At one point in the match, with the score tied and my son in control of his opponent, my son let the other boy up, pointed to the kid’s face and looked at the ref in question. The ref signaled the boys to continue wrestling. While my son was looking at the ref, the other boy scored a takedown and ended up winning the match by one point.
When the match was over and I’d given my son a cooling off period (essential, as any wrestling parent will tell you) I approached my son and asked him what happened. He said that the boy screamed and then shouted, “My eye!” So he let the boy up so that the ref could stop the match for an injury timeout. But in this instance, the ref either didn’t see an injury or didn’t feel that the injury was serious enough to stop the match. Also, my son’s decision to let the boy up may have cost him an otherwise winnable match in an important competition
Takedown on Ethics via the High School Wrestling Mat
After my son walked off to join his teammates, I started to think of a parent’s ethical obligations in a situation like this. Should I have encouraged him to ignore the boy’s cries and continue wrestling until the referee stopped them? Or should I have congratulated him for deciding that the other wrestler’s eyesight is more important than a high school wrestling match? I should mention that my son is 17 years old, a high school senior and in his final year of competing in wrestling (having decided to forgo competing in college).
As it is, I took the third route. I simply said, “Good match” and walked back to join our group of parents.
One of the hardest jobs as a parent is to realize that at a certain age, our children have internalized the value system that will guide them through the myriad of ethical choices that they will face as adults. In this instance, my son didn’t need me to tell him whether his choice was right or wrong. During a heated competition, he used his own ethical compass and decided to err on the side of avoiding further injury to his opponent . At the time, he didn’t know that this decision would cost him the match. And I doubt that he would have acted differently had he known that.
So my advice in this instance is to myself (and maybe any other parents of athletes reading this). Once your kids reach a certain age, trust them to do the right thing. Most of the time, you’ll be proud of their decisions. And you’ll feel like you’ve done an OK job as a parent. That’s my advice to myself and I’m sticking with it!