It’s one week till my youngest son’s senior year of high school wrestling season begins. I know it’s his final season because he’s a senior and has told me in no uncertain terms that he does not plan to wrestle in college. He’s a very good student studying challenging subjects, so I can live with that. So his final season is starting and…
Why afraid? Not that he’ll get hurt. He weighed 88 pounds and wrestled varsity 103 pounds his freshman year. If I wasn’t afraid of him getting hurt that year, I’ll never worry about that.
Afraid that he won’t succeed? In wrestling, I believe that a kid succeeds each and every time he walks onto the mat by himself to take on a guy (or girl) who wants to dominate him physically.
Last year, our son held out a reasonable belief that he would be a state champion. When he didn’t reach that goal, there was a lot of anguish and soul searching on his part. But his caring coach pulled my son aside and explained that he was putting too much of his sense of self-worth into whether he had his hand raised at the end of a match. The coach felt it was negatively affecting his performance. My son (and his parents) thought this over and agreed to adopt a more Zen attitude to expectations, wins and losses.
So I’m not afraid that he won’t achieve specific goals. Because if he works hard and gives his best in every match, the outcome is outside of anyone’s control. So whatever matches he wins or loses this season will be just fine with him and with his parents.
What I’m really afraid of is how fast this season is going to fly by.
Thoughts of a parent on senior of high school…a year of lasts
As the parent of a senior, my wife and I (along with other senior parents) are experiencing an entire year of lasts. Last first day of school, last back to school night, last cross country race—in the books last week. Last homecoming dance, last band concert, last Science Olympiad. Then last prom and last graduation (at least at his current school). You see these lasts coming from a mile away. They seem so far in the future and then BAM! They happen and are over in the blink of an eye. Some of the events I can live with. If I never watch another 2-mile track race—yes that’s eight long laps around the track—I’ll be just fine.
But wrestling is different
I wrestled in high school in Indiana, then refereed for a number of years. Marriage, jobs, relocations and children happened. Wrestling got left behind. But when our family moved from Chicago to Charlotte in 2004, our older son was a seventh grader and decided to try wrestling for the first time. His little brother tagged along to practices, camps and meets, taking it all in.
Then when younger brother hit seventh grade, he started in with his own team. For six years, he’s always been the smallest guy on the team. But he’s held his own on the mat. Now in his senior season, he’s a team captain. He’ll be leading the younger guys onto the mats, running warm-ups and walking out to meet the other team’s captain before every match. That will be fun to watch. But a little sad. Sad because every match will be his last of something.
So right now, one week before wrestling practice starts, I’m telling myself to take a deep breath, take it all in and enjoy every minute of this season. From watching the ends of practices, to getting up at 5:30 for Saturday tourneys, to sitting for hours in crowded smelly gyms, to eating the horrible concession stand hotdogs, to driving hours to little gyms in obscure country towns at twilight to watching the multitude of joys and heartbreak that accompany every wrestling meet. I’m reminding myself to stay in the moment to soak it all in and to remember why I’ve loved this sport for decades.
And here in October, I’m telling myself that we’ll be walking out of the state championship tourney in mid-February in what will seem like the blink of an eye. There are no roses to stop and smell in wrestling. But I’m going to think about this blog every time I toss my son his cherry-red Cliff Keen headgear over the next few months.
Wrestling season, like life, will be over faster than we think. I’ll try to be ready.