I spent last evening at a takedown tournament, watching Gabe, Trevor, and the rest of the multitude of boys in St. Michael-Albertville’s Youth Wrestling Program this year. With scores of young wrestlers — some rookies, like my sons; some crusty veterans of numerous club seasons — I guess they figured a takedown tourney would be the easier way to be sure everyone got some experience.
It ran like this: the boys were divided into eight squads, and the squads were paired off. Wrestlers were matched with opponents as close as possible to their same size and weight, and given one minute to score as many takedowns against each other as possible. A referee (members of the high-school JV team) would signal each takedown and quickly stand the boys up again and restart them. The team received one point for every takedown scored by their wrestler.
Trevor was fortunate enough to have wrestled an actual match a few weeks back, against a friend of his. He lost that match by pin, but had a good time, so I was excited to see him in action. Gabe has yet to wrestle a match. He has done plenty of live wrestling in practice, but never with a timer or someone keeping score — so he was disappointed with the format. He’s built like me in both size and temperament (or rather, like I was back then: an easygoing melon on matchsticks), so I figured a takedown tourney, with an emphasis on speed and aggression, was going to be a big test.
In the end, Gabe won against his first opponent — a boy about his size but, he was guessing, a couple years younger, and frightfully passive — then lost against his second and third opponents, who were his age, 20-plus pounds heavier, and had their own singlets. Following his first match, Gabe was somber: he knew the boy had been scared and barely resisted, and took no pleasure in knocking him over repeatedly. The second kid let Gabe grab his leg, then dropped on him and scrambled behind again and again; Gabe was aggressive and persistent, but couldn’t do anything from beneath. Afterward, Gabe’s coach showed him how to slip sideways, then try to snatch an ankle without getting beneath a larger opponent. In his final match, Gabe was aggressive, persistent, and much better on his feet; he was simply overpowered by a bigger, stronger boy. His coach said, “You were tenacious — I like to see that!”
So does his dad.
Trevor dropped all three of his matches, and did his best to keep his opponent away from him with outstretched arms and quick feet. He has long disliked loud noises, and was worried about the buzzer that would sound at the end of the match — he kept stealing glances at the clock, and with a few seconds left, actually stopped moving and covered his ears! In his last match, he made a few grabs for his opponent’s legs, but when his opponent grabbed him back, he turned to the mat and fell — almost like they were taking turns, except he never got a turn. Even so, he was all smiles; win or lose, he enjoyed hanging with the other boys and rolling around on the mats.
A friend’s dad smiled and said, “Trevor’s pretty evasive out there!”
On the way home, I asked Tenacious-G and Trevasive if they wanted to join Brendan for the extended wrestling season — a series of extra practices over the next few weeks. Trevor had already said several times that he had a great time, while Gabe had told us weeks ago that he didn’t think he would wrestle again next year. “I want to do DI (Destination Imagination),” he said, “and I like soccer and want to try track and cross-country. I think I prefer leg sports…”
“So what about the extended season?” I asked.
“I don’t want to,” Trevor said. “I think I’m just ready to be done.”
“I want to,” said Gabe — explaining that he’s not planning to do it next year, so he wants to get as much out of wrestling this year as he can…and he wants to be sure he gets to wrestle a real match.
I guess we’d better find him a real tournament. Meanwhile, Trevor’s talking baseball: keeping score and three strikes this year. So proud of these boys!