Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thankfulness Thursday--Our Wrestling Family

Today begins the Grand Finale of my middle son's youth/club wrestling career. Tonight is the weigh-in's and tomorrow and Saturday is the State Wrestling Tournament. When I think back to his first year as a 1st grader, I can't believe what a ride it has been. We went from knowing NOTHING about wrestling. The boys convinced me that this would be a great sport to participate in since it wasn't over summer. They never really got to participate in Little League Baseball as it competed with their other summer love, cattle showing. At the time, the only other thing that they did was 4-H, so I thought okay. We had a pretty good set-up, our neighbors, the Schmidts were in charge of it, so that helped with rides. Two other neighbor boys joined the same year, so we did lots of carpooling.

Win at Camdenton, this year.
I will admit I spent the first few years missing my winter love--basketball. But how does that song go, if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with................Well 8 years later, that is certainly the case, my family loves our wrestling family very much. Not sure I can describe it, but you all know me and of course I am going to ramble on and attempt to!

For Youth Club Wrestling, endurance is the name of the game. The season begins in the fall, just as football is winding up. Practices at least twice a week throughout the season gets long, especially for moms who are drives back and forth, 20 miles round trip for each practice, and of course that's saying that I stay in town for the practice, sometimes in order to maintain civil obedience at home there was a mad dash bad home to finish up supper, progress homework supervision, whatever was the fire to be put out that night and that was just in the last few years. When the big boys first started wrestling our little kids were basically babies........... that as some of the younger moms in our club can attest has its own set of obstacles to overcome just to get kids to practice.

The next point on endurance would be that there aren't many schools around that offer wrestling, we only have one or two tournaments a year that are closer than a hours' drive away. But let me put that in context, for most tournaments, which are held on Saturdays throughout December, January and February, we had to be on the school campus usually around 7am, so with your math skills, add in that hour drive, probably around another hour of getting ready, getting kids up, packing the cooler, etc.......... to say we are wild party animals on a night before a tournament would probably be a SLIGHT exxageration! Bedtime is strictly enforced, mostly so mom can get enough rest to make it all happen the next morning.

Okay it's 7:05am, your son made weight, is happily eating his biscuits and gravy from the concession let's get ready to rumble! No? Oh yeah the tournament has 47 scratches and has to rework over half the brackets, will we start on time, probably not. Okay, say we did start on time, most of these tournaments hosted a few hundred, yes I said a FEW HUNDRED we have to take our turn. Everyone gets some mat time. After the local talent shares the National anthem hopefully sometime shortly after 9am, they do get ready to rumble! They start with the little guys, approximately 40 pound 6 year olds and so on until they get to guys like Sam, 190 pound 14 year olds. Every wrestler works his way through his bracket every Saturday. Sometimes he's in a 4 man round robin or he might be in a 16 man double elimination bracket, you really never know for sure what you will get. You might get bumped a weight class, I have even seen kids get bumped an age class just so everyone has someone to wrestle.

By the time say 300 boys wrestle an average of 4 times, taking their turn on a huge mat that covers the entire gym floor, around 8 matches going on at a time, if the hosting club is organized and keeps things rolling, if you've done the math and I didn't this time, because I know the approximate are there ALL DAY....... average time to leave a tournament is about 3pm, if you have an older boy, likely its later. I have said this next phrase so many times, those who have heard it over and over are probably tired of it, but most of you blog followers may not have heard, so here goes, I describe those tournaments as '9 hours of sitting for 9 minutes of wrestling...............and if your son is having a good year, sometimes not even 9 minutes'

For Youth Wrestling we have our very own March Madness and that's our District, Regional and State Tournament Series. This weekend is the finale of that series, Missouri wrestlers from all over the state will head to St. Louis for our biggest tournament. For some kids it will be their first trip, for others, like our family, its our last  trip. Not every kid gets this far. We have been lucky enough that Sam has qualified three times. It takes a lot of planning and organizing to get there, but what a neat end to the season.

I have shared most of this post from the eyes of a parent, what I have to do to make this happen for my kid, and this post is certainly not about me. There are some very important people that after I get my wrestler to practice, take over and are a very important part of his season and really his life. That would be the coaches. Some are the dads of kids wrestling, some are older boys who have recently 'retired' their headgear...............all of them volunteer their time to make my son the best wrestler he can be. For that, I am not sure that I can thank them each and everyone enough. There are no words. When you see your son have that relationship with another adult, one who can teach them things that you can't its heartwarming.

There's Mike Vitale who could stop Sam's bloody noses in record time, besides his nursing skills, he's a great technique coach as well and always has a funny story to share. There's Tim Gilbert who among the many wrestling skills he taught the boys is a great example for them to follow about how to grow up to be a responsible community member who gives back. There's Bryan Schmidt who has probably forgot more about wrestling than the rest of us will ever know. He can find that switch in every kid that makes them take off and do their very best. Gale Adams and Pete Schmersahl, some of the greatest conditioning coaches the boys ever had, they both say that. Pete Anders, who my oldest always said no matter how loud it was, he could always hear Pete.

Kevin Jennings, what 6 foot plus guy is involved in wrestling? A guy who would do anything for his kids and mine, I think he probably gets the perfect attendance award, can't remember too many tournaments that he ever missed, especially if we were sure to tell him some one was bringing Mt Dew. Eric Logsdon will tell you, he doesn't know a thing about wrestling, but what he does know is that he is behind these boys and supports them 100%, and that to a mom is about as important as the skills taught, they need to know someone is on their side.

As we progressed through the years, with younger wrestlers beginning, we got to know  more coaches. Casey Gallegos, girl coach extraordinaire.........better not call her a girl or she will show you just how tough a woman has to be to be a part of the wrestling world. Two other coaches that come to mind are two that aren't just coaches to us, they are good family friends, which make them even more effective coaches for our son, Jason Cooley and Dwain Shelton, they know what Sam can do on and off the mat, because they see him both places and they can play to those strengths and get so much out of him.

This last year, there have been three of Sam's "older brothers" around, Marc and Mitch Schmidt and Austin McBride. They can work with Sam in ways that the adults can't as they used to wrestle with him, just a few years older, they remember the mat quite vividly and can still be his wrestling partner at practice and have gave him so many more skills. There's one other person that no I haven't forgot to mention, but they say save the best for last and that's got to be without a doubt, John Gramke. John not only has the skills to teach the boys, he finds a way to teach each one of them, in the way that works best for that kid. This last year, he hasn't been at the youth tournaments since his kids are all older, but every time, Sam always says did you text John? He still values his opinion and I think always will. He's another one of those guys who besides teaching the kids a sport he has taught them many life lessons as well.

Like so many other youth activities there are many people volunteering many hours to make it all happen. As parents we appreciate your labor of love and we love each and everyone of you for it.

I could go on and on about my love of wrestling and likely there will be a  few more posts in the next few days on this theme but its about my turn in the at the motel in the shower,
NOT From Tulip (from STL)~

PS--I probably missed several people, but know even if I didn't get everyone named, the sentiment is the same to all of you!

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