Young grappler learns; parents get lesson too

Young grappler learns; parents get lesson too

This article was originally published in North County News.

He weighed in at 52 pounds, well under the 55-pound entry-level weight class. Peter, my 7-year-old son, adjusted his headgear and checked in with the official’s table before coming to the center of the mat, waiting for his opponent.

He had come to wrestle in the B tournament. After five practices and two officiated matches, Peter was scheduled to wrestle at the B-level, before facing the more experienced wrestlers at the A-level.

But today the A team needed a 55-pounder. To avoid a forfeit, the coach told me that he may put Peter in.

“Just don’t let him get mauled,” I said. “I don’t want Pete to get discouraged before he has a chance to build up his skills.”

Finally, his opponent checked in and met Pete on the mat. The match began. Immediately I knew there had been a mistake.

This kid exploded at the whistle, shooting in on Peter and taking him to his back in seconds. Peter squirmed, twisting his hips forward, getting his back off the mat. Our team’s crowd winced collectively. “That kid is good,” one parent whispered. “Oh no, please no,” I sighed. “C’mon, Pete!” I yelled. Soon all the parents were cheering him on, realizing the imbalance of the match. This young wrestler gave Peter a clinic. Single-leg take down. Double-leg. Half-nelson. And the menacing “cradle.” When performed correctly, this move results in a pin, the goal of every wrestling match. Peter was cradled three times. Three times he escaped. What was truly amazing though, was how he escaped.

Just as Peter was about to be pinned, his coach shouted, “Straighten your leg!”

Pete did it and the hold would be broken. Again, he was about to get caught in the move, the coach yelled, “Grab his hand, Pete!”

Pete did it and the cradle lock was broken. Other moves put Pete on his back, again. “Head up! Bridge! Turn!” the coach directed. Done. Done. Done. Peter complied.

In the final seconds, the duo wandered to the far side of the mat, away from the coach and right in front of me. Peter faced down, his opponent still riding him hard. Pete peeked up and met my eyes. He was looking to me for help.

“Stand up, Pete!” I cried. “Lean into him!” I’d watched that drill so many times that the words just tumbled out. And he did. The buzzer sounded. The crowd cheered. Peter had lost, but had not been pinned.

Other parents consoled me. “That match took a lot of courage.” “You have one tough kid with a lot of heart,” they said.

But what struck me most was the teachability of the moment. Clearly outmatched, he held his own when he was coached as to what to do. Pete was one 52-pound package of potential just waiting to be developed.

Parenthood’s purpose just became a little clearer. We start with these 5 to 10-pound bundles of joy that quickly show us how different life can be with one small addition. From time to time, they peek up at us, looking to us for help. And if we are lucky, we know the right thing to say or do.

As they grow, we grow too, trying to decipher their demands and discover their talents. Often the most painful discoveries are those of our own limitations and our need to bring others in our children’s lives to help them develop to their full potential. After the match, the coach came over to us. “Peter was terrific,” he began. “He faced a tough, experienced opponent and he did well. Although he lost, he kept the score low enough to avoid a ‘major decision’ result or pin that would have awarded our opponents more points. He helped us win today and you should be very proud.”

And I was. And I am. Proud and scared and excited, but most of all, challenged to keep putting people in Peter’s life who will help him develop all his potentials, both on and off the mat.

Peter wrestled three matches that day. Although losing both A-level matches, he won the B-level, 19-7. Teachable. Highly teachable.