He tried basketball through the rec league. He liked it, but knew at his height there was no way he could compete on a High School level. He has Scouts, which he also enjoys, but that too will be ending soon, as he will be starting his Eagle project this summer. And while he can continue until he turns 18, he sees how busy the older Scouts get with school and work, and knows deep down that it will not last much through his Junior year. So, while I was not surprised that he was looking for something else to do, I was completely taken back when he came home in November and told me he was joining the wrestling team.
The. Wrestling. Team.
The hardest, most demanding, of all sports in his school. The one with full physical skin contact... that can lead to ring worm and staff infections. And those snazzy singlets.... *shudder*.... Lord help him. *sigh*
Our school has one of the best programs in the state. Partly because of the recruitment process that starts for most kids in elementary school, and partly because of the extremely demanding yet unbelievably supportive head coach, who has coached here for over 20 years. He is tough. They practiced on Christmas Eve. They practiced during the blizzard two weeks ago. Their 6 day a week workouts are the most brutal of all the sports. And yet, this coach is like the Pied Piper to them.
This year there are roughly 67 kids on the team. Of those, maybe 15 are Varsity. He reserves 14 of the remaining 53 for the starting JV line. This means that roughly 39 or so compete against each other, but not in tournaments. And yet, they stay. They stay for the chance of a "wrestle off" to earn their place on the line. When one kid isn't preforming, is disrespectful in any capacity, or his grades waiver, there are tens more that will take their place. I've never seen anything like it.
There are 4 boys in Youngest's weight class. And somehow, having never wrestled before, ever, he earned a spot on the JV start line. They've had him weigh in for back up Varsity. They've had him weigh in in front of opposing caches for a 2 pound swing (whatever that means). He works out. He's keeping his grades up on his own. He's eating healthier that he ever has. It's given him a place, separate of his brother, a way to challenge himself and push his limits. It gives his a feeling of belonging.
I rarely catch his meets. Mostly because of my work schedule and his brother's basketball schedule, but also partly because they are tough to watch. Last week he competed against a Varsity player on an opposing team. He lost the match on points, which in layman's terms means he lasted the entire match without getting pinned, but his opponent was more technical. And since his opponent is ranked tenth in the State, I suspect he did quite well. He won his first match of the day today, only to lose the subsequent 3. In his second match, his opponent flipped him, slamming him into the mat by way of his face (that's not legal), knocking the wind out of him and leaving him needing to be checked by the coaches and refs before they could restart. There was no way that his small ear protectors, flimsy forehead padding, or mouth guard could protect him from that. He lasted about 2 more minutes before he succumbed to the pin. The refs didn't call the penalty. Like in any sport, there's always calls that go unnoticed.
But it does make me wish I could put him back in that full head, padded red sparring helmet. That sucker could take a hit.