Throwback Thursday: Wrestling Edition
When I was a kid, wrestling was never really on my radar. I knew my big brother had wrestled in high school, but that knowledge had little to no context. (He’s twelve years older than me, so if I was ever taken to a meet, I was six or younger.) All I ever saw with regard to wrestling was the professional sort, and the over-the-top antics held no appeal for me.
Then, sophomore year of high school, my best friend Heather had a crush on a certain wrestler. When an end-of-the-day announcement sent out a call for “wrestling statisticians,” she came to me and said, “Let’s do this.” I knew jack about wrestling other than the craziness on TV, but she was my bestie, so I said okay.
There are certain moments in your past that change your life in unexpected ways. Within days, Heather and I were “mat maids” (apparently statistician was just to sound fancy on announcements) and we were learning all about how wrestling is scored and what our job entailed. (There was no cleaning of anything, thank goodness, because I would have been out.)
That year, we lettered in checking out half-dressed boys and watching them grope each other. It was a tough job. Seriously. I mean, there were all these guys in nothing but singlets and we were supposed to somehow keep track of the score? It was kind of torturous.
But it was also all kinds of awesome. I had a lot of guy friends in high school, but the wrestling team will always hold a special place in my heart. For the rest of high school, guys on the team were friends, boyfriends, and “adopted” brothers.
By senior year, I was working out with them, and when one of the guys asked why I didn’t just join the team, my answer consisted of, “I don’t want to cut my hair or my nails. I will also be damned if I’m going to weigh myself in front of all of you.” We had a good laugh about it, but that year also saw the first female wrestler in our conference. I remember seeing her and being inspired by her bravery—and disgusted by how many guys at the tournament forfeited matches rather than meeting her on the mat. (Note: our guy didn’t pull that—which made my opinion of him jump several notches.)
When I went away to college, I was able to stay in marching band. I joined a church choir (so I didn’t have to give up singing.) So many of the things I did in high school I was able to keep doing after. But not wrestling. There was no need for people like me as part of a big ten college team.
It left a bit of a hollow space for me. For the first couple years (while people I’d known were still on the team), I’d return home for tournaments and workouts over the holidays. Those boys welcomed me with open arms.
I was never really a fan of pro wrestling—it’s entertainment, not the actual sport—but then The Rock made the jump to acting, and I started following his career. I liked Dwayne Johnson because he reminded me of the guys in high school. I would watch him and I’d see Karl and Jason and Brian and Jeff and…
I’m facebook friends with several of the guys now—but I still miss them. Dante in Blackmailed by the Hero is my tribute to all the smiles and all the cheers. Thanks for the memories, boys. And thanks for the inspiration. 🙂