09 February, 2016


Pin. Shaky mum = blurry photo.
Saturday was the wrestling finals for our region of international schools (six schools, three of which are US military base schools). Most of the wrestlers had seen each other before during the season. All the hard work of the previous weeks (up to five wrestles a tournament) came to fruition because he was seeded second and straight into the Varsity semi final. Varsity is American for "A team".

His first was a guy he'd wrestled four times before and beaten three times. All barring their first bout (where our son pinned him quickly) have been long drawn out affairs that sent my heart rate high. It was no different this time, except he pinned him after about five minutes. It was a satisfying win.

We had to wait four more hours for his next bout, the final. It got pretty dramatic. We're used to well-lit gyms, but after all the preliminary matches and Junior Varsity (American for "B team") finals, they dimmed the lights and it became like a theatrical performance. One mat was centred and they introduced all the guys who'd be wrestling for gold.

Then they wrested. We didn't expect a win (his opponent is a fine wrestler who's defeated our son twice before). It was, however, over faster than we or our son liked. This guy is very decisive and lightning quick. 20 seconds was all the bout lasted.
Finalists shaking hands.

It was upsetting, not that he lost, but how he lost and how fast it happened. It was also a physically painful move that did it (leg lace). It's like the difference between losing by twenty runs in cricket and losing by 200 runs. Or another sporting analogy, like losing by two lengths of the pool instead of a couple of metres.

He was upset, but conducted himself admirably on the mat afterwards. It's something that I really like about wrestling. Lots of handshaking, lots of opportunities to be a good sport. But it is also very obvious if you let yourself get carried away with being upset. That makes it hard to get up off the mat after being defeated, hard to shake your opponent's hand afterwards, and hard to look at the opposing coaches and shake their hands. But the wrestlers I admire are those who have the self control to do the hard things.

CAJ did well overall at the meet, third out of six. The top two teams (St Mary's and Kinnick) being almost in a league of their own.

Then last night there was a rescheduled match between CAJ and the school farthest from us, Kinnick (base south of Yokohama), they left at 2.30 and got home at 9, for one match each! The team as a whole didn't perform at their best. Not sure why. There is so much mentally that goes into this sport—if you are in the wrong frame of mind you can easily go down when you usually wouldn't. 

Our son lost to the guy he pinned on Saturday. We were surprised, but probably he underestimated his opponent, after beating him three times in a row. It's always a bad idea to underestimate your opponent, or overestimate your own ability. Anyone can be beaten on any one day, even yourself. And unlike many other sports, one mistake can be your undoing, you only get six minutes, but often less than that. It's not like tennis when they keep serving the ball to you after you make a mistake. One mistake and it can be all over.

I'm happy that he's gone to school this morning determined to train hard this week. For next Monday they will be in Korea for three huge days of wrestling, tackling the guys they met this weekend and some better ones too.

I'm also happy to see him learning to deal with disappointment and with difficult emotions. This is an important part of growing up.

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