New sport, new lessons

"I don't usually read the wrestling news," my friend said on the phone, "but I saw your name in the paper."

Or, more precisely, my son's name. He was in the headlines after winning a high school heavyweight championship in our part of the state.

Time was I didn't read the wrestling news, either. As the mother of two sons, I was no stranger to sports: Soccer, baseball, football, and lacrosse gear have littered our lawn for years. But wrestling? Wasn't that the hokey stuff of late-night TV?

Then my older son, fired up by an enthusiastic coach, decided to give wrestling a try. I knew better than to suggest my favorite sport – figure skating. But how about diving, cross-country, maybe crew? No, wrestling it was for my son – and a lesson for me in how children are not their parents.

There followed many firsts. The first time, for instance, I saw my son throw another boy to the floor and sit on him. The first time I saw my son thrown to the floor and sat upon. The first time I heard myself in the bleachers yelling, "Pin him! Come on, you can do it, pin him!"

In 10th-grade English class, my son had an assignment to make a speech on a subject about which he felt strongly. I wasn't surprised that he chose the topic of wrestling, but as he practiced his speech the night before it was due, I was taken aback to hear what he had to say.

He traced the origins of wrestling to ancient cave paintings and the first Olympics. He explained the various styles, the basic moves, the scoring, the tough training required to excel. Then he wrapped it up: "Wrestling is more than a sport; it's a lifestyle. Wrestling is about doing your best. Win or lose, it's my responsibility. That's why I like wrestling."

And to think I ever had doubts about this sport.

I can't say that I have grown complacent about watching my son wrestle. It is a rough contact sport with an elemental appeal. Unlike, say, figure skating, there are no fancy costumes, no music, no smiles for the judges, just body versus body, strength versus strength, skill versus skill.

Yet guess who my son's closest friends are? The very wrestlers he has beaten or been beaten by.

Rivalry exists, of course, but so does mutual respect. That great physical conflict on the wrestling mat seems to purge any other discord. As my son says, wrestling is a bond.

So I've come a long way from the days when I didn't know a takedown from a duck under. When my son called from wrestling camp last summer, elated that Cael Sanderson had stopped in for a visit, I actually knew who Cael Sanderson was (an Olympic gold medal wrestler).

I understand why my friend is not in the habit of reading the wrestling news. But now I follow it regularly. Even a middle-aged parent, set in her sportive ways, can learn a few new moves.

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