My son Alex used to be involved in almost every sport offered in the area, but not anymore. He started wrestling when he was in kindergarten. He was competitive, aggressive, and not afraid to get hurt. To be completely honest with you, I loved being a wrestling mom. I even loved getting up early on a Saturday morning to sit for hours in a loud stinky gym for those few minutes of anxious excitement. Most of the moms didn’t like the sport very much because they were afraid that their children would end up hurt. Most of the kids would leave the meets bumped and bruised and at almost every tournament someone would leave the gym on a stretcher.
The sport required a high tolerance of boredom and anxiety. I have seen almost everything over the 8 years that I was a wrestling mom. I have seen kids puking into garbage cans and heading back to the mat. Or more common, kids with bloody noses. Little kids running off crying after losing a match. Siblings would sit bored for hours playing their video games. Babies cried. Parents would coach from the sidelines losing their voices like they spent the night at a bar. I have seen kids worry over a couple of extra ounces when they were trying to make weight sucking on Jolly Ranchers and spitting into water bottles. I never liked that part. I have seen parents escorted out of the building for fighting with refs over calls. Some kids would win, others would lose. Pictures at the podium. Pins for your hat. Then we would pack it all up and head back home until the next weekend.
Alex was a B+ wrestler. When he was in 6th grade, he tried to make it to state. Only the first and second place in the weight bracket would make it to state. If I remember right, there were 8 kids in the weight bracket and Alex took third. However, another district had only one child in the weight bracket so they called Alex up to state. For the next two weeks before state, Alex wrestled twice as much and twice as hard. On the drive to state, Alex fell asleep and woke up with a kink in his neck. He pinched a nerve or pulled a muscle. We tried everything we could think of but Alex could not hold his head upright without extreme pain. We watched his teammates wrestle while Alex had to forfeit every game. We were so angry. He worked so hard. It was such a fluke thing that he made it to state and then he couldn’t even wrestle. So we resolved to do everything possible to help get Alex back to state the following year.
Alex went to summer wrestling camps and we signed him up for very intense wrestling training 2 months before the wrestling season started. This involved an extra expense and 2 hours of driving every time he went. He was very motivated and worked hard. He became an A- wrestler. In school, he was second in his weight class under an A wrestler. With all of the extra training, he could beat the A wrestler 1 out of 3 times. This is where things went incredibly wrong for him. He took on the alpha. This is a boy whose dad was a wrestler that graduated from that same school. He was friends with a lot of other boys whose dads were wrestlers that graduated from the small town school. He got a lot of the other kids to turn against my son. A couple other kids were getting bullied as well. Some of the boys were being pushed around and had their wrestling shoes thrown in the toilet. We talked to the coach, but he didn’t do anything. One day my husband couldn’t take it anymore. He took Alex with him to confront the boys that were bullying him and to talk to their parents. Things got better for awhile.
Then a few weeks before trying to make state, my son came down with the flu. He missed a week of school and when he came back he didn’t wrestle as good. He still tried hard but then hurt his neck again in the same place as before. He spent a week in a lot of pain. He never made it back to state and quit wrestling altogether. Even though we tried to help him become a better wrestler, in hindsight I am not sure it was worth it. Being better jostled the system that was in place, the hierarchy. Since then my son has been ostracized from the jock group, he quit all sports, his grades dropped, and he has a negative attitude about school. He hangs out with other kids that aren’t accepted. Kids that have been known to steal things, do drugs, and run away from home.
My son begs us to take him to another school which has been tempting since he has two really good friends that stay out of trouble in the neighboring school district. But would that teach him that he can run away from his problems? That he doesn’t need to change negative things about himself in order to get along with people better? Or would it give him a better attitude about learning and opportunities to grow socially and academically?
We have a lot to think about before the next school year.