All sports teams have their traditions and wrestling is no exception. When I was in high school, I started a tradition while on my high school wrestling team in Indiana. My tradition (silly as it seems looking back) was to warm up for matches with a blanket wrapped around me. It wasn’t particularly cold in the gym and I wasn’t trying to sweat off pounds. I just felt more relaxed carrying a blanket around my shoulders before a match. Before long, one of my teammates brought in his favorite blanket. Then another and finally most of the team had caught the trend. Pretty soon, we started seeing guys on other teams carrying their blankets. We knew we had started something
Then a change popped up.
In the state finals one year, one of the wrestlers entered the warm up mat wearing a bathrobe with his favorite stuffed animal tied around his waist. Since he was an exceptional wrestler participating in the state championships, his trend caught on. Pretty soon bathrobes and stuffed animals of all types were the warm up attire of choice. The blanket was out and the stuffed bunny was in.
Some traditions are team or coach instituted. Theses traditions often either involve the physical space of a wrestling room or take place in the wrestling room. My son’s school has just a couple of these traditions, because after 25 years of fielding a wrestling program, the school has never been able to find the space for a designated wrestling room. Finally, next year, just after my son graduates, the school plans to reconfigure some underutilized space and create the school’s first ever designated wrestling practice room.
Just like almost every school has a designated place to practice—a football field, a basketball court, a baseball diamond, tennis courts and/or a swimming pool—e very school with a wrestling team needs a designated wrestling room. The reason for this is that the wrestling room must contain wall to wall mats, padded walls and ideally a place for pull-ups, a training bike, a climbing peg board and similar equipment. Having a designated wrestling room does away with the need to roll out the mats to practice then re-rolling the mats at the end of practice. In addition to the time saving, permanent practice mats allow wrestlers and coaches easy access for off season practices—practices which dramatically improve a team’s performance during the season.
Since my son’s school has not had a designated wrestling room, our wrestling room traditions are limited to a board listing the names of previous year conference and state champions. Other schools may have team mascots or images of intimidating looking wrestlers on their team walls. Others may have inspirational wrestling related phrases on their walls. Some teams have unusual traditions such as tying the wrestling shoes or headgears of graduating seniors in the rafters.
I look forward to next year, when our school’s team can start its own traditions in its own designated wrestling room. I’m sorry that my son won’t be part of those traditions. But with his final season beginning next weeks, maybe he’ll come back to see his name on the wall of champions. Or maybe not.
But a proud father can dream.