My son came home the other day and mentioned something about the wrestling team. Not that he wanted to join the wrestling team, but that they were having tryouts. I looked at him and decided to tell him my experience with wrestling.
When I was in middle school, they MADE us participate in wrestling as part of gym class. I suppose you could call it an introduction to wrestling. Our gym teacher, Mr. Bruzas (pronounced bruises, and yeah, that was his real name) had us all suited up in shorts and tee-shirts, and sitting around the big matted floor in a circle. The circle of combat, like some kind of gladiatorial arena, except the walls were grey cinder blocks and the whole room smelled of stale sweat.
Bruzas would point to two of us and the chosen would then proceed to “assume the position” which meant one would be on the bottom, and one would be on the top. Stuck in this homoerotic position, the match would begin at the sound of a whistle, and the poor bastard on the bottom would try to escape. Bruzas would start his watch, and the guy on top would have about sixty seconds to pin the dude on the bottom. This went on until the bell rang and we were allowed to return to the unsupervised locker room for the usual bullying, name calling, and harassment from the more aggressive assholes among us that took advantage of the situation to gain acceptance from the cronies and followers among us. I remember getting into more than one fight in that locker room. As a loner, I despised bullies as much as I despised peer groups, and kept my distance from both unless I was required to prove myself.
Anyway, during one of the wrestling matches, one poor kid named Scott got himself into a bind. The bigger kid he was wrestling got him twisted around, and locked his arms back. Scott’s legs spread wide. His jock fell away. And his entire package fell out, completely exposing his poorly endowed genitals to all present. I turned my head away and stared at the kid sitting next to me. “I won’t say anything if you don’t,” I told him, feeling sorry for Scott. “About what?” he stated, still staring at the combat. I shrugged, glad that hadn’t been me. But it could happen to anyone forced into this situation – accidental exposure.
That’s not why I chose to avoid wrestling, though. Being strictly heterosexual, the idea of rolling around on a mat with a sweaty dude just never appealed to me. Actually, I found it rather repulsive. Martial arts was a better choice, and I migrated in that direction. But I did find wrestling to be occasionally useful. I’m a big guy (6’3″) and I discovered that combat against smaller, faster, agile opponents was difficult using standard martial techniques. What did work was grappling them. There, my longer limbs and greater strength gave me the advantage. And so I used this technique, but only against small opponents in one-on-one contests. Against people close to my own size (given a deviation of + or minus a foot) I stuck with blocks, blows and sweeps – which I greatly prefer in all cases anyway.
In high school, I had friends that enjoyed wrestling and participated on the school team. I recall one kid telling me how he reduced his weight by every method possible. Apparently they try to match weight as closely as they can between opponents, and there are different weight divisions or something like that. He trimmed his nails short. He skipped meals. He shaved his head. He slept without a blanket in order to cause his body to generate heat, and therefore consume calories at night. It sounded pretty miserable.
I stuck with band. I did try the basketball team for a while, but that didn’t work out. It’s a story filled with personal embarrassment and public horror. I’ll have to tell that one sometime. It’s kind of funny looking back on it, but at the time I was ready to find a hole and bury myself. It’s not as bad as what happened to Scott, I suppose. There was no accidental exposure. But it was BAD.