It is a long bus ride to the other school and their locker rooms are damp and wet. The linoleum floors are as cold as icicles as I walk after stripping down to be weighed in, and as I take off my pants, I feel a sharp pain shoot through my knee from a previous injury. I step on the scale and just make it for my weight class of 160 pounds. I get off and slip on my slick, jet black B.H.S. varsity singlet. It is so skin tight and natural feeling that I still feel as though I were naked walking out onto the mat for our team warm-up.
As I spar with my partner on the mat, I know when match time comes that I will forget everything and wrestle on reflex alone. Since there are five other wrestlers before me, I wait for my turn, always anxious and quiet on a match day. Each of my teammates, one after another, gets pinned and loses, flopping on their backs, fluttering on the mat like fish gasping for air.
Then it's my turn. I tighten my headgear, pull up my knee pads and walk out onto the mat with the coach yelling at me, red-faced from all our losses. I shake hands with my opponent and my body tenses as I wait to start wrestling. The whistle blows and, faster than I can count to one, I'm grabbed and thrown onto the mat. A lot of things go through my mind as I am down on the mat with a man my own weight on top of my back trying to flip me over any way he knows how.
The coach is yelling a flurry of wrestling moves for me to do, all of which I forget, this being my first year at the sport. I go to stand up, and as I take my first step, I feel the sensation of floating in air as the mat rushes up to meet my body. As I lay there, I begin feeling the most incredible pain as my knees rush to meet my head and my body is compacted like so much garbage to be thrown away. As I struggle to get free, I realize that it's only been 18 seconds and the referee blows the whistle again and I'm released.
I get up and find myself soaked with sweat and at the short end of the stick, as I've just lost my first varsity match. I bow my head in shame as my opponent's arm is raised in victory and the throbbing in my knee gets worse. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.