It’s 4 AM. My alarm labeled “titles” brings me up from my deep sleep. I wake up to the song “A-Team” by Travis Scott. My eyes barely open, I’m desperate for any type of food. But, as with any dedicated wrestler, I am cutting weight and I’m very close to being over my required weight. Although, I do prepare a lunch, more of a breakfast, for after my weigh-ins, which consists of a plain turkey sandwich, a bag of my favorite jalapeno, kettle cooked Lays, a few granola bars, a handful of fruit snack pouches, and two very delicious naked juice, mango flavored. My dad also awakes and he says, “Are you ready?” I reply with a simple, “Yes,” very tiredly of course due to the fact that I didn’t get a sufficient amount of sleep. My dad then proceeds to heat up the car and I follow. We both barely said a word on our way to the school because I was both concentrated on my goals and similarly, we were both fatigued.
I get off the car and say goodbye to my father. I remember the times he tells me, “Don’t stay on your back! Get up and out and bring the fight to him!” Those words were ringing in my head throughout the whole day. My dad does not like to see me see get pinned or on my back. He thinks that there is a bigger lesson to be learned from sports, and not just winning and losing. That’s something my father and I agree on. We have similar values.
As I arrive at the school I am greeted by my coaches, Carlsen and Nielsen, and all of my comrades. I proceed to check my weight, and fortunately I’m on my weight. I look forward to eating my brunch after weigh ins. I hop on the cold, shivering bus, find my seat, set up my pillow comfortably, wrap myself in my warm Chicago Cubs blanket, and cruise along for the hour and a half bus ride
I fall asleep.
“Everybody up!” Coach Carlsen awakes everybody from their slumber. We have arrived at the venue for competition: Minooka High School. We get off the bus and we immediately go to the weigh in area as we were running late. Our whole team is on weight which was a rare occasion. We all wanted to make weight though because, this was one of the biggest tournaments in the state for middle school wrestling. After weigh ins everyone stuffs their mouths and stomachs with food. I remember one amazing thing that they had there was the smoothies. It would glide down your throat and give you a pleasing chill. The flavors of mango, pineapple, and banana would explode in your mouth. By far best part of going to that tournament.
Soon after we’re all settled and the whole team has warmed up and drilled together my teammates were being called up to wrestle. They were all doing pretty well. Then my name gets called up. Nerves rush through my body. I take off my warm up apparel, head to the mat I will be wrestling on, and get ready for battle. I had a by first round so I know if I win this match I will automatically place. I think of the morning news we have at our school. My name being recognized for the whole school to hear. That would be awesome. I start doing my warm up routines. The room felt like we were in colorado in the mountains. The air was humid and very thin. My opponent and I step on the mat. I do my pre match ritual and shake his hand. With both of our feet on each of our red and green lines the match is ready to begin; the referee blows the whistle. The battle has begun. We’re both fighting for hand and inside control, the advantageous positions in the neutral position. I know that I’m not very explosive or strong, but I am fast like a bullet, with the agility of a rabbit. Both of our heads crashing, our feet moving, butts down keeping a low stance, hands protecting all of my vulnerable areas. This was truly a dogfight. Finally, I see an opening and hit my setup. The drag by. I pull his tricep and his wrist at the same time, causing his foot to land literally right on my toes. Then, I perform my signature move. The outside single. Quickly, I lower my level, rush to the outside of his leg, and do sweeping motion as I lift up my opponent’s leg. This is a position I like to be in. With a tight grip on my opponent’s leg, hoisted above my waist, I quickly trip him in front of his thigh, and he falls with a devastating thud. 2 points flash up on the scoreboard in green with little time left on the clock. I maintain in the dominant position for the rest of the period and restrain my enemy from gaining any more points.
The 2nd period begins and my coach puts me in the bottom position. The bottom position is one of my weaknesses so I give a big sigh and point down towards the mat, signaling to the official that I want to take the bottom position. I kneel down with my knees behind the first line, laces spread out toward the mat, my hands in front of the second line and most importantly, my head up. The ref says, “Bottom man ready?” I shake my head notifying him that I’m ready. “Topman cover,” My opponent covers me in the referee position, one knee down by my elbow, one foot up behind my heels, his hand wrapped around my elbow, and his arm wrapped around my waist on my belly button. The ref gives a loud blow of his whistle and we’re off. I quickly crossover my hand in order to defend my hand getting chopped. I slip my left leg under my waist and sit out on my butt. Without thinking, I punch my free hand over, arch my back, and quickly hustle around my foe. Again 2 points flash up on the scoreboard and now I am up 4-0. “Good! Beautiful!” Coach Carlsen shouts at me in a pleased manner. We practice that move called the switch all week in practice, and he is overjoyed that one of his wrestlers performed when it really counts. Hard work pays off. I look up at him in gratitude and finish off the period in the dominant position. The scoreboard rings, and my coach calls me to his corner. “You’re doing good. Just keep wrestling, stay smart and don’t get caught on your back,” he says.
I respond with a elementary, “Yes coach.”
The third and possibly final period begins. Since I had the choice in the 2nd period, my opposition get’s the choice in the third. My opponent selects the neutral position. We start on our feet again; the same way we did in the first period. My adversary charges at me aggressively,and grabs hold of me in a collar tie. One hand on my neck and one on my bicep controlling me. His grip is tight and I feel the strength of his arm against my face. The collar tie is my weakness and I can tell that this is his strength by how comfortably he is controlling me so I quickly push myself away from him, and I begin wrestling from the outside by getting wrist control. I am comfortable with my 4 point lead so I have a more laid back approach. I keep circling around the wrestling mat; shuffling my feet staying away from danger. Foolishly, I look over to see how much time is left: about 45 seconds. Ironically, my vision is blurry because I’m not wearing my glasses. My feet cross over (rookie mistake) and my rival quickly dives at my feet. I am left in a susceptible situation. I’m standing almost straight up with my heels down. Almost the worst spot you can be other than your back. Before I know it, he’s cutting the corner, his head on the side of my ribs, looking at the ceiling. I’m quickly on my belly face down towards the mat. Two points flash up in red on the scoreboard with about 30 seconds left. Luckily for me, my matchup isn't a very intelligent wrestler and he tries to turn me on back with less than 30 seconds left. I’m sitting comfortable down there with less than 20 seconds left. My coach has always told me that my wrestling smarts were a big advantage that not many wrestlers have. He’s persistent with attempts to put me on my back. He tries every move in the book: the crossface cradle, the rib cage cradle, half nelson, power half, the armbar. Nothing works on me because I stick to my fundamentals and he fails on his attempts. The final buzzer rings and we are brought up to our feet. We shake hands and my hand is raised victorious.
Getting your hand raised after days of preparation, sweat, and hard work is one of the best feelings ever. The whole sport of wrestling has taught me so many lessons. It has taught me to work hard toward my goals no matter what it takes. It has taught me when life puts me on my back to stand up and fight, like a warrior. It has taught me how be tough when life gets tough. My coaches and the sport of wrestling have taught me so many life skills and lessons that can’t be learned anywhere else. I truly believe that wrestling is the sport of men.