausting. Coaches Rick Willoughby and Jason Reecer are respectfully demanding. Together, they’re working to build strong bodies and smart wrestlers.
There’s a camaraderie and solidarity among wrestlers that I haven’t seen in other sports. As each boy wrestles individually, HHHS teammates are on the sidelines, watching every move, encouraging loudly and cheering proudly.
Wrestlers have to shake off their losses or savor a win quickly when their match ends. After they get a job-well-done high five from each teammate, it’s time to focus on encouraging the next wrestler to do well. There’s no place in wrestling for sulking.
It might take years for me to understand the sport of wrestling, but I already know the point of Heights’ program and why it appeals to a pacifist. As these coaches train warriors, they're building the character of peacemakers.
Athletics are a valuable part of a child’s development. Add your comments about what benefits you, your son or your daughter has reaped from sports.