Free Falling

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BOB WOELK
Though I’ve been a teacher at Hillsboro High School for three semesters, I saw my first wrestling match at last weekend’s regional meet.


In fact, I stuck around long enough to see nearly all the Trojan grapplers compete. Nobody hit another competitor with a chair. No bikini-clad women paraded around the mats. There wasn’t even a microphone available for the wrestlers to taunt each other with. Believe it or not, there wasn’t even a rope-lined ring.


This event was nothing like the garbage that pollutes the cable airwaves and masquerades as sport. And, I have to admit, I kind of enjoyed my first dose of it.


I hadn’t purposely avoided attending HHS wrestling meets and tournaments. Truth be known, the events have just never matched my schedule, what with evening classes and other conflicts always seeming to get in the way. But, I was determined to attend the regional. I wanted to see what Trojan wrestling was all about.


The first thing that caught my attention was the sheer number of competitors. These guys-and a few girls-were everywhere. They were warming up all around the perimeter of the two giant mats.


As announcer Glenn Thiessen called out the names of the wrestlers, they got themselves ready to rumble. Once the event started, the action was continuous.


I got a real kick out of the little guys, the 103 pounders. They reminded me of the veloceraptors from “Jurassic Park,” circling and jabbing at each other as they looked for a chance to attack.


They were lightning quick and extremely agile. I could almost hear them hissing and rattling.


As the weights increased, the muscles began to bulge. By the time the 275 class took to the mats, the competition looked more like a demolition derby between a couple of Mack trucks. These guys really know how to throw their weight around.


As a newcomer to the sport, I had to learn from what I observed. I didn’t have a rules manual with me, so I tried to understand what was going on using my powers of observation.


What follows is a short list of my interpretations of what I saw. They may not be totally accurate.


Middle school wrestlers were given the job of hitting the referees with wadded up towels to let the officials know when the clock had run out.


These officials weren’t very tough, because sometimes the youngsters would knock them down. And, they never seemed to get angry with the guys who hit them.


Each wrestler wore a red or green band on his ankle. That band matched one of each color on the referee’s wrist.


When a wrestler made a particularly impressive move, the official would wave a couple or three fingers in the air and the score would change.


The scoring system was a whole lot like my mom’s tally for when my brothers and I would wrestle in the living room back home. We would get three minutes of scolding for a takedown, the other guy would get two laughs in his opponent’s face for getting away from a hold and ending up with an advantage and he would get a one-second head start if he got away. A pin was the equivalent of getting a brother to say “uncle.”


I saw more than one guy rubbing oily stuff all over himself before his match. I suppose that makes him more slippery, kind of like a greased pig.


Wrestling is the only sport I know of where there may be an advantage to being scrawny. Or, at least there doesn’t seem to be a disadvantage. Football and basketball certainly give the nod to the bigger athletes.


This is no sport for sissies. I don’t recall any other sporting event I’ve witnessed in which so much time was spent cleaning blood off its participants, their uniforms and the mats.


These guys are really dedicated to their sport. They sweat and toil to make their weight classes. They have to come into extremely close contact with other guys and grab them in ways that would more than likely get them arrested outside the gym.


And then there are those outfits.


So, what do I think after watching high school wrestlers in action?


My hat’s off to them. They have to be strong and smart to do well. Even though they will probably not ever pack the gym or gain the support some other Trojan athletes enjoy, these guys are true competitors, deserving of respect.


High school wrestling is certainly entertaining sports spectacle.


Best of luck to the guys as they head to state competition in Hays.

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