Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Olympic Press

At 76 lb, I was about to wrestle the boy who placed second in the Tulsa Nationals tournament last week.

My dad hadn't told me this because he knew I'd have been discouraged before the match. My advantages were composed of this lack of knowledge and the gymnasium. The tournament was in my home town at the Grove High School gym. Ten wrestling mats of various sizes covered the basketball court. In middle school wrestling tournaments, only one coach was allowed on the floor near the match because the tournaments were structured around the individual and not the team, and too many coaches would crowd the floor. My Dad was my coach on the floor.

I created a great pressure over myself before each match. This match was no different. Since the basic maneuvers -- take-down, escape, reversal -- were ingrained in my body from countless drills in practice, I didn't think of these, instead, I read my opponent. He of course was in the same weight class, though a little taller, while I was stockier. He wore a new singlet (he was wealthier). And his father was also dressed better than my Dad. I wore the school issued singlet, which must have been ten years old.

We approached the center of the mat and stood face to face. The referee held out a sharp hand between us, dropped it, and said, "Wrestle!" My opponent quickly locked up with me, a hand on my neck and the other on my elbow, and I instinctively did the same. It's rare for lightweights to lock-up. Their speed is a better asset than their strength and weight, so this strategy was usually used by heavyweights and was less familiar to me.

I quickly tossed the elbow, swung around him, and dropped him to the mat. Instinct took over. I barred the arm, stuck a half nelson, and flipped him. He was preventing the pin by turning his shoulder upward. I pressed my chest against it. He turned toward me, seeking leverage by attempting to lift my leg with his foot, till I found myself nearly on top of him.

I couldn't believe my good fortune. The Olympic Press is what my father's coach referred to as the guillotine because all limbs are trapped except the head. I lifted his limbs off the mat -- arms around arms, heels wrapped under his calves -- and with my chest to his, arched my back, till the pain forced him to submit. I pinned him.

My father jumped through the roof! I swear he leaped through the great height of the gym ceiling and only came down after my arm was raised in victory. I ran to him, but didn't comprehend his joy. I was happy to have won by pin in the first round, but it wasn't difficult.

My dad picked me up in his arms and told me: "That boy placed second in Tulsa Nationals last week!" Then I understood. I'd performed the most difficult, humiliating pin on an opponent who'd nearly been the national champion of my weight class one week ago.

After the tournament in my dad's beat-up truck on our way back to our farm, I looked at my gold medal. Though it was a seemingly easy win for me, it was a proud elating moment for my father. His son was the champion.

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