I never thought in a million years that I would be mat side holding my breath and nervously yelling things like “half nelson”, “sit out” or “shoot”, much less know what those words even mean. Growing up I dated a few wrestlers and to be quite honest, I hated going to their meets. I didn’t understand it and it seemed awkward watching two boys roll around on a mat trying to conquer each other in skin tight suspender looking outfits.
Two years ago, with some encouragement from my husband, my then 5 year old son decided that he wanted to try wrestling. While I was not excited about that idea, I thought it would be a good way for him to burn off some energy during the winter.
What I didn’t know was that it was just the beginning of what would consume my family’s time and passion every November through March.
In the beginning it was fun to watch my son dance around on the mat and play with his friends at practice while somehow learning a few wrestling moves along the way. He would practice at home with his older brother who at the time, had no interest in wrestling because there was no way he would ever wear a singlet (who could blame him!).
Then came the tournaments. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I read the fliers to understand that there would be some sort of weigh in really early and then matches would begin. I walked into the gym and was immediately overwhelmed. Why were all of these people here and why were they all yelling?
That first year was a learning experience for all of us. I had to sit and watch my baby getting pinned to the mat. Watch his face turn red as he gasped for air. Watch his opponent pick him up and drop him on his face. Watch him wrestle and lose to his first girl opponent. Watch him lose match after match. And watch his confidence soar when it was his hand that was raised in victory.
And I had to figure out how to respond to him. I had to fight every instinct to run out on that mat to rescue him when he was struggling. After the match, I couldn’t run to him and examine every inch of his body to make sure he was ok. I couldn’t show that I was disappointed, heartbroken, on the verge of tears, or too happy.
I had to figure out how to be a wrestling mom.
Luckily my husband was a former high school wrestler and coached my son, so I had someone to help me understand the fundamentals and guide me through the world of wrestling. Regardless of what I knew or didn’t know, I was hooked.
There is something about being a wrestling mom that is so different from any other sport my boys have played. I have sat on the sidelines and watched both of my sons play football and baseball and while it is exciting to watch and I get the same nervous feeling when they are up to bat, on the pitching mound or set to receive the ball for a touchdown, nothing quite compares to the intensity of watching my child on the wrestling mat.
When a wrestler walks out on the mat, he is all by himself. There is no one behind the plate to catch that wild pitch or someone that will throw him the perfect spiral when he is open in the end zone. He is out there all by himself with just his body to use as a tool to overcome his opponent. The outcome which can change in a second, is all on him. He gets to claim the victories himself and also own his own defeats. There is no other sport that teaches the discipline and sacrifice that wrestling does.
It’s our third wrestling season and this year my older son decided to give wrestling a try. I couldn’t be happier. And while I would like to think I have become a little bit more seasoned in the wrestling world, it will still always feel like that first match where I will have to remind myself to breath.