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Confidence is Key

I staggered and my vision flashed and blurred around the edges. I staggered and pushed myself back up. Another blow and, my vision flashed red and then settled into a peaceful black. Sweet unconsciousness.

Butterflies entered my stomach at the end of wrestling practice. Sweat was moving in salty drops down my hot face. I was breathing heavily as the coach called us in to end the practice. The red cracked mats bent under the weight of out whole team. “Tomorrow is a big day” he said, “At our first tournament we need to make a name for ourselves as individuals and as a team. We will be a force to be reckoned with. this season. Be here tomorrow morning 5:00 A.M. Good practice” He concluded. As we rolled up the red and gold mats, the schools colors, people around me spoke of weigh ins and wrestling moves they were planning on using the next day. I on the other hand was just thinking of how I was going to survive. I was in 8th grade at the time only given the opportunity to join the program early because my brother was a varsity captain so there was, you could say a certain bar I had to meet. Wrestling is in the blood they said. So with the butterflies started in my stomach I left the large gym on the outskirts of the schools campus and climbed into the passenger side of my brothers black mini cooper as he turned the key and the engine roared to life.. And we began the short trek home. “Are you ready for tomorrow?” he said, as we pulled into the driveway, the lights in the house indicating that my parents were home. “We’ll find out” I said without a single note of confidence in my voice.

I woke the next morning by the scream of my brother, “Get up now!” he bellowed, and I rolled off my bed smacking the floor with a nice ‘thud’ and pushed myself to my feet. My muscles ached form the previous days practice. I ran after him pulling clothes on as I flew down the carpeted staircase and grabbing my blue nike bag that I had hung on the front door that night. It contained my headgear, singlet, and shoes that I would need in order to wrestle. I had just hopped in the car and glanced at the radio. 5:30 am. I moaned inwardly. As he took off my eyelids slid shut and just as sleep began to greet my once more into its long and silky arms I started at the sound of the friction of tire on asphalt. We were there already. I climbed out of the car like a zombie. Threw the bag around my shoulder and blindly followed my brother as he greeted the rest of the team and coaches. I had only been wresting 2 weeks so I hadn’t really made any friends yet and so I simply nodded to the coach, climbed into the back of the white vans that transported us to our sport meets and promptly fell asleep.

As I awoke wrestlers were climbing out of the van, as they exited they pulled their shoes and singlet on. I stumbled out tripping over my own feet pulling my left shoe on. As I stood I froze and my mouth slowly dropped, a small drop of saliva spilling from my lower lip. The crowd was massive. Kids everywhere, headgear dangling from arms or loosely sat upon heads. As we passed the main horde of wrestlers and entered the gym, a boy walked past me. No not a boy, a man. He had a shaved head and a long blonde beard that ended in a tight braid looked like a younger Hulk Hogan “How many steroids do you think that kid takes?” the coach said from the head of the group. Laughter rippled through the group, but not I, I gulped and said a silent prayer that I would not have to wrestle that man. As we walked into the gym, the large wooden rows of rafters were packed with a mixture of parents and wrestlers. Voices echoed and reverberated off of the painting brick walls. There were chairs in the far left of the gym that shone red and gold as the light hit them with “Hemet Wrestling” printed on them in deep gold. We sat and waited for out opposing team to find their seats and the matches to begin.

Boy was I wrong; as my turn came around I stepped into the small white ring that sat inside of the larger white ring on the red matt indicating the boundaries of the match. I strapped my headgear onto my skin. The red plastic was cool and tight on my chin and temples. The boy who stepped out had no facial hair. No hair at all actually. He was probably 5”4. He was short but very stout and I could see his muscles catch the light. Relief shot through my body like an arrow just loosed. “Finally” I thought, someone who I have a chance of beating. He stepped into the ring strapping his headgear on as well. And then he began to thrash his head around like a gorilla about the pound the floor. And to my surprise he did, beating the floor with large fisted hands he let out a few strange grunts it sounded like he was in pain and I was about to ask if we was alright when he sprang toward me. I jumped back and we settled into positions to the left and right of the referee. I was having second thoughts at this point. “Shake hands” said the referee, his white and black stripped shirt and whistle made it very apparent who he was. I did as commanded. His grip was firm. I lowered my body and entered an offensive wrestling stance. The whistle blew and the ref barked, “Wrestle!” He charged me headfirst and as we collided something that felt like a granite boulder hit my head once. I staggered and my vision flashed and blurred around the edges. I staggered and pushed myself back up. As I looked back up I saw the referee pull the creature off of me and as I staggered to my feet he asked, “Can you go on?” I nodded my head incomprehensibly. He brought me back to the center of the matt and we shook hand again. The whistle blew and before I could understand what was happening he was on me. Another blow and, my vision flashed red and then settled into a peaceful black. Sweet unconsciousness.



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